Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Need a Little Push to Get Started Writing?

As an acquisitions editor I often find myself trying to get an author moving on a project, trying to get them motivated to write, to find time, to sit down and dammit get it done.

I'm a huge procrastinator, so I know what they're going through. I've often faced the computer with an assignment due and then let myself drift away into Internetville or Emailand. Not fun.

So how do you make yourself write when you don't really want to?

I find two elements are key.

First you have to make sure that you are facing a reasonably long block of time that you could be writing, if you really wanted to. If you're crunched for time, it's way harder to get started and you probably won't. If you've got 45 minutes or an hour, though, or preferably more you can do it.

Second you have to find a key that unlock that part of your brain that engages when you're writing. It's hard to describe that place but you know it when you get there.

Your brain sort of takes over your fingers. It begins to concentrate on the task at hand and doesn't concern itself with Facebook, dinner, or laundry. You can't really will yourself to that spot either, I find. You've got to find a key.

For me that key typically takes one of three forms.

  1. I read over what I've already written and edit it on paper. That's critical for me, to edit on paper, though I'm not sure why. After I start editing on paper I can move to the computer, and once that happens I'm usually in. My brain gets to that place and I can write freely.

  2. If I haven't written anything yet, I'll gather some of my research and go to a different room. That's also critical for me, going to another room, and again I have no idea why. I get away from my writing area and then try to immerse myself in the research, particularly reading over an interview transcripts I might have. That always helps.

  3. When I'm really and truly stuck, and I just don't want to write, that's all there is to it, but I know I have to write, I'll just settle for writing a sidebar, something I know needs to be only a couple hundred words long and something I can bang out quickly. I think, Well, I just can't get into the main piece, I just can't, but I can at least do this little rinky-dink sidebar, right? Of course. I'll just do this one thing and then call it a night.Next thing I know I've finished the sidebar and am ready to move onto the main piece. I literally fool myself into writing.

I don't know if these tips will work for you but who knows, maybe they're just the push you need.