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Developing a writing discipline
April 27, 2011 3:44 AM   Subscribe

Aspiring author here, asking other writing MeFites: how do you write? How do you discipline yourself? What gets you in the Zone? I have no discipline as a writer and depend on random bouts of inspiration, but I'd like to start approaching writing in a more structured way, with a view to (gasp!) publishing one day.

I really love writing and have done so since I was a kid, although I have never been that great at actually finishing things.

I have a novel sort of simmering away in my brain which I'd love to complete. And maybe even publish it! Although I'm not to bothered about that bit. Just finishing it would be a great achievement!

But the problem is I have absolutely no discipline as a writer. I just wait for inspiration to hit me and then I'm off and can write many pages in a few hours, totally in the Zone, and these are the pages I come back to later and rejoice at how alive the characters seem and how realistic the dialogue sounds. But I have no control over this Zone. It comes when it comes, and I can find myself writing up to 4am on a work night or, worse, writing at work, because I know that if I don't write immediately, I'll lose the inspiration.

I mean, I'm not complaining; I'm grateful for those random bursts of inspiration but I just wish I had more control. I read about writers who sit in their dedicated studios and write from 8am to 8pm everyday and I'm like, how do they DO that? Because if I'm not in the mood, I could sit and stare at the same blank page for hours. Sometimes I force a few paragraphs out, but it's like blood from a stone.

So tl;dr: How do you approach your writing in a disciplined manner? What is your routine? How do you keep the inspiration going?
posted by Ziggy500 to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 99 users marked this as a favorite
 
Get up early, same time every day. Early in the morning is the only time I know no one else will be up to distract me, call me, send emails etc. Inspiration is more tricky, but I think Hemingway said something about ending each day when you know what your next sentence will be. Overall I've found successfully getting things written is about 80/20 discipline/inspiration.
posted by the foreground at 4:09 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


This TED talk by Author Elizabeth Gilbert has a lot of interesting things to say on the subject of creative work and inspiration.
posted by j03 at 4:32 AM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Don't wait for the Zone. The Zone is great, but it's not what writing is about. Writing is about slogging through the times when you have no idea how you're going to connect one word to the next, but you do so anyway. Keep writing, every day, with a goal in mind (word count, number of pages, whatever) and when you hit that goal...write some more.
posted by xingcat at 4:41 AM on April 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


I actually thought it would be cool to try publish a novel as a Kindle e-book. The thing to remember is that it doesn't need to be any good. Obviously it's not done yet, so I don't know if what I'm doing will work.

But I did try to write a novel in the past and my main problem was that I couldn't figure out exactly where it was going to go. So this time I started with the plot first.

Also look at some of the popular books out there. They're not all that well written. So don't worry about perfect prose. Just figure out what needs to be said in each scene and make sure it gets said. Then you can go back and make it sound better.
posted by delmoi at 4:52 AM on April 27, 2011


Once I got stuck when I was in the middle of writing my Ph.D. thesis. Had probably written about half a page in two weeks. When I told that to my advisor, his advice was "you need to set aside a time everyday and sit in front of your computer even if you don't write a single word. I understand you are waiting for inspiration but it will be easier for her (the muse) to find you if she knows where you are."
posted by hariya at 4:59 AM on April 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm only just getting back in the serious bzns writing boat, but I've found that getting up earlier and spending some quality time writing something from Write One Leaf (no affiliation, I just like the site) and doing a page or two of stuff (about 10-15 minutes depending on how fast I type) is really helping me. Sometimes it's just my blathering on about something that has no sense whatsoever and sometimes it turns out to be a part of a scene that I can use later (or at least, it might hint at how I want to frame something later).
Granted, I may not be constantly writing things that are for my novel, but sometimes I can get a poem out or even just a general brain-dump so I can get on with my day.

(Depending on how much stuff you have already planned for your novel, you could try what I'm doing this summer--taking a novel vacation. I'm taking 2 weeks to do the whole novel layout with notecards and posterboard and actually making a plan of how/when to write it. I've got the majority of scenes in my head, but I haven't been able to shuffle them around into an order that I like, so the notecards and posterboard is going to help me with that since I need a more visual aspect than Labyrinth (no affiliation, just was using it to try and keep track of things for a while until it got really unwieldy) uses.)
posted by sperose at 5:04 AM on April 27, 2011


I think it may take a lot of time experimenting with your own processes before you find something that works for you. It's a very very individual thing. So this is just what works for me.

