I know there are some writers who wake up every morning just dying to get to the keyboard. While I have days like that, most of the time writing is like any other work—I enjoy it, sure, but I have to fight the temptation to hit the snooze button or watch one more episode of CSI.
Over the past few years, I’ve become quite devious in carving out my writing time. While these tips may not work for everyone, I hope that those of you with an unruly Muse can take something from them.
- Establish a space that is for writing alone: I used to have one desk, where I watched movies on my computer, played games, completed work for my day job, and wrote. And I had trouble turning off those other parts of my life to focus on the manuscript on the screen. Whether it was the guilt of unfinished paperwork, or that half-finished movie still on the task bar, some distractions proved greater than my determination to write. When we moved, I was lucky enough to have space for a second desk. It’s on the other end of the house; I’ve created a niche surrounded by inspirational quotes, whiteboards and chalkboards for brainstorming, and shelves for my writing-related books and tools. It’s my haven, and when I sit at that desk, I know it’s time to write. Yes, I do spend time social networking, but everything I do at that workstation is about being an author.
- Set the mood: For me, this means choosing a candle whose scent goes along with my current work in progress, having a well-matched playlist (or mindless tv/movie in the background), and a timer. Oh, and my two pet rats running around the desk for some much-needed levity in otherwise stressful deadline-hells. For me, these things signal that it’s time to write—especially the timer. But more about that next.
- Create manageable goals: This is the big trick in my arsenal. When I started out, I’d set word counts for myself that seemed reasonable, but that I couldn’t consistently meet without being exhausted and burned out. What happened was that my failure to meet those goals became a source of intimidation; I developed a pessimistic, self-defeating attitude about writing. After trying a dozen different methods (low word counts, fast drafting, writing with my eyes closed—yes, I tried it), I settled on writing sprints. I don’t even have to write. I just have to sit at my screen and stare at that blank page for the allotted time. Most often, I write like mad, and continue beyond my required time. But on days where I feel like something the cat dragged in, I know I’ve fulfilled my “obligation” for the day, even if I don’t write a single word. And I know that the next day, there’s no pressure to make up for a word count I set for myself and didn’t reach.
- Have a cheerleader/jail warden: For me, that person is my boyfriend. And though I may hate him for it at times, he’s the one who will turn off my non-writing computer monitor and drag me to my writing desk. He helps me brainstorm my way out of a sticky plot situation. And he tolerates me spendinging more time writing than going out on dates. Whether it’s your best friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or a family member, it’s good to have people that will blindly—yes, blindly—support your goals, even when you’re not in the mood to support them yourself.
- Read: On those days, or weeks, when I cannot bear to sit at the computer and write, I pick up a book by another romance author, and one of three things happens. First, I take an indulgent break while “studying the market” and “various writing styles,” so I still feel like I’m doing my writerly work while not having to sit at the keyboard and pound out the pages. Second, I get frustrated by how poorly a certain book is written, or how I would have done it differently, and in retaliation work on my own, far superior (lol) manuscript. Third, I fall completely head-over-heels in love with the book, study how the author has created such an amazing literary escape, and feel inspired to give the same sensation to my readers—which means I need to have my butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard (BITCHOK for short…or BITCH, OK when you’re talking to your insistent Muse).
Although there are days when none of my tricks will get me in front of the keyboard, they are fewer and farther between than they were six months ago, when I returned from my writing hiatus. It’s progress—and progress is all anyone can really ask for.