1. Have a consistent habit, an action, a thought, a location, a drink (matcha tea anyone?) that sets your mind in the mode of the writing. It can be as simple as sitting down to write with a favorite pillow at your back.
2. Write in a location where you will not be constantly interrupted or where you are required to take your mind off writing.
3. Use music, and try a variety to ease you into the flow. It also helps shut out the rest of the world for a time.
4. Let others know, in no uncertain terms, that this is your time to write—even if it isn’t making money at the moment. Writing is one of those things that, if you don’t keep doing it, you won’t get good enough to be a best seller. Chicken and the egg thing.
5. Don’t put it off. Doing it tomorrow means you’ve lost a 1000 words or more to your story. If you only write 300, then that’s 300 lost to the ether. And you lose the flow and continuity of your story and characters.
Now I’ll go into a little more detail about the list above.
1. I settle in for writing, pillows at my back, feet stretched out on the bed, laptop on my lap. Exercise, it’s all an exercise.
A repetitive exercise.
At this point I’m a little familiar with the muscles involved in the process of this exercise, and day after day practice allows me to do this with some endurance.
One is that I have some consistent habits surrounding the process of writing. My mind is put in the mode that I get to go to another world that no one else can see, and it is a place where I can do absolutely anything—and I mean anything—I want. It’s somewhat like the little kid who goes under the blanket when he or she is 5 or 6 and closes off the rest of the world to a place of immense safety.
If a thin blanky can do that for me, then I can still use the feeling I had from back then to help my writing process, to immerse myself in that “my world alone” experience.
And I don’t care if you know about my blanky.
In martial arts different salutes or bow-ins prior to entering the dojo or studio. This is a sign of respect to those within, but it is mostly a way of using a physical movement to put your mind into a more serious mode. A more disciplined mode.
For me, sitting comfortably is the start as I am usually in one place for a long time, anywhere from 30 minutes to nearly 4 hours, should I be fortunate to get that amount of time.
I like to have a pillow at my back, at least 2 of them, so that I get my lumbar support out of the way, but I have been known to hunker down in a car seat while someone else drives over bumpy roads to get the writing quota done.
2. I have a few writing locations that work well for me, but anywhere I can be where I don’t have to worry about my surroundings will do.
The bedroom with the door closed and locked is one.
A chair at the Oxford Exchange, a place to write while enjoying tea, is another.
The dining room table has worked for me.
Sitting in my car under a shade tree also works.
Most of these are places where I have zero distraction, or the distractions help in one way or another.
I am a people watcher; I have written many character studies and enjoy the flow of humanity around me at times. I also come from a big family and have 8 brothers and sisters. There was always that background noise, that, more often than not, was not intrusive. Merely noise. The comfortable noise of family.
There are times, though, where silence is necessary, and I go through every effort to make that happen or put on headphones and drown out the rest.
3. Different novels or short stories seem to favor specific music, for me. I know right now that if I play 1977 from Anita Tijoux, I will be transported into the mood to write my unfinished novel, AJ. Everything about that song speaks to, and of, my main character in that book. And when I hear it, I want to write that character. She’s waiting for me, after all.
A lot of music from the movie Inception went into my novel SHADE, a fantasy story that deals with multiple timelines and probabilities. The emotional undercurrent of the music meshed well with the way I imagined and expressed the characters. It helped ease the complexity of the story.
I don’t know why certain songs work with the flow of specific stories, but they do. They find their own level, so to speak.
Overall, music can shut off the external and allow the internal free reign. Music helps soothe or invigorate. Try a variety of music and see which songs, or genres, ease you into the story, or stories, you’re writing.
4. This one is an important habit to develop. Either you become sneaky and slip off somewhere where no one knows what you are doing and then write to your heart’s content, or you let others know that the time from x to x is your time for undisturbed writing.
You are only helping others by being creatively expressive. When you get your story quota out for the day, you are a better person for everyone. You will be more relaxed and feeling good about your accomplishment. It makes it easier to deal with the rest of life.
Good intentions aside, one of the worst things anyone can say to you, or for you to think yourself, is, “Are you making any money at it?”
Novels can’t get published if they aren’t written. Period. Even those people who write on spec still have to write the thing to get paid, or they lose the advance.
You’ve got to finish a novel to get paid for a novel. It doesn’t work any other way. You won’t know if it’ll make any money unless you have completed it and shopped it around.
Writing is a serious thing. It involves a lot of time and effort. Good writing, even more.
But nothing gets written unless you decide it’s worth the effort. Don’t let someone else decide that for you—ever. They can keep themselves down all they want, but don’t ever let them keep you away from the work you’re meant to do.
Decide that your writing expression has value. Decide the effort itself is valuable. Let those around you know how important it is by doing the work of writing day after day until your novels are finished.
5. Don’t put it off. As I’ve said in my other blogs, I never let 2 days go by without writing—ever. This is my specific routine and works well for me, but I ask that you try it until the completion of one writing project.
I write every day. Sometimes I have to write double the next day because of some life happening getting in the way.
Saturdays are tough days for me to write my novel, and I often have to make Sunday a double day.
But the point is, don’t put it off. Have a plan that if you can’t write one day, then make up extra on the next. And keep to that plan. Don’t fall into the habit of letting it go to the following day; this is not a good habit.
When you’re consistent day in and day out, you stay connected with the continuity of your story and characters. It flows. You may dream about them, or think of them while doing your day job. They are present more often than not, and it makes writing about them easier.
Make a target for your writing in number of words, or time. I started my serious novel writing years ago with 300 words a day. This quickly changed to 500, and now I do a minimum of 1000 words a day with 2 part-time jobs and an occasional 3rd part-time job. I also write a couple of blogs and a newsletter. And somewhere in there I get a poem or two down a week. This is a full schedule, as I’m sure many of you have, and it just shows that if I can do it, so can you.
If I let a day go by without writing, then 1000 extra words are waiting for me the next day. Without fail. Some days I write a lot more, but always meet my minimum. And if I write extra on day one, it doesn’t excuse me from writing my 1000 the next day. It just means I got extra mileage in that effort to the finish.
Just think of how many words, how many stories, could have been written already if you would’ve just stayed the course.
Stay the course. You’ll be so happy you did.