What’s your biggest writing challenge? For many writers, especially when they’re writing in an area which is new to them, it’s WRITING itself. If you write for a living, or want to, that puts a big roadblock in your way.
Many members of our 30-Day Novel-Writing Challenge contacted me to tell me that they were stuck, or were having problems meeting their daily word count goals.
I suggested the “Write More” class, Write More And Make More Money From Your Writing: Develop A Fast, Fun Productive Writing Process, to those writers:
… (if) you’re suffering from procrastination and/ or writers’ block. Maybe you depend on ‘inspiration’ to write, but you don’t get inspired very often. Maybe you’d love to write, but fear that you don’t have talent – and surely only people with talent can become writers?
Or maybe you’re scared of selling your writing… you aren’t making as much money as you know you should be making. You lack confidence, so you only take on low-paying writing jobs. “
(Since the class was beyond the reach of many of the writers, there’s an exclusive offering on the Write More class, until the Challenge ends.)
I spent many years struggling with my writing, so I know what it’s like. When I wrote my first couple of romance novels I was so anxious that I regularly had tears running down my face when I sat down at my typewriter. My hands shook. I was a real mess.
Over time, I got over it. It was far from easy, and it took DECADES. I wasn’t comfortable writing until at least the early part of this century, which means that I struggled for over 20 years.
Here’s the thing: writing is a process.
Write first, then edit later
That’s very difficult to comprehend, and to be comfortable doing — yes, you may understand it intellectually, but to put this understanding into daily practice, that’s another thing entirely.
If you’re a controlling person, as I am, you’ll find it hard to make your peace with this. You want to get the words right the first time you write them.
That way lies madness. You can’t do it. Trying to do it ensures not only that you write very little, but also that writing is a constant struggle for you. Moreover, it also ensures that you never write as well as you could, because you’re trying too hard.
Read those words again: “write first, then edit later.”
If you can do that, if you make that your new mantra, you don’t need anything else. You will write more, and you will make more money from your writing. Words equal dollars for us. 🙂
Natalie Goldberg talks about “first thoughts.”
It’s those first thoughts that you’re accessing when you write first, then edit later.
What does it mean to “write first”?
It means just to write, without having any particular concern about what you’re writing, most of the time. This isn’t easy. You need to remind yourself to write your first thoughts constantly. I still need to remind myself, and I’ve got long, hard experience trying to write and edit at the same time.
Your first thoughts are always where the energy is in a piece of writing. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, whether it’s a tiny little advertisement, or a tag line, or a 500-page novel.
If you’ll allow yourself just to write, without demanding anything in particular, over time you’ll be a lot less self-conscious when you write. Your writing will improve.
Let’s see how this works in practice.
Let’s say you’re writing a novel, as our Challenge members are doing. Get a timer — I’ve been using Repeat Timer Pro for the past few months, its excellent — and set it for 10 or 15 minutes.
Now, just write, until the timer sounds. Write whatever comes to mind. You can write something related to your novel, but if you start writing about something else, go with that.
Every day, before you start writing anything, do this process. I usually hand-write, on a writing pad. I collect these pages for a week, then I skim them (in case there’s something worth keeping) before I rip them up and recycle the paper.
This process warms you up.
Then do the process again, for five minutes, before you start work on a writing project.
This pre-writing/ warmup process loosens you up.
When you’re writing a project, try to keep that feeling. If you start hesitating, staring into space, or feel uncomfortable, go back to your “first thoughts” writing for five minutes.
When it’s time to edit your writing, you’ll find that you’ve got more words than you need. Edit away. Discard what doesn’t fit. You’ll get inspired with BETTER words as you prune and weed, and restructure.
Writing first, and editing later, means that you’ll write more. Not only will your writing improve, but you’ll also become prolific. And since words equal dollars, you’ll be making more money than you’re making now.
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