One of my biggest problems as a writer is actually taking the time to sit down and write. Sometimes I’ll get a burst of inspiration and whack a few thousand words out – but those moments are few and far between. It’s not sustainable if I’m going to try and make a living as an author. I know that. So I’ve decided to list a few things that seem to help/encourage me to write. Firstly, because it might help someone else out there. And secondly – because it means I’m writing!
Setting A Time To Write
This is something I’ve only started doing recently but I can’t believe how much it’s increasing my productivity. Obviously, the time that you can allocate to write will change depending on what other commitments you have. For me – I’m not working just yet so I have all day to write. Not that that means I’m writing from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. I know myself and I know that I’d burn out before I got any real work done. Instead, I give myself two hours in the morning to get at least 1000 words out (usually something to do with my blog) and 3 hours in the afternoon to work on my short stories. Whether that be planning things, researching or actually writing – it’s all in the right direction. And regardless of whether it’s in my set ‘writing hours’, if I ever think of something that could be useful, I’ll write it down and then come back to it so that if I’m ever stuck I can use them as prompts.
This is one of the big questions. What should I write about? The answer is, quite unhelpfully, anything.
I often use Pinterest to search for blog-post-ideas and then list them out on Scrivener – something that I use for both my blog and my short stories. I can then bullet point a few talking points for each idea and see if they’re worth exploring further.
It’s also useful to take a quick look at your own life and see if you’re going through anything that you can talk about. For example, I’ve written about my time at University coming to an end here and my experience with Kindle Direct Publishing here. But you could talk about your new job, a project you’re excited about, something you’ve learned over the past few months, an obsession you have, what your ideal future looks like – the possibilities are endless. It’s daunting, I know. I’ve struggled with it for months but here I am, tackling one post at a time and making sure I’m proud of it.
Write about your favourite something (books, movies, music, television shows, games, weather, season, clothes, food, place, people) and delve into it. Explain what drove you to that thing. Describe the way it makes you feel and why. Make the person reading your post think of a time when they felt like the same way. It’s all about building a connection.
You could also see what some of your favourite bloggers/vloggers/celebrities etc. are talking about and write a post about what you think. Don’t worry if you don’t think anyone will like it. That shouldn’t be why you’re writing – to become famous. It should be a passion, a drive, something you don’t want to do, but need to. Regardless, fame doesn’t come overnight. 5000 people aren’t going to see your singular blog post and decide that you’re their new obsession. It takes time.
Setting Deadlines and Limits
I’ve decided that I want to try and write 2 blog posts a week – one general and one about my writing. I know that waiting until the last-minute to write something isn’t going to work. I also know that if I upload every post I write, as soon as I finish it, I’ll run out of momentum within a month. This week alone, I’ve written five posts but I’m not going to upload them all at the same time. Instead, I’m going to spread them out across a few weeks – that way I’ve got more time to think of new ideas. Also, uploading on a regular basis will encourage people to follow you because they know that they’re guaranteed content.
Little Things That Help
- If you’re like me and you write your blog posts online, make sure to put your computer into full screen mode. It means you’re not distracted by any open tabs at the top of your page – or bookmarks that are just one click away from bringing up your emails or social media.
- I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit over-organised but this is one rule I stand by. Outline your writing. Whether it’s a short story, a chapter of a novel, a blog post or something else. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started to write something and given up halfway through because I don’t know where to go. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. For this blog post, I wrote out all the different headings I wanted to use so that I knew what I was going to say – and that I would have enough content to make this post worth reading.
- That being said, I still get stuck sometimes. Usually it’s when I’m writing a scene. I know where I need my characters to end up, it’s just getting them there that’s the problem. When you sit down to write, you have no idea how the characters will act, what you plan out – or imagine in your mind – might end up being totally unrealistic and there’s no way to prepare for it. Like I said above, when this happened to me in the past I would try to solve the problem for about fifteen minutes and then I’d give up, using the excuse that I needed perspective before I could continue. While this is true in some cases, I know, deep down, that it would be weeks, months even, before I returned to try and continue writing.
Now, instead of shutting down Microsoft Word and moving onto something less productive, I’ll just type a line of capital X’s across the page and move onto the next part. Later, when I’ve had time to think and recharge, I’ll come back and maybe rewrite parts so that they make better sense. That’s fine – editing is one of the biggest parts of writing. But by staying at your computer and writing the next scene (rather than giving up completely) it means you’ve gotten some work done while you’re in that productive head-space.
- It’s also sometimes daunting to come back to a big project and continue writing it – especially if that is halfway through a chapter. I’ve found that striking out (
striking out) the last sentence or paragraph I wrote and rewriting it at the beginning of my new writing session is extremely useful. It allows you to see things that you might not have done if you’d just started writing again. And it’s also less pressure on you to start typing straight away if you know you can ‘copy’ something you know makes sense. Plus, striking it out rather than deleting it means you don’t lose any work.
At the end of the day – you’re choosing to write. So write about the things that matter to you and don’t try to impress people. There’s no secret or trick. Writing is a lengthy process but, in the end, it’s well worth it. It’s personal and difficult but you can’t fake it. And people will know if you try.