1, I set a time frame when I have to be writing, an hour or two hours a night. If I am having an especially hard time of it I divide it into work/break increments: say, 15 minutes to work and five to look at email/blogs. Even when I'm having an easy time of it I won't work straight through for two hours, but I don't set a timer unless I'm doing that thing where I don't know what to write next so I go off into internet-land for half an hour and am disappointed to find out that the next sentence hasn't magically written itself.

2, During that time, if I'm not getting any words out, my job is to figure out why and try to fix it. This usually takes the form of me lying face-down on my bed trying to daydream out the next scene, or else writing a letter to myself in my notebook summarizing the problem and outlining possibilities.

3, I set up a spreadsheet that has my word count so far, my projected word count, my anticipated completion date, how many words I need to write each day to be finished by the time I want to be finished, and a nice pie chart of my progress.

4, If it's like getting blood from a stone... it's sometimes a good idea to try to write anyway.

Sometimes, the writing is hard because it's your brain trying to tell you that something is going wrong.
Sometimes, the writing is just hard.
Sometimes, if you just keep writing, even 200 or 300 words, you'll find out the thing that you needed to find out. They don't have to be words you're going to keep.

5, I daydream around the next scene when I'm on the bus or walking or showering or trying to get to sleep. This is the next step beyond the basic outline of "what happens in this scene": I'm trying to play the scene as a movie in my head to get the feel of the dialogue and the blocking. It cuts down on being in front of the computer with no idea what happens next.

Think long and hard about what 'inspiration' and not feeling inspired means to you. There can be a lot of stuff hiding under there. Sometimes "I don't feel inspired" means you don't know what happens next. Sometimes it means you're bored with the story. Sometimes it means you're afraid of failure, or afraid of success. Sometimes the worst thing you can do is keep spinning your tires when really you need to get out and push. -- and sometimes the only way to diagnose the problem is to grind away and grind away with seemingly no result.

But, generally, I have to think of writing like you would think of music practice or going to the gym: it's my job to show up, not because I'm excited about it today, but because I have faith in the good results that are going to happen over the long term. And the good result isn't necessarily a published book, or even a finished book, but the practice I've gotten with writing on good days and bad, and thinking myself out of corners.
posted by Jeanne at 5:06 AM on April 27, 2011 [15 favorites]


It is always hard to find time to write something because time is not something you should have to look for when you are trying to produce. It is especially hard if there are other things you have to do everyday. One of the common questions that writers get asked in interviews is something like: "Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?" It is no coincidence that nearly everyone always answers: "Write." People suggest an every day schedule, but that isn't always practical for all of us. Certainly carry a notebook or scrap of paper to write stuff down when it comes to you, but the key is to have some kind of routine. I only write every three days. It is kind of weird, but I set aside time, usually at night, to sit and do nothing but write. I am not one of the people that can write with any skill if I have to do it every day, but once every three seems to work well for me. Any kind of structure helps because it is entirely too easy to not write anything at all.
posted by Bachsir at 5:27 AM on April 27, 2011


Treat is as a hobby. It's great that you enjoy the process of writing because the chances of getting published, never mind making any money, are vanishingly small. If you still want to do it then think of a great climax and write towards that end. If you can't think of a great climax then keep thinking till you've got one. Start the book with a bang as well, like a James Bond film before the opening credits. Don't start with a ten page description of a tree. Write your first draft, start to finish, on your initial burst of inspiration. Even if it's only 50 pages it should have the beginning, middle and end and a logical structure linking every scene.

You then sit down for at least an hour, preferably two hours, every single day with the internet off, the phone unplugged and the door locked and edit this story on grit and determination. I don't care if you're sick, tired or can't think of anything. Sit there and do the work. Initially the editing makes the book expand and expand, then it cuts it down again. Writing a story is like carving a sculpture out of stone, it's knowing what to take away that matters. Most people spend a year polishing the first ten pages and then abandon the thing in a drawer because they have no idea where to go.

Keep the number of characters to a minimum. Each character must want something in every scene and conflict between them arises because those desires clash. If you can't say what a character wants then cut them out of the scene or the book. Every sentence should advance the story, if it doesn't then cut it out. Make things complex, but not complicated - e.g. three people are after the treasure/in love with the girl but there's no two page descriptions about how to pick a lock. Cut the interior monologues, they're boring and you're not Proust. Keep your characters outdoors. Keep them moving. Increase the stakes at every turn. Each chapter should see your main character solving one problem only to encounter a greater one.

