Editor’s note: this post was first published in 2010. (New posts on the C2C will return on January 7th, 2013.)
So you’ve managed to put aside everything that was getting in your way, and somehow you’ve found yourself writing again and keeping up with a consistent schedule.
But you’re starting to panic.
“This can’t last very long,” you think. “I’m gonna get blocked again!”
Don’t you worry, my writer friend.
Here are my 9 tips on how you can stay on the writer’s fast track, once you’re on it:
1. Don’t Stop
WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT STOP WRITING. Even if the slightest thought comes into your mind that says: “Eh, why don’t I just skip one day? What’s the worst that could happen?” The worst that could happen is that you’ll stop writing and will have trouble starting again. So, unless there is some emergency, do not skip a day in your writing routine! If you keep a 5 hour-a-day, 5 days-a-week schedule, keep it that way.
Don’t go over or under.
Because you’ll throw yourself off-balance. Why will you throw yourself off-balance? Because the writing routine you have set for yourself is actually working for you. Why change it? Which brings us to…
2. Keep Doing What You Are Doing
This might seem obvious, but when it comes to our own lives sometimes we can suffer from tunnel vision. We fail to see how the way we live today was any different from the way we were living yesterday. But if we examine our past carefully, we can see that we have made some slight (if not radical) changes to our lives that have now allowed us to write with renewed vigor and consistency.
We tried meditation, or exercise, or therapy because we thought it would help us be more creative. But now that we are more creative, we credit our luck instead of our ability to be proactive. But it isn’t luck that’s helped you. You actually did something right!
The way you are living your life now is fruitful for your writing, so whatever you do, don’t change what you’re already doing!
3. Cultivate Trust In Yourself
If you are writing consistently, it’s probably because you have cultivated trust in yourself already. Keep that up. Keep trusting your talent, choice of career, your decision to spend time writing. Keep a guard out for those nagging self-doubts, those negative, self-defeating thoughts.
If you find yourself bogged down by self-loathing, just turn to those negative thoughts and do what I do and tell those thoughts to SHUT UP! Say: “You’re not helping me, so leave me alone! Today is going to be a good writing day, and I’m not going to let YOU ruin that for ME!”
4. Leave Room for Breaks
In this world where workoholics are consistently enabled, it’s hard to be the voice of reason and a healthy lifestyle. Let me remind you that even though you are a writer, you are not a machine. You may be your own boss at this point in your life when it comes to your fiction writing, but that still doesn’t mean you are allowed to break every labor law. Give yourself the weekend off at least. You need time to rest.
5. Cultivate Your Love for Writing
Yes. Your love for writing needs to be cultivated. I’m starting to learn that if you hate writing, chances are you are not doing it right. I say this with all due respect, and with full acknowledgment that I’ve hated writing many times.
What I have learned is that you won’t keep up a consistent schedule unless you really cultivate a love for what you are doing. That includes a love for your novel.
What helps me is always reminding myself that I am the VERY FIRST reader that I need to please. That puts me in the mindset of writing something that would be fun, something I would love to read.
6. Stop Playing The “Writer’s Self-Deprecation Card”
“I am sooo irresponsible. I’m sooo not structured like everyone else. I’m sooo weird, etc. etc. etc.”
I hate to break it to you, friend. You are not irresponsible. Nope. You are taking big risks to follow your dream in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. That doesn’t sound irresponsible to me at all. You’re weird? Nope. There are hundreds of people out there just like you, doing what you are doing, loving writing as much as you do, and are exactly as scared as you are that someone might find that out about them. That doesn’t make you weird. It makes you pretty normal.
Oh, and the no-structure thing? You have got to be kidding me.
A friend of mine just pointed this out to me the other day: she said that writers are the most structured people in the world. Why? Uh, you have to be pretty darned structured to sit down for years to write a novel and then wait until it gets published. Writers have no institutional structure overseeing them, so they often have to establish their own individual structure to accomplish their goals. Establishing your own structure is so much harder than working with a pre-established way of doing things.
So, you might tell yourself that you are a crazy, careless artist that no one understands, but sorry, buddy: no one is buying it.
Instead of all that self-deprecating talk, why not give yourself the props you deserve?
7. Increase Your “Seriousity”
I coined a word: Seriousity. It actually sounds a lot cooler than it really is.
Seriousity is the level to which you take your career seriously.
Increase your Seriousity by telling everyone you know about your passion–even complete strangers. When they ask you what you do, tell them that you are a writer. Let that new guy or gal you’re dating know that you are a writer and defend yourself if they snicker (and then don’t call them back if they ask you for a second date). Let the people you work with know you are a writer.
Finally, if the time is right, and when the resources are available, dedicate yourself full-time to the pursuit.
8. Set Small Achievable Goals
You finally got that paragraph right? CONGRATULATIONS! Let’s break out the champagne! No need to wait until the novel is finished. Every time you finish a chapter, send yourself a note of encouragement, congratulate yourself on how far you have come. Note each little step as a CRUCIAL part of the overall goal.
Make it easy for you to win. The more you reward yourself, the more you will feel you have accomplished, and the more willing you will be to keep on working.
9. Always Keep Your Balance
Keep your balance. Make sure your mind is at peace, your body is healthy, your relationships are attended to–make sure every part of you is golden. You’re the captain of this ship, after all. If you can’t tell the difference between North and South, then not only will you be lost but your novel will be lost, too.
So keep the ship steady by keeping yourself balanced.
Good luck to you, and I’ll see you at the finish line!
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