All writers get tripped up from time to time by real life derailing their works in progress. Whether the glitch comes in even beginning it, or getting caught in the middle slog, or just not finding the fire to finish, everyone has fallen prey to the procrastination beast. So what are some tips to creating daily writing habits that work?
First off, I say the procrastination beast, because when you boil not writing down to the bones, this demon is usually the one gobbling up your creativity. Of course, sometimes real-life horrors do get in the way, but except for those, we can all carve out time to write every day. Or at least, most days.
Many folks (including me) have written how-tos about sticking to writing schedules, lining out what works in order to go from the first line to The End.
What I’m talking about here is the deeper psychological reasons we don’t stick to our schedules. Because once you face those (facing them is 90% of mastering them), you’ll be amazed at how this little demon disappears. He may reappear again, but you’ll know how to slay the pesky rat.
In other words, the reason we don’t have a daily writing habit goes much deeper than the 9-5 jobs or family responsibilities.
So what are the tips for fashioning a daily writing habit with that in mind?
Face the Beast.
Dig deep into yourself for the cause. Do you have voices in your head telling you you’re not good enough? This is actually common. I always say the gene that causes us to write has on its flip side the one for unworthiness and doubt.
Without getting all Freud on you, these voices often come from childhood issues. Feelings of unworthiness in general. The guilt/shame/blame dumped on your head long ago. Sometimes that’s where creativity was born in the first place. As Hemingway said when asked, what is the best early training for a writer? “An unhappy childhood.”
And we certainly know he had his demons.
I’m not advocating for therapy here, but rather, recognition. This beast, left in the dark, will simply eat your creativity, limb by limb.
And the very best symptom of that is procrastination. Somehow, you just always have one more room to sweep, or another friend to console, or . . . whatever, and then you can get back to your book.
As a book editor, what I often tell my writers is, when that voice chimes in, look at that little demon on your shoulder and say, “Yes, I hear you. You’re probably right. But this very second I have a paragraph/scene/chapter to write. I’ll talk to you later.”
And funny thing, that shuts that sucker up, for this writing session at least!
Do NOT talk about your book.
Do not talk about it to anybody. I’d even recommend not telling folks you’re writing a book.
Because, oh, the comments and sentiments you’ll get. And not just from jealous folks, or those who don’t like you, but from friends and family as well.
One of my well-published authors has a spouse who often says, “How’s your little hobby going?” At least he has me to vent to!
But you know how it goes: You mention this, and a friend or spouse exclaims enthusiastically about your venture. But there’s something about the constriction around his eyes, a tad of the ferret behind the narrowed irises. And as writers, we pick up on that. It eats away at creativity.
And of course, then every time you see the person, you get, “How’s the book coming? Published yet?” So that you’re ready to run screaming away from the whole project.
Protect your creativity—if it takes donning a suite of chaile maille armor.
What is your very best time to write?
This goes back to honoring the writer within you. We all write better at certain times than others. I’m freshest in the morning, which works for me. Even if that means a 4 AM wake-up call.
We’re all different regarding this. But make a commitment to put you, and your writing, first. If only between the hours of midnight and 1 AM. When you honor the muse, she’ll show up with bells on.
You deserve this, don’t you?
Once you’re committed to your writing time, do schedule in a day off.
And sometimes you need an extended break from writing.
The point is that you’re scheduling it, rather than falling into it.
Take this time to nurture your own creativity. What jazzes you? Is it going to the museum? A walk in the botanical gardens? A trip to the watch the dolphins dance?
We all need to recharge. It’s amazing how doing so fosters creativity.
And again, you’re worth it—your writing is worth it. Isn’t it?
So, as a book editor who has worked with so many writers and their demons, my tips for creating a daily writing habit have more to do with the why you’re not doing so in the first place. Face that, and everything else will fall into place.
What could be more important to your writing?