Think about the raw response you're trying to induce in the reader in every scene - fear, laughter or tears or whatever - and sharpen the story till you achieve it. Write the back story and exposition to get it out of your system then cut everything. Cut it all. Don't have characters telling each other stuff they already know. Don't have two people talking about a third person. People want a story, not information. They've got CNN for that. Never write on the nose. People falling out of love argue about the washing up. Most readers love story tellers no matter how clunky and are bored by prose stylists with no story to tell. Every reader after every page must be hungry to know what happens next.

White space makes everything easier to read. Don't talk about your story. When it's finished put it away for a month then edit it again like you've never seen it before and you make a dollar for cutting every word. A tight 50,000 words is infinitely better than a flabby 85,000. Be anything but boring. If you find yourself writing about a writer struggling for inspiration to write a story about a writer writing about a writer shoot yourself. Shoot yourself twice to make sure. As soon as you finish one book start the next one. Every piece of criticism you receive will have a kernel of truth but in the end you have to stay true to yourself.

Good luck.
posted by joannemullen at 5:37 AM on April 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


Join a critique group, either a local one or something online like Critters (sf, fantasy, horror). I suggest this because learning how to effective critique other people is a good way to learn how to deal with what is wrong with your own work.

Then, or simultaneously, learn how to outline. Figure out what the end of your story is. Then you'll know where you are going.

Yes, it is important to sit down every day at the same time, but if you don't have some structure you'll be floundering around.

You also need to learn what the mechanics of story-telling are. There are definite ways to construct commercial fiction. One good resource for this is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. (He also has a bunch of videos available on You Tube.)

Good luck!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 5:40 AM on April 27, 2011


I just had lunch yesterday with a rather famous game designer, RPG source book writer and novelist. He said he wrote 5,000 words per day for much of his career and only writes 3,000 today because he has kids and is to where his income never drops below a certain amount. He considered that speed (about 1,000 words per hour when he's on, rest of the day is misc. stuff everyone has to deal with) necessary to make it in that business. And these are words that need little revision.

He got to that point by writing and re-writing passages over and over and soliciting quite brutal feedback. He would write a 250-word description 10 or 20 times in one day until he was sick of it. He would surround himself with people who didn't have time to let the mood strike them and disciplined himself to never miss a deadline, ever. He made high standards habitual.

I suggest the same to you.
posted by michaelh at 5:48 AM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like the book by dorothea brande "Becoming a writer" very much. She shows you how to train yourself to sit down and write whenever you want to, without needing to be in the zone before you start kind of thing.That zone thing is great when it happens, but it doesnt happen every day.
posted by sparkle55 at 5:52 AM on April 27, 2011


panic helps.
posted by The Whelk at 5:53 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Self-link alert: I wrote a guest post recently on a friend's blog about how to stay on task with writing. Mostly, it's just about doing and not thinking. That's the great thing about NaNoWriMo--you don't have time to think. You just write. Leave everything else to the editing process.
posted by litnerd at 5:56 AM on April 27, 2011


A friend who is currently dissertating turned me on to 750 Words a couple of weeks ago. I am toying with the idea of finishing up a novel, and have the same kind of issue as you. When I can get myself to use this site, it's worked pretty well. It's kind of like Julia Cameron's Artist's Pages, in that it's meant to be practice. You're writing *something* even if it's not the thing you want to work on. Just like warming up before you go for a run.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 7:20 AM on April 27, 2011


Set a specific time each day. When you quit for the day, stop when you are in the middle of a good flow and you know what is coming next. I’ve found it’s hard to get started when I quit at a place where I’m struggling. I also make an outline/list of what I want to accomplish the following day.

I had to start using Temptation Blocker to keep from surfing the web. I would need to look something up and get sidetracked. Now I just hold off until my allotted time is up and go back and research.

I don’t know what to tell you about inspiration. I have deadlines so maybe reward yourself by hitting some sort of self-imposed deadline.
posted by iscavenger at 7:31 AM on April 27, 2011


I go through horrible dry spells where I can't even make myself pick up a pen (Yes, I write longhand. It's one of my "charms."), let alone commit anything to paper. Here are some things I've done that have worked. I'll spare you my failed gambits, except one. I didn't stick to the writing appointments I made for myself. If you can set a schedule and adhere to it, bless you.

