Let’s be honest — being a writer can be torture, right?
You know what you want to write and the goals you have are real, but sometimes life, excuses and your own fear can get in the way of success.
There is no magical unicorn that will make the process any easier, but if you make writing a daily habit where you allow room for mistakes and curiosity, you’re on your way to winning the battle.
How can you make writing be something you don’t dread when you stare at your computer?
1. Let your words be vomit on the computer
You have brilliant sparkling ideas dancing around in your head that you envision in such a glowing, perfect spotlight. You sit down to put human, imperfect words to those fantastical ideas and…barf.
You put barf on the screen.
You know what? That is the BEST place to start.
I enjoy writing the most when I give myself permission to let my words be projectile vomit on the computer screen.
You have an idea in your head right now of what you want to write about, don’t you? It’s so easy to ignore those ideas and convince ourselves they’re just ideas that wouldn’t lead to enough material to write about.
But you don’t know where the ideas will lead if you don’t try to find out. And finding out means a very messy drawing board and permission to majorly junk it up.
Instead of pressuring yourself to find perfection,I take a backseat and see where my writing goes. I write very incomplete, incoherent lists, ideas and images. Sometimes I’m able to go back and polish it up relatively quickly. Other times, I’m not, so I walk away and let it simmer, trying not to stress at the huge pile of incomplete garbage I just created.
The cool thing about ideas is that they evolve from day to day. I’ll be in the shower or driving to work, and the vomit I laid down on my computer soon starts to turn into something more cohesive. Sometimes it matches what was in my head, and sometimes it’s even better if I stay with it.
2. Quit playing the “writer’s block” card
Writer’s block is code for “I’m too intimidated I won’t crank out perfection, so I’ve decided to watch Netflix and eat ice cream instead because I know I won’t fail at that.”
No more. I won’t have it. You can do better.
If you follow step one of not caring that you have vomit on your computer screen, you will not be blocked.
The pressure is gone, and you’re left with you and your ideas, working together happily instead of scowling at the screen, wondering why you just couldn’t be something normal like an accountant.
Writer’s block is saying you’ve put the bar too high, and you’re afraid of not measuring up. Take the bar and put it much lower for the first writing session, so you have permission to simply play with your ideas and words instead of trying to whip them into submission.
3. Put some fire in your belly
Although writing should be an activity you look forward to, it’s not a bad idea to put some pressure on yourself to complete projects.
You have to put deadlines in place or else everything else will always come first like family, friends, work, binge-watching Top Chef — the list goes on.
I don’t have the luxury to be able to write all day, so I give myself an hour.
It cuts out the wiggle room to check Facebook or pet the dogs. The hour is my precious time to get to it without second-guessing myself. I almost never get done what I wanted to, but it leaves me hungry for more the next day, and hungry for writing is what I need to be when the alarm goes off at 5 a.m.
4. Stay organized before your ideas drift away
Part of holding yourself accountable is making sense of and organizing all the ideas bouncing around in your head.
Try using Trello to track your ideas and keep you on a solid, tangible path to completion rather than being overwhelmed by all you want to do. If you’re a visual person who likes to see how much you’re completing, this might really work for you.
And don’t let whispers of ideas get away from you. I jot down everything that zips through my head and go back to it. The other day I wrote “Facebook friends–not really even friends” in my Google docs document. I went back to it later in the week and started fleshing it out and quickly had a very successful blog post on my hands called, “If I Die Tomorrow, Would My Facebook “Friends” Come to the Funeral?”
I didn’t know exactly where the piece was going, so I just jotted down the messy, imperfect ideas as they came to me, and eventually the ideas turned into solid sentences and new ideas I didn’t have when I started.
It was a thread I kept tugging at that started with an idea I had at my day job, but had I not started with the simple act of jotting down my ideas, the piece wouldn’t have been born because it would have remained trapped in my brain that is easily distracted and pulled.
5. Stop devoting all your time to reading books about being a better writer
It’s so great to learn from people who have more experience that they want to share with you, but constantly reading books on how to be a better writer is yet another excuse to not write.
Writing conferences and networking are important to keep your head in the game, but in order to be a part of that game, you first have to write.
There is no way around simply putting your butt in a chair to write.
6. Don’t wait for the perfect time to start writing
I used to be the master at doing everything under the sun before I would park my procrastinating butt down to write.
I would make excuses like, “I can’t focus on writing if the house isn’t clean.”
The truth is, there will always be something to pull us away from writing if we let it, but at the end of the day, if we do let it, it means we’re not making writing be an important part of our lives. And that means we won’t succeed.
The perfect time to write is right now because you are the only you in this world who will put your spin on ideas. We’re not looking for perfection — just you and your ideas you’ve given permission to dance imperfectly onto the screen.
These steps won’t magically lead you to a land of daily effortless writing. Writing is hard because you care about what you want to say and how you want to reach people. If you didn’t care, it wouldn’t be hard, and you wouldn’t be a writer.
Now, sit that butt down, write some garbage and keep coming back to it with patience and an open mind. Do the same tomorrow and the next day.