When you start out as a writer one of the first pieces of advice you’re given is that you must write every day. No matter how long you write for you must write every day. And for a while this will probably happen. You get caught up in the enthusiasm of the project and you can’t leave it alone.
In an ideal world, that’s how things would stay; you’d be flying along and completing projects in record time. But, sooner or later the Real World will break in – your child will be ill, you’re late home from work or you’ve had a cold and been in bed for three days. Before you know where you are you’ve not written for a few days.
Disaster, you think. Then apathy sets in or worse still self-doubt and you wonder whether you’ll ever get started again. The first time this happens it feels like the end of the world. Your story starts to feel flat, you’re not sure where your characters are going and then comes the arrival of the ‘Procrastination Fairy’. This a worrying situation because, if you let her, she’ll sit on your shoulder and find all manner of useless things for you to do to stop you from writing.
But there are several ways you can tackle this problem:
- Even when you’re not writing, think about writing – Agatha Christie famously said that the best time to plan a book is when you’re doing the wishes. So by all means let the procrastination fairy distract you with the washing up or doing the ironing, but defeat her by continuing to think about writing at the same time.
- Always leave notes for yourself about where you’re going next – at the end of a writing session, take a couple of minutes to jot down two or three bullet points of what you were planning to do with the scene or short story; that way when you come back to it, you’ve not totally lost your thread. Or your brain will come up with something different.
- Read – this one is pretty simple – all good writers read. And if anyone queries why you’re reading – and really they should never do that – you can claim it’s in the name of research. And by this I don’t mean necessarily reading how-to books or non-fiction – instead read as much fiction as you can get your hands on and think about what the author is doing. How is their story structured? What language are they using? This will keep your brain in the habit of thinking about writing, while also having fun.
Sometimes it’s good to have a few days off as it stops you getting burned out, but if you’re likely to feel guilty about it, then the sneaky writing tricks above may help.
And when you’re starting back, think of the motto ‘little and often’. Short writing bursts will get you going, but without the intimidation of feeling that you have to launch back into the project.
Do you write every day? If you miss a day do you have any tricks of the trade that get you started again? Answers below, please.