Long intro (you might want to skip):
I haven’t had a week where it was like pulling teeth to write anything in a long time. The problem has to do with what I’ve been eating. I haven’t felt this bad since I was about 34 or 35. I’m 43 now, and I have felt tons better since adjusting my diet. I’m 43, guys. You know what that means? I KNOW better than to eat things that are going to make me feel like crap. Basically, I feel like someone hit me in the head with a baseball bat. And it’s all because I let myself slip into eating and even drinking a lot of sugary products. As much as this sucks to feel this way, I’m actually grateful my body is sensitive to what I do with it because it forces me to behave. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. 😛
Anyway, I noticed that over the past week, I’ve been getting more and more restless and more and more anal to be around. This is what happens when I don’t write on a consistent schedule. I’ve been allowing myself days off as I’m wiping the sugar out of my system. The moment I stopped eating and drinking sugar, I actually felt worse. I expect this phase to last a few more days while my body gets rid of the junk I put into it this summer.
Today I’m making myself write. I need to. For the sake of my sanity and the sanity of those poor people living with me, I need to write today. I just got 1,013 words down, and I feel so much more relaxed. I have three more stories to tackle before I’m done.
Okay, now for the actual post:
Here are some things I’ve learned from all of this that I thought might be useful in case someone is dealing with the problem of getting into their own writing projects.
1. Eat and drink stuff that promotes clear thinking and energy for writing.
It’s basic stuff like that this that’s easy to let fall to the side. We all know what’s good and what isn’t, so I won’t go into all of that. As a rule of thumb, if something makes you feel like crap later on, avoid it.
2. Get on a regular sleeping schedule if you can.
I need to do this for my eyes. My eyes have always done way better if I get to bed and wake up around the same time every day. I know some of you don’t have this option. Some people (or their spouses) have erratic working schedules. I don’t know what the answer is in that situation, but you have my sympathies.
3. Have a routine.
I find if I write around the same time every day, it’s much easier to get into the writing mood. Now, I do allow for 2-3 days off of writing every week so I don’t burn out. I usually use this time to do other things like book covers, emails, blog posts, formatting my books, and other tasks to keep the overall business going. This is more of the publisher side coming out to work. But even having this time helps me stay in the writing mindset because it has to do with what I do.
4. Divide responsibilities for certain days.
I find it too hectic to try to cram in the writing stuff and publisher duties in the same day. Since I write fiction, I’m using the right side of my brain on writing days. When I act as publisher, I’m using the left side of my brain. I think focusing on writing on some days and focusing on publisher duties on other days is a good way to divide up one’s attention and helps for greater productivity.
5. Do small steps for improvement.
I think aiming for small obtainable goals is way easier than trying to do big ones. Each small step is building a foundation that leads to bigger goals down the road.
People often ask how do I manage more than one book at a time. I didn’t start out this way. I started with one book where I wrote whenever I felt like it. Then I started a goal of one chapter a day. When I added two books to my list, I started the word count goal. I used to have a blog post where my goal was 500 words a day. (I got this idea from another author.) I did this in addition to my other book. I liked that method so much that I added another book to my list with the goal of 1000 words in one book and 1000 words total in two other books. From there, I bumped up the word count goal to 3,000 words in a writing day.
It took me a total of 10 years to get to this point. It was a very slow process. Only a couple of months ago did I add one more book to the list. At the moment, my word count goal is still 3,000 words (which is 750 words per book), but I would like to bump that up to 3,250 words a writing day by the end of the year. Remember, I only do this 4-5 days a week. I would never do this every day. It would burn me out.
6. Think in small word count or small time intervals.
I think in terms of small word count intervals. (Though you can think of this in terms of 15-minute intervals if you want. Usually, I get 250 words in 15 minutes.)
My current goal is at least 250 words per book every day that I sit down to write. This turns out to be a total of 1,000 words. I usually find that once I’m writing, I write more than 250 words in a story. The story starts to flow around the 250-word mark, which is why I pick that number. Plus, if I tell myself I only need to do 250 words, then I’m more likely to do it.
So I’ll sit down and write 250 words without distractions (minus kids or husband). That means NO internet and NO phone calls. Nothing. If you go to the internet or get on the phone, it’s going to be a lot harder to make the word count goals. Internet and phone can be a reward for getting the writing done.
Usually after I finish the first 250 words, I go on for another 250 words. By then, I make myself take a 5-10 minute break. During this time, I am thinking of what I want to write next. Do I continue on with Book 1 or go to Book 2? What comes next in either story? Which one am I most compelled to write at the moment?
When I return, I pick whatever book I want and go for another 250 words. If I want to keep writing in that book, I’ll go for another 250 words right away. If not, I take another break (this one about 15-30 minutes) to shift my mindset to the next book. It does take a few minutes to get into another book.
So anyway, I repeat this process until I’m done for the day.
Now, if I don’t hit all four books, that’s okay. I don’t beat myself up over it. My main goal is still 3,000 words a day. I don’t write in every book on every writing day. There are times I do, but there are times I don’t. It’s better to write 250 words in a book where the ideas are flowing than to stare at a blank screen for a half hour. I give myself 15 minutes. If I can’t get into the story in 15 minutes, I close it for the day and go on to another book.
7. Don’t play catch-up.
I used to try this, and it killed my motivation. If you are consistently trying to make up for word counts you didn’t get the day before, you are snowballing your word count for the day, and the goal starts to become overwhelming. If the goal starts to become overwhelming, you aren’t likely to meet it. I know this is a hard one for people to do. It is for me. I’m a Type A personality. I want to get stuff done. I hate not reaching goals. But starting out each day with a clean slate helps relax the mind, and a relaxed mind writes much more efficiently than a tired mind does.
8. Sometimes you have to write even when you don’t feel like it.
a. Think of writing as a job.
If we wait for the muse to show up, we’ll get a lot less done. I realize there are some who don’t want to think of writing for fun as a job, but I think of it as a job. I have to. If I don’t, I don’t take it seriously. I don’t stick to my routine. I don’t push myself to do better. You can have fun doing a job. It’s not true that thinking of writing as a job ruins the fun. I’ve had a couple of jobs in the past that were fun.
b. Set the goal lower for the day.
If you are having one of those days where you’re feeling like crap (like I am today), set the goal lower than you usually would. It is better to get 1,000 words out than 3,000. Every little bit moves you closer to the overall goal, which is a finished book.