Editor’s note: this post was first published in 2010. (New posts on the C2C will return on January 7th, 2013.)
Since we recently discussed the specifics of how to set up a writing schedule that works for you, I’d thought I’d also share the specifics of how to keep up that writing schedule, once it’s been established.
My “secret” consists of three golden rules. Here they are:
1. Don’t Think, Just Do
As soon as you begin to stay loyal to your writing schedule, it will be inevitable that your thoughts will get in the way. Your mind will say something like: “It’s too cold to write today,” or “I’m too tired to write today,” or “It’s too gloomy,” or “It’s too sunny,” or “I’m too depressed,” or “I’m too happy,” or “I have to know what songs Glee is going to cover this week first,” or “I’m not in the mood,” or “I don’t have any ideas today,” etc, etc, etc.
You can count on your thoughts to drum up a whole ton of excuses for you not to keep up with the new writing schedule you worked so hard to establish. So, ignore those thoughts, because unless you’re bleeding internally, your thoughts are always wrong about having more important things to do than writing. Instead of thinking then, you just have to do.
Don’t think. Just do. As soon as the time in the day comes for you to write, go to that computer and begin to type… No, no, no. Don’t think. Just do. Pa-pa-pa-pa. No. Don’t think. Do.
Just write, write before you come up with an excuse not to.
No, stop thinking–Do it! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! GO! NOW!
2. Give Yourself An “In-The-Zone” Cushion
There’s a reason I don’t use writing prompts. Why? Because writing prompts assume that when a writer sits down at his laptop and stares at a blank computer screen for an hour, nothing is happening. A writing prompt tells you: “Hey, why waste your time? Here, I’ll give you a random line and that should push you in the right direction a whole lot quicker than you just staring at that computer screen.”
A writing prompt is the “microwave” for a writer’s ideas. Sure, your ideas will be ready and warm a whole lot quicker if you use a microwave, but they’ll still have that slight metallic taste of something that has been zapped with electrons for two seconds.
First of all, writing prompts are wrong: sitting and staring at your screen for an hour is not a waste of time. It is a crucial part of the writing process. You may not notice it, but your mind is still working, even if you are not writing anything. Your unconscious is solving the problem as we speak.
At first, it may take your mind about an hour to “get in-the-zone,” but after following your writing schedule for a couple of months, you will be able to sit down and start writing almost immediately. The time it takes you to “get in-the-zone” will shrink as the months goes on.
So, whenever you set aside time to write, make sure to allot a cushion for yourself: some time set aside to “get in-the-zone.” Remind yourself that sitting at a blank screen and doing nothing is a crucial part of the whole process. Yes, it’s boring, but trust me, the magic is happening just underneath, you just can’t see it yet.
You can compare your mind’s need to get in-the-zone to a car that needs to warm up before its engine can run. Or, to follow our previous metaphor, you can picture your mind as an oven. Yes, it will take MORE time for your ideas to cook in an oven, and it might take more preparation and patience on your part, but once that timer goes off, boy: your ideas will come out with that rich, home-cooked taste.
Yum, yum, yum. Delicious.
3. Make It Sacred
I don’t really mean make your writing schedule a religious ritual… Hold on. Wait. Actually, I do mean that.
You have to make writing a sacred part of your day. If you are a person who prays regularly, then see writing as a prayer. If you go to church regularly, see writing as important as going to mass. If you are not religious, but spiritual, see writing as your daily meditation routine, or your daily walk through nature.
If you are not religious or spiritual, see writing as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, changing the oil in your car, having dinner. See writing as something you just have to do. There is no option not to do it.
Writing is a blessed ritual that keeps you balanced, keeps you sane, keeps you feeling useful, keeps you happy, keeps you creative, keeps you thriving. So why on earth would you ever stop writing, for any reason, if it does so much good for you? Don’t you see now that your writing schedule is sacred? Maybe I shouldn’t have titled this rule “Make it Sacred” but instead should have called it “Recognize That Your Writing Schedule Is Sacred.”
Let your friends and family know that keeping up with your writing schedule is sacred to you, and ask them not to interrupt you during this sacred time. If you can’t get them to stop interrupting you, then go to the library or a coffee shop, turn off your phone, disconnect from the internet, and focus on your sacred ritual in that way.