How to Write No Matter What!”
Writers write. So the saying goes. Sometimes writers don’t write. Then what? If said writers attended January’s Third Thursday program at Book People, they heard authors Wendy Muse Greenwood, Nikki Loftin, Patrice Sarath, and Bryan Yanksy share practical actions and inspirational ideas to help writers write – no matter what.
What’s your What?
“What’s your what?” is not a Seussian question, it’s a writer’s dilemma. Your what is connected to your but. Not your butt, your but. The “I want to write, but…” is what keeps you from writing. It could be a myth, an idea, or a voice in your head. Sometimes it’s simply life events that keep you from writing.
Here are some of the buts mentioned this evening:
- I want to write, but I don’t have the time.
- I want to write, but I get writer’s block.
- I want to write, but I don’t have a place to write.
- I want to write, but I don’t have any ideas.
- I want to write, but I have too many ideas.
- I want to write, but I don’t have the right equipment.
- I want to write, but I don’t know how.
- I want to write, but __________________.
Now it’s your turn. Think about what keeps you from writing. (Do you hear Jeopardy theme music playing?) Now, fill in the blank: I want to write, but ____________________.
Now that you’ve identified those gremlins, let’s talk about how to get rid of them, based on what we heard this evening.
What’s your Why?
When you find yourself stalling in your writing, write from your why. Remembering why you write can get you unstuck and provide motivation to get the words flowing again. If you don’t know why you are writing, take some time to find out. If you do know, remind yourself. The general reason of “I write because I’m a writer” may work or you may need to get more specific about why you’re writing a particular project.
Your turn again. Think about your why and fill in the blank: I write because ______________ or I am writing this because _____________.
What’s your How?
How do you write? Think of a time when you felt productive in your writing. What led up to that point? What did you do before and during that session? (Of course, you have experienced more than one time of productivity, so look for commonalities.)
What would you do if you were to write right now? Picture what you would do. Do you have a pre-writing ritual or warm-up that helps you get going?
That brings us to the issue of preparing vs. procrastination. If you always walk the dog before you write, that is part of your pre-writing ritual. If Rover is about to collapse from the length of the walk, you’re avoiding writing.
How do you know if you’re prepping or procrastinating? One gets you ready to write; one takes you away from writing. Your job is to learn the difference.
Seek to learn a process that works for you. This will change from time to time, so being able to discern between warming up and wimping out will keep you on track towards your literary goals. It will keep Rover happy too.
The How of Others
A major perk of Third Thursdays is hearing what works for others writers. Here are some suggestions gleaned from the evening’s conversation:
- Write 500 words a day and stop.
- Write 50 words a day.
- Write a certain amount of time per day.
- Simply make progress on your writing.
- Fill your well with reading or listening to podcasts.
- Watch documentaries about writers.
- Write in the same place.
- Write in a different place.
- Listen to music before your write.
- Listen to music while you write.
- Tell your inner editor you appreciate his or her gifts, but they aren’t needed until a later time.
- Talk to yourself.
- Talk a walk before your write.
- Start a load of laundry before your write.
- Figure out what it takes to find your writing groove, your dreamspace, and practice getting there often, if not daily.
- Build your writing muscle memory by writing more often.
- Don’t check Facebook.
- Don’t wait for the muse. You dictate when you write, not the muse.
- Remember that perfect is the enemy of good.
Finally, expect resistance from yourself. You may get better at talking yourself through it, but it may never go away. Our panel shared stories of accomplished writers who still have to make themselves write. You’re no different. Figure out a way to work with yourself. Tell yourself, “Resistance is futile. I will write.” Disconnect your what from your but, put your butt in a chair and write. No matter what.
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Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.