I love to write. I really do. So why is it so darned hard to make myself sit down and do it???
It is too easy to get sidetracked by urgent or amusing activities. The internet doesn’t help. Neither do magazines and books, which can be deadly distractions for compulsive readers like me.
I know. The answer is having a clear sense of purpose (i.e. a goal) and the willpower to keep on track. But since I don’t always have those, here are a few tips I’ve gleaned that help me keep my focus where it should be: on my writing.
1. The first thing you do in the morning is what you will accomplish during the day.
This one comes from my husband, who has the kind of job where he has to manage his own time. It means leaving email and Facebook and errands until after I’ve accomplished my daily writing goal.
2. Keep magazines and books out of the bathroom.
Or off the table where you eat breakfast, or the dresser where you dry your hair. Confine them to a space where you won’t see them until you choose to.
3. Ask yourself when you get up what it is you deeply desire to accomplish today.
Then write it down on a sticky note and put it in those places where you aren’t keeping your magazines and books, so you remember. Or write it on your hand. I keep a weekly list of writing goals and decide each day which one(s) I will work on.
4. Don’t pick up that spoon!
This comes from Hazel Hutchins, a prolific and obviously focused children’s writer. It means use your time to accomplish your goals, not to pick up the scattered trivia of your life. The dishes can wait. Really.
5. Force yourself to sit at your computer.
Or at your notebook, or to stand on your treadmill–wherever you do your writing. This tip is from Duncan Thornton. He makes himself sit at his desk for a set time period, and isn’t allowed to do anything except write. He says that eventually he gets bored enough that he does.
6. Reward yourself for good behaviour.
For my husband, it’s a Fudgesicle. For Duncan Thornton, it was a haircut. Whatever it is you want, you can have it — after you’ve finished that chapter or those revisions or sent out those query letters. That is, if you still need it after accomplishing your goal. Often the feeling of accomplishment is reward enough.
7. Go for a walk.
Many creative people find that walking stimulates their thinking. I often solve plot problems or character issues or visualize that next scene while touring my neighbourhood. I often write at my treadmill, but that doesn’t work for brainstorming because if the computer is off, the scenery isn’t inspiring. But walking anywhere does wake me up if I’m drowsy.
8. Find someone to keep you accountable.
If someone cares enough to read what I’ve written and help me make it better, I will make the time to produce something to give them. If you don’t have a writing group, find someone who will listen to you list your goals and ask you about them regularly.
9. Believe that what you are doing matters…
…to you, to those close to you, to others you may not even know. This can be hard, especially in those dry seasons and when it’s been a long time since anything got published. I know of no magic road to belief, except digging deep to remember why you started to write in the first place, and reminding yourself (or rediscovering) why you still want to do it now. Because you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
10. Listen to your vegetables.
Especially pumpkins. They’re great at keeping their focus on the task at hand.
Now, time to close this page and do some writing.