One of writing’s biggest challenges is… getting started. Do you have a writing process in place for when you procrastinate? Invariably, procrastination happens when we care a great deal about a project. We want to do well, so we hesitate until we can start “the right way.”
A writing process for when you can’t write (or so you think)
The importance of a writing process which helps you to get out of your own way was brought home to me this week by two things:
- I’m procrastinating on starting the next novel in a series;
- Several of my writing students are lagging behind on their assignments.
Yes, procrastination happens to me — even though I know better.
Procrastination always gives you plentiful excuses. My excuses (none of which I believe) include : I’m tired because I just finished a major copywriting project for a client; I need to do more research; I deserve a break…
Oh woe is me. I might as well admit that I enjoy my own excuses. 🙂 My students on the other hand tend to believe their excuses, because an excuse always contains a grain of truth.
Let’s look at three tips which will help you to develop your own writing process for those times you want to kickstart your writing — NOW, no matter how many excuses you have.
1. Just start writing: write words and paragraphs
When you’re not in the mood to write, or you’re too tired to write or… anything at all (add your excuse here) — start anyway.
Start the project. Create your necessary computer files. For my novel, I created the Scrivener file, as well as a preliminary mind map.
Then I started writing. One word after another. I didn’t have any idea of what I’d write, but it turned out to be the main character’s journal. I wrote a few hundred words, and called it good.
I know that no matter how little I’ve done, I’ve conquered the inertia which usually strikes you whenever you begin a long project.
To help my students, I set them a couple of writing exercises:
- Write ten titles;
- Write 200 words of your book’s blurb. (They’re writing nonfiction.)
Their sole instruction was to write anything which came to mind, no matter how rubbishy they thought their words.
Writers write. The best and only way to kickstart your writing is to write, and then be satisfied with it. You can fix it later.
2. Visit your favorite art gallery (online or offline) and browse
Young Servant Holding a Dish, François Boucher, 1713 – 1770 – from the Rijksmuseum.
Art masterpieces evoke emotion. When you’re not writing, you’re allowing your everyday self: the sensible, logical, and harassed side of your nature, to clutter your mind. Sweep that aside with the power of emotion and beauty.
I enjoy the Met, and the Rijksmuseum. Looking at images to kickstart your creativity works. Give it a try. Allow yourself to feel; avoid assessing the images.
3. Make a list of the benefits of completing your writing project(s)
Keep your goals in mind. You’ve got a reason to write. Make a list of the benefits of getting it done, no matter what it is that you need to write. Aim for five reasons.
Listing the benefits of completing a piece of writing helps whenever you procrastinate.
Writing always fixes writing, but you may have a reason for procrastinating
I’ve often mentioned this, but it’s worth mentioning again.
Pay attention to any resistance you feel.
When you’re happily writing, and suddenly get stuck, there’s always a reason. Pushing on blindly can wreck the project further down the track. Ask yourself what you’re missing. What aren’t you seeing?
Resistance comes from your creative self.
Perhaps you’re about to wander down a sidetrack in your novel — you’ve written two scenes about a minor character… Why? Is the character important? How? Keep asking yourself questions, until you know that you’ve hit on the problem. Resistance should vanish.
If you’re writing nonfiction, resistance can occur because you need to do more research.
Over time, you’ll come to recognize the guidance that resistance brings you, and using your resistance, rather than allowing it to derail you, will be part of your overall writing process.
Have fun. 🙂
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