Do you have more time than you need to write? Do words flow effortlessly from your fingers no matter what goes on around you? Is writing a priority for you that needs no special attention? If you are anything like me, the answer is no, no and no. Last month we looked at finding time (if you missed the article, the secrets are here). This month’s focus: make time to write in the new year. It’s easier than you think!
Take Advantage of Your Natural Best Time to Write
Do you wake up full of energy to tackle anything, but then run down as the day goes on? Or are you the opposite, dragging yourself out of bed but gaining energy as the day progresses? Do you find the middle of the day is when you think the clearest? Whether morning, middle, evening, or parts in between, carve some time out to write when you are at your energetic high. Don’t make it difficult for yourself and try to write when your household is hectic or during a time you know you aren’t productive. You know when your energy is at its daily best. Write when the time is right—for you!
Make a Plan That Works
If morning is your time, get up 30 minutes earlier before everyone else, grab a cup of coffee, and give yourself some uninterrupted writing time. Nightlife your thing? Tack on a 30-minute session once the day is done. A half hour won’t take much time away from your daily to-do life or from your sleep, but writing 30 minutes a day can make the difference between finishing a book or just hoping to write one someday.
Give Yourself the Gift of Focus
So now that you’ve carved out 30 minutes to write, set a timer, hit start, begin your writing session and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. Make sure you turn off your e-mail, shut down your browser, shut the door of your office (if you have one) and turn down the ringer on your phone. In other words, cut out all possible distractions. You will be amazed at how much you will complete. Don’t worry about writing good, or writing something important, just write for 30 minutes. Get the words down, and then worry about how they sound or fit later. The next day (yes, wait that long) when you re-read you will be delighted to find that what you wrote isn’t nearly as bad as you thought. In fact, your writing will probably be pretty good or at least workable. You will start more and more ideas flowing, and you will train your muse to show up when you do.
Capture and Organize Your Brilliant Ideas
Pen and Index Cards: Or use little notebooks. Personally, I like the cards best because I can jot ideas, snatches of dialogue, or whatever thoughts come up and then I sort them out later. Stick a pen and index cards into your purse, the glove compartment in your car, your bike bag…in other words everywhere you go on a repeated basis. Then when you get a brilliant idea waiting in line at the grocery store, you’ll be able to jot it down and work on it later.
Idea Board: I use a corkboard, but your computer desktop or a writing program will work too. Post your ideas where you can see them and your mind (or subconscious or muse or the universe—again depending on what you believe) will work behind the scenes as you keep in touch daily with your WIP.
Digital Recorder: I don’t use mine very often, but when I do need it, my digital recorder is the perfect tool. Recorders have come down in price, they are tiny, and keeping one in your purse and/or pocket will remind your thoughts to wander back to your WIP.
Blackberry, iPad, or other digital device: Okay, okay, but use it to work on writing. Turn your e-mail and Internet access off!
Don’t Like Setting Goals? Try Setting a Dreamcatcher Instead.
It’s easier than you might think to keep your dream alive. All it takes is 100 words a day. Glance at the first paragraph in this article. More than 100 words. You know you can write that much every day, and it won’t even take the aforementioned 30 minutes. Make this a daily goal when life gets in the way and the 30 minutes of writing doesn’t work. Write 100 words instead. Go ahead and catch that dream. It’s not as hard as you think.
Not Least by Any Means…Celebrate Your Success
No matter what you hit: word count (yes, even 100 words), page count, time count (even if it’s 10 minutes) be sure to give yourself a reward for hitting what you set out to reach. A cool new pen, a funky new journal, or a walk in the sun (don’t forget the digital recorder), just be sure to acknowledge your accomplishment with a reward. As writers we need all the positive reinforcement we can get, so don’t forget to give yourself some!
Award-winning novelist Kathy Steffen teaches fiction writing and speaks at writing programs across the country. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines. Her books, FIRST THERE IS A RIVER, JASPER MOUNTAIN and THEATER OF ILLUSION are available online and at bookstores everywhere.