I keep a diary, writing every day without fail. Even if it's crap, which it often is. Awful "dear diary" stuff, that I'd cringe if it got out. But at least I'm making an attempt.

Writing longhand helps me, though I can't put my finger on why that should be. Having animals around me also helps.

I enjoyed reading some of Natalie Goldberg's books, but I can't say my writing practice was improved by what she said.

The experience that helped me the most was a couple years ago, a Buddhist monk gave a talk on how he created a giant sand art mandala. He said that the physical act of sprinkling the sand was the spiritual element, as opposed to the finished product. What I learned from this was that I could begin writing and let it be unfinished, rough, in other words a first draft.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 8:07 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Quick summary/extra chiming ing...

750 words to write your daily 3 pages. You wouldn't run a marathon without putting in the miles would you?

(new to me - liked it so much from above that I had to weigh in and say, YEAH) - Write one leaf - good 'starting' moments when I don't have materials due and I need to put in my daily work.

Last, Jerry Seinfeld talks about X-ing on a calendar every day he writes - after writing 5-6 days, he doesn't want to 'break the chain.' Don't break the chain is devoted to giving you an online place to X things out.
posted by filmgeek at 8:13 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


My experience was that I didn't break through the wall of writing stories until I discovered how helpful it was to learn the technical nuts and bolts of plots and conflict. For me, finding the balance between planning and inspiration, and using both sides of the brain, is the key.

Not that everything should be over-planned like the movie Inception, but I found that I work a lot better when I've figured out the big-picture mechanics of what every character will be running up against, how he/she will have to change and what the three acts are all about.

That way it feels like pouring my irrational and inspirational stuff into a reliable container, instead of worrying about my story going nowhere. I figure it is sort of like how the limitations of a sonnet wall the poet in and force him/her to find creative solutions to problems.
posted by Victorvacendak at 8:21 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


But the problem is I have absolutely no discipline as a writer. I just wait for inspiration to hit me and then I'm off and can write many pages in a few hours, totally in the Zone, and these are the pages I come back to later and rejoice at how alive the characters seem and how realistic the dialogue sounds. But I have no control over this Zone. It comes when it comes, and I can find myself writing up to 4am on a work night or, worse, writing at work, because I know that if I don't write immediately, I'll lose the inspiration.

This is the problem. Writing a novel is not fun bursts of happy creativity. It's work. Daily, day-in, day-out work. Sometimes it's enjoyable. Sometimes it makes you want to tear your hair out.

There are as may different processes as their are writers. There are some adages--like, say, "butt in chair," or "write every day"--that sound great but that don't work for everyone. The commonality I've noticed among all of them is this:

Constant forward motion.

You need your word count to go up. If not daily, then you need to be writing regularly, in chunks of time during which you see your manuscript grow. The people who never finish novels frequently write in bursts of inspiration undercut by constant editing. You need to love your messy first draft. You need to not look back over your shoulder constantly.

Forward motion.

What worked for me to learn how to write a novel was to set a low daily goal and stick to it. I started at 500 words a day--that's about 2 double-spaced pages (I say write double spaced because then it feels like you're doing more). That's a quarter of what Stephen King does every day. I had a summer to write and I figured I'd be able to work on something for a few months.

At first, getting out those 500 words was hard. But there would be good days, days when the words would pour out. Then I realized that 500 words was piteously few. On more and more days, I'd be hitting my stride, and cutting off at 500 words made things feel choppy and disjointed. So I upped it to a thousand.

My first manuscript was a short (40k), messy thing. But I got to "The End." I basked in that for awhile. A long while, in fact. I never edited that book.

Instead, I decided to write another. And another.

I edited my third book, and tried to get an agent with it, but couldn't. Repeated the process with the fourth book. No dice. Now I'm editing a fifth and have an agent waiting for me to send it to her (ohpleaseohplease). Thing is, once you learn how to write a novel, it's time consuming--but it's not hard. And only mild attachment to a single book is good if you want to make a serious go at it. Commercial writers write regularly.

You'll only ever figure out your process by going through the motions of novel writing. You won't really know if you're an outliner until you come to the juncture when you need one (or not). You won't know if you're an early morning writer until you try it, and try writing other times (I'm not--trying to write early makes it slow and painful. I write here and there, throughout the day).

I read about writers who sit in their dedicated studios and write from 8am to 8pm everyday and I'm like, how do they DO that?

