Someone recently reached out with the issue of distraction and asked if I had any tips for just sitting down and writing. As I’ve said in previous posts, momentum is the most important weapon a writer can have, so how you develop and keep that momentum is entirely up to you and what works best for you. In the case that your like my friend and don’t know, I’ll share what works best for me personally. Feel free to share any strategies you’ve learned that have helped you.
Time and Place:
Where and when you write will make a lot of difference to your productivity. I write better in the morning when everything is quiet and the bullshit that is my day hasn’t started yet. When I get home, writing is hit or miss for me. The frustration and distraction have won and I just want to do absolutely nothing with a glass of wine in my hand.
Writing first thing in the morning allows me the chance to write undistracted. No one is bothering me for shit. I’m not frustrated or overwhelmed yet. I’ll make tea and sit in the dark in bed with my laptop for an hour before I have to get ready for work and just write. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.
Setting a goal for yourself can be a great motivator. But not making your goal is ok, don’t stress yourself out. I aim for 300 works a day, if I reach that then I’m satisfied. Sometimes I do a lot more, sometimes I’m lucky to get 45 down. Breaking your project down into achievable goals can help keep you motivated and on track.
Join a Writers Group:
This was the best choice I ever made and I’ve said that in several posts. I was going through a life crisis and needed something to keep me focused. So I got online and searched for a group that meets weekly in my area. It was a terrifying first step. I hadn’t been to a critique since college. I didn’t know any of these people and they were supposed to critique what I keep inside my soul? No way. I went every Thursday for something like 6 months before I was comfortable enough to submit my first piece.
The thing is, those people are just like you and me. They’re writers. They’re on the same journey you are. Some are better writers than you, some are just starting out. No one is there to intimidate you, but to help you get where you and your story want to be.
My group keeps me honest about my writing. If I say I’ve been writing, they’re expecting to see it soon. If I say I haven’t been writing, I feel guilty about it and kick my ass into gear. See? Win-win.
Learn Another Language:
What is writing if not taking a bunch of words and arranging them in such a way that they represent an idea someone else can understand? Learning another language means learning new vocab, grammar, syntax, etc. I work with numbers all day and I fucking hate numbers. I am not good at math. So I took up Russian to get the linguistic juices flowing and let me tell you this- Russian is so different from English it’s not even funny. And it was amazing how just thinking about words in Russian and piecing them together like a puzzle inspired me to do the same in English. 10/10 would recommend.
Read… But Also TV:
This is a big one for me. The words and ideas of others are a huge inspiration. I know what you’re thinking. The biggest sin any writer can commit: PLAGIARISM! But I’m going to have you to put a pin in that real quick and hear me out. If you were to say to me nope, all my ideas are totally 100% original, my friend, you are nothing but a boldface liar.
Everyone borrows. Everyone. The Hunger Games is basically Battle Royal set in 1984. The Magicians is Harry Potter but in graduate school where magic is kinda like Heroin. Lord of the Flies? Based on a 1954 psychological experiment which *spoiler alert* was completely unethical. And Fifty Shades of Grey started as a Twilight fan-fic but with BDSM instead of vampires.
See, my point is we all steal. Or ‘borrow’ if that helps you sleep at night. Imitation is flattery and no idea is entirely original. You borrowed something, so what? You liked an idea so much it ignited Big Bang Style a whole new world of your own. It’s where that idea takes you, how you transform it, and what spin of your own you put on it that sets it apart. Plagiarism is not ok but it is ok to let yourself get inspired by others. But you do have to take that inspiration and make it your own.
Do whatever you have to do to keep yourself going. That’s the most important part. Just keep going and fuck everything else.