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I'm a writer, a freelancer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, a journaling junkie, an introvert, a chronic-pain-sufferer, an idealist, a geek, a TV-lover. Welcome to my corner of the web!

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Five ways to just write


Writers write. It should be obvious, but it winds up sometimes being harder than it feels like it should to just sit down and write. But to be a Writer, not just someone who sometimes writes things*, it's important to write. More important, really, than almost anything else. You can improve craft and skill and execution, you can get better at plotting and pacing and editing, but not if you don't get into a habit of sitting down and writing--and all of that counts as writing, in the broad sense.

So here's five things that help me when inspiration is acting like molasses in winter and I look at my desk and just go uggghhhhh at the thought of having to write a single other word.

1 - Prepare yourself
The night before, as you're getting ready to sleep, think about what you need to do in the next day's writing. What is your one big event that you need to get out in that particular chunk of words?

When you wake up in the morning, think about what you were mulling over the night before as you make your breakfast, and sift through possibilities before you ever sit down.

More ways to prepare yourself:
- at the end of each day's writing, write down three things that you intend to write next, or that could happen, or that are required to happen for the plot to move. No real details, just a trigger--"they go to town" or "something busts up trough the ground" or "one of them is lying".

- Plan ahead. Personally, I hate outlines with a burning passion, because you've basically already written it at that point, except for the hardest part of actually writing it. But I love a little grid at the beginning of the week with just a few words to remind me what this chunk of the book is supposed to accomplish.**

- Do the whole same time / same channel deal--wake up and set up and then sit down and write as close to the same time every day as your schedule allows. It trains your brain to expect it and to perform. 

- Set word or page goals, and stick to them. I like to decide how much I think I could write, then half that as my goal--that way, even on the hard days, it's fairly easy to hit the goal, and on easy days, it's all bonus sectors pages.

2 - Freewrite to warm up
When I was in school, one of my comp classes, the teacher had us free write for ten minutes every class to get our brains going. It's a skill I like and go back to frequently. Sometimes I journal; sometimes I open a book to a random page and pick the first phrase I see as a prompt; sometimes I look up prompts, or consult the file I keep with lists of story prompts I find on the interwebs. Sometimes I just see what comes out of my brain.

Then, after a few pages of that--just two or three, don't want to use up all your time--it's easier to get into the day's more important writing.

Other free-writing ideas:
- Sometimes I write a totally different story in little chunks as I Freewrite to warm up. It's like stretching before you run.

- My friend Stephanie Wytovitch writes poems and short stories to get into the heads of her characters, and I feel like a quick poem or three before writing could be a good warm up.

3 - Brainstorm
I'm a big believer in brainstorming in general. I do weekly times brainstorms basically just to drag stuff forward from my subconscious so I can look at it later and see a story when I'm looking for a new thing to write. But it's also good for getting going.

Spend five minutes just offloading all the ideas in your head so you can clear space for the day's writing.

If the day is hard because you're stuck, spend that time listing every single thing that could happen next, then pick the one that's the most fun and write that.

If you're having trouble because you're doubting the story, brainstorm out all the ways you could make it cooler, more fun, more unusual, deeper, more exciting--then write from that high as if it ha always been that cool, and fix the previous stuff to match when you get to revisions.

4 - Set a timer
Sometimes your brain is just screaming to get away. On those days, set a timer. Five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour, whatever. Write like your life depends on it, from the moment it starts to the moment it ends, and call that the day's writing, no matter how cruddy it seems--cruddy can be fixed, but skipped just builds up in the waiting pile. You can't fix what you didn't write.

5 - Go somewhere new
Write in the living room instead of at your desk. Go to a coffee shop or the library. Write longhand instead of on your computer. Basically, switch it up--because routines make inspiration better, but sometimes you just need a change so you don't explode. 

Also in this category:
- Go outside and just decompress. It's been proven that direct sunlight on your skin while you're in physical contact with the ground lowers stress-hormones, and if you're less stressed, it's easier to be creative.

- Take a shower and then come back fresh. The ionized air caused by falling water can change stress levels and brain activity, too, and often a shower is a good place for ideas.

- Go for a walk. Brains work differently when limbs are moving, and activity also de-stresses.

The important part of all of these, though, is to make sure you come back and do your work.

Bonus:
Change how you think about writing. Writing is work. It sits in your brain the way any effort does, and thinking about it as a lark, or as a mystical thing brought by invisible spirits is blocking--and makes you superstitious. It's much better to plug along regardless of how many mystical spirits feel like they're feeding you stories than it is to wait on them, because plugging comes from you and your own effort, while waiting is all external and makes you helpless. It puts you at the whim of something that probably doesn't exist--and that's not going to get your book written.

So tell me, dear readers, how do you make sure you get your word goals in? Do you have any tricks for the bad days that you can share?



NOTES:
*not that there's anything wrong with that. But you can't be a writer as a profession and only sometimes write things.
**im currently writing two books on alternating days and editing another at night, so this is basically a requirement of sanity.

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