Methamphetemines. I'm only half-joking. That level of productivity is very hard to maintain. When you work, really work, at writing, it's some of the hardest work there is. Draining. If those people aren't spending at least part of their time pacing, banging their heads on the walls, or dicking around on the internet, I'll eat my hat.

Anyway, you learn the skills of writing by writing. Books and advice can help. But the great thing about writing is that you're your own best teacher.

So if you really want to do it, do it. I know that sounds reductive, but it's true.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:31 AM on April 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oh, and one hack that works for me: set a timer for a half hour. Write. Decide whether you want to write more. Do it again if you do.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:33 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Merlin Mann often says he needs about 10-15 minutes of typing before his brain realizes he's writing. Set aside your regular time to write, and when you first sit down either use a marking system in the file you're working in (I use [[[[[ to start and ]]]]] when I think I'm done with my warmup, because it's searchable and eyeball-able) or use 750 words or a separate Scrivener chapter or whatever to just make words happen until your brain notices you're writing. Go from there. You'll find the muse is evocable most of the time, and if she knows where and when to find you every day it's even easier.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:06 AM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


The only way I've ever gotten any forward momentum on my writing in the past year has been with this book by Alan Watt (which, amusingly, I stumbled upon serendipitously while looking for something by Alan Watts). Health issues have intervened to keep me from doing a solid 90-days-all-in-one-go, but it's completely turned around the way I've thought about this particular project and helped me rethink (in a way that feels positive, rather than blame-y) my approach to writing in general.
posted by scody at 1:39 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nanowrimo is great for this, because it forces you to buckle down and really do the work

every
single
day.

And that's the real key to becoming a published writer. Do the work

every
single
day.

We're a ways from November yet, but my understanding is that there's an unofficial Nanowrimo just about every month of the year. Maybe you could put together a challenge with some friends. It really does serve as a wonderful boot camp.

Nanowrimo is how I got my ass kicked into gear, and I know that's true of a lot of other people, too. I wouldn't expect to get a completed manuscript out of the experience. What you'll end up with is either a tear-down that you'll have to throw away, or the EXTREMELY ROUGH first draft of what will become your finished manuscript.
posted by ErikaB at 2:43 PM on April 27, 2011


You all are brilliant.

:)
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:27 PM on April 27, 2011


I read about writers who sit in their dedicated studios and write from 8am to 8pm everyday

I've read and listened to a lot about writers' habits, and I've never heard this one. I've heard of a couple who write 7-8 hours a day, but they're very much the exception; most seem to count 2 hours of actually putting new words down as a really good session and 4 hours as a stupendous one. (This isn't necessarily to say that they're not doing a lot of work on other writing tasks with the rest of the day, or that they don't sometimes work long hours over some short period.)

Pretty much everything is different in the details about their habits, except that they actually put in the hours and get the words down. And nearly everyone who regularly publishes is someone who's committed to some form of regular output, whether a given amount of time per day, or a given number of words.
posted by Zed at 4:56 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also from PhoBWanKenobi - July 23, 2009:


The only way to write is to sit down and write. Yes, that sounds circular. Yes, that sounds overly simplistic.

But in the past year, since finishing up an MFA in poetry, and having had a lot of time to observe and compare my fiction writing peers who are writers-in-name-only with those who actually produce prose, I've realized that the distinguishing difference between those who write and those who don't is the actual act of writing.

That's the only difference.

People who aren't productive writers are likely to mythologize writing. They can only write, they say, under a certain set of conditions. They just aren't inspired (as if they're waiting for a muse to come and smack them on the head). But being a productive writer means nothing more than sitting down and writing a moderately substantial amount of prose with regularity. That's all. Your ideas don't have to be particularly good. You don't have to be particularly brilliant or inspired, although that helps. You just need to write. Because, let me tell you, if you sit around waiting for inspiration or talent, plenty of mediocre, but disciplined writers are going to have written circles around you by the time you get out of the gate.

For me, setting reasonable goals for myself, and sticking to them, has been key. I write an average of 500 words a day. By doing so in the past year, I've written one 120-page novel MS, two short stories, and am 90 pages into a second MS currently. And there was a time when I was like you, when I had plenty of four-page first-chapters floating around. Writing nearly daily, particularly through slogging through that first MS, has done a lot to demythologize the novel writing process for me. Writing a novel isn't particularly hard; it simply entails follow-through. Sometimes it's boring. Sometimes it's rough. But the key is to keep doing it, regardless.

