How to Get Your Writing Brain in Action
How do you get your writing brain in action? For me, it's not as much about rituals as it is about making the decision to write. If my inner mantra is saying, "You should write, Denise," that usually backfires. I end up checking my email or perusing my Twitter feed or deciding that laundry is a real priority at this exact second. However, if I simply say to myself, "Yes, I'm going to sit down and write one page, or one paragraph, or even one sentence," I'm more likely to accomplish my small goal, and then some.
1. Set a small goal for yourself. Rather than having this elusive unquantifiable “I should write” hanging over your head, decide on a small amount of writing you can easily accomplish.
2. Set a time limit. This is not as much to put a fire under your butt and fill you with pressure, but instead it’s more of a promise to your creative brain: “Do a little work, and after ten minutes, or half an hour, you can have a break and do anything you want.” In this day and age, we often get caught up in the many tasks of life, and forget about rewarding ourselves for performing those tasks. When it comes to using your creativity, it’s important to reward yourself in order to foster further creativity.
3. Get rid of distractions. Remember, it’s only half an hour (or ten minutes!). Shut off your Internet and your phone. Place a sign on your door, asking people to return in half an hour. Again, if you follow my above advice and set a time limit for yourself, you can do all the Internet surfing and visiting you like after your time is up.
4. Writing is not a punishment. I know it may seem like I’m comparing writing to something akin to eating your broccoli with the above points. The truth is, writing is not a chore, or at least it won’t be once you get started. It’s before you get started, while you’re trying to motivate yourself to sit down and stir up your creative juices, that it may feel like work, or like another thing you “have to” do. But trust me—once you unleash your own creative juices, it won’t feel like taking out the garbage or doing the dishes. It’s only the sitting down, opening your manuscript, and writing the first sentence that feels like that.
5. Make it a habit, last thing at night, to tidy up your desk or workspace. A messy cluttered desk may leave you feeling scattered, and like you can’t organize your thoughts properly. You will be more likely to wake in the morning and feel a sense of empowerment over your writing if the first thing you see is your clean and organized desk.
6. Load up on healthy snacks. Do you like to snack while you’re writing? I know I do, but there’s nothing worse than feeling yourself falling asleep by your second paragraph because of the cookie you ate during paragraph one. (Plus, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the condition called “Writer’s Butt,” but I try to avoid it at all costs!) When I sit down to write, I usually grab some carrot sticks or cucumber slices from the fridge to keep beside me. When I’m stuck for a certain sentence or word or action, it’s amazing how much a couple of crunches on a carrot helps reignite my brain.
7. Go for a walk. Movement stirs up physical energy, which, in turn, stirs up creative energy. When you feel stuck, or like you just can’t get started, get up and walk around. It doesn’t have to be far. Often when I’m feeling at a creative standstill, I get up and simply pace the circle between my kitchen, entry, and living room. Usually two circles is all I need, and I’m sitting down again with renewed focus and creative energy.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard writers start a sentence like, “I should be writing this, but…” Don’t let yourself fall into the “should” trap. Instead, use the tips above and feel the sense of satisfaction from the writing you actually accomplished. !
Denise Jaden is the author of the new book for writers, Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas and Turning Them into Compelling Fiction, as well as the NaNoWriMo-popular guide, Fast Fiction, and several popular fiction titles. She is a sought-after speaker, motivating writers to find their own best story ideas, and then stirring up the drive to write them. She lives just outside Vancouver, BC with her husband and son.