(I've read enough books on writing to tell you that many professional, highly prolific writers--Lawrence Block and Stephen King are the two that come to mind--write their books this way, too. So you'll be in good company.)

So, sit down and put your nose to the grindstone. Try writing 500 words today. It won't take long--maybe a half hour, maybe an hour. And then do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. In two weeks, you'll have 7,000 words; working at this pace, you'll have 50,000 by the end of the summer.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:43 AM on July 23, 2009


From this thread.

Listen to PhoBWanKenobi.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:36 PM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


You might also consider developing one or two throw-away projects. It can be easy to get really attached to your main project - in your case, your novel, which has lots of great dialog and wonderful writing. When you take the excellent advice above about making the time to write, and writing consistently, whether you're inspired or not - you might get stuck worrying that whatever you push yourself to write won't be good enough for your wonderful novel.

So, create one or two projects that you don't have to care about as much. Maybe a zombie apocalypse short story and a bodice-ripper romance (or whatever - anything you personally won't take very seriously). Then, if you're having a hard time pushing yourself to write something, anything, on your novel, you can switch projects, and instead push yourself to write something, anything, on your zombie story.

In my experience, several things happen when you have throw-away creative projects you don't care about: (See also: the Crap Art Manifesto.)

Mainly, though - just write. As often as you can. Both because it's great practice and will make you a better, more prolific writer, and because the more you write, the more opportunities you have to surprise yourself when something really great comes out of your head.
posted by kristi at 10:13 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I did NaNoWriMo and stuck to my daily word count religiously - it helped a LOT to be able to update that little graph and see my word count go up, and the little calendar that tracks your daily goals was great too. It felt like a game that I was winning!

My NaNo book was throwaway trashy, but what it taught me is that writing a book is pretty easy - that is, it's no longer a Big Huge Insurmountable thing. Maybe try writing something throwaway too so you can get yourself into the routine without the pressure.
posted by ukdanae at 12:55 PM on April 29, 2011


I know this territory well. Procrastination, waiting for inspiration, anxiety and insecurity. I have also learned it's irrelevant. In the end, the bare truth of it can be summed up in two words.

Writers write.

But instead of shutting up and doing the work, we writers tote around some strange baggage. No would-be doctor says "I love healing patients but I can only do it when I'm inspired. At that golden moment I can heal ten or twenty people! It's wonderful!"

If you're really meant to be a writer, you write. It's up to you to make that choice. Otherwise, in the end it's just romanticizing.

It does help to understand the mental forces that block us. And the best recommendation I can give you is to read Steven Pressfield's War of Art.. Pressfield has a name for the negative thoughts and feelings that pulls us away from the work: Resistance.

Of the 9 properties of Resistance (listed in the link) here, for example is property #7:

7. RESISTANCE IS INSIDIOUS

Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that's what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stick-up man. Resistance has no conscience. It understands nothing but power. Resistance cannot be negotiated with. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.


Resistance never goes away. Every day is a battle against Resistance and that's why it's a War. Pressfield's solution is simple. He says you have to go down into the arena and fight. He calls it "going pro". You want to be a writer. You show up. Every day.
posted by storybored at 8:33 PM on April 29, 2011


Write. Just do it. Reward yourself when you are done (even if it's something you would have done anyway - like look at Mefi).Re-read what you have written to get you into the mood.

Inspiration is overrated. The more you write the more the zone/flow etc comes naturally

Have an idea of what you want to write before you write it - even if it's just a vague idea. Try to do your thinking/planning away from the computer or at least at a different session so you don't get into a habit of staring at the screen waiting for ideas to come. But more ideas will come once you have gotten started writing.

Don't worry too much what you are writing as you are writing it - even if you know it's 90% rubbish. You can sort that out when you re-write. And writing, real writing, is re-writing. That 90% rubbish will only actually be about 50% rubbish when you look at it again (I wish I knew which 40% I could get rid of first time around but only god gets it right 100% first time). Write 'hot' but edit 'cold'.

Write often - preferably daily, it's better and a lot easier to do an hour a day than try to do 7 hours one day. Habits take a while to form so it's painful at first but you'll get there. Big projects are a lot easier as soon as you get some way into them.

First time around I usually don't bother too much about spelling, typos punctuation etc that gets picked up and corrected on the read through. Head down / type away just to get it out (you can even try turning off the screen)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:55 AM on May 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


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