Does a deadline, blank page, or difficult scene make you break into a sweat, yank your hair out, or start cleaning everything in your house so you’ll have an excuse not to write? Don’t worry, we’ve all had times when it’s hard to write, but you can do something about it.
- Time yourself and type nonstop for twenty minutes or whatever amount of time works for you. Try to shut off any distractions (like ringing phones). You’ll have lots of editing to do later, but at least you’ll have something to mold into shape.
- Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect! Diving into a new project can be hard, especially when you’re leaving characters you love and know at least as well as your family. First drafts aren’t supposed to sparkle. Just get your ideas down. There’s plenty of time to make them sing.
- Give yourself a small task. Sometimes, the project can intimidate you by seeming too big. Try working on a smaller goal first. Some authors have a word count per day in mind, others make a goal, such as two or five pages a day. The trick is to find a number that isn’t too hard to work into your day. A lot of times, writers get caught up and produce way more than the daily goal. Hopefully, that will happen to you, too!
- Find a candle scent that reminds you of your manuscript, calms you, or gives you energy—whatever aroma makes it easier for you to plunge into your project.
- Play music that makes it easier for you to dive into your character’s life. I happen to work best when it’s totally quiet, but many of my writing friends make a playlist for their characters and say it helps them immediately leap back into the manuscript.
- Try writing late at night, when your internal editor is too tired to bug you. You can also experiment with writing during different times of the day or night to see what works best for you.
- Word war with friends—you can even give winner a prize! Everyone can start at same time and write for twenty minutes, an hour…whatever works best for the group. Or you can have a contest over an entire day or weekend to see who can log in the most words. Again, you’ll have tons of revising to do later, but every first draft usually needs some hefty revisions.
- Find others with the same goal you have, and start a group somewhere, like Facebook, where you can cheer each other on and log in your progress.
- Get to know your characters better. Interview them or write journal entries from their point of view. Find out what scares them the most, and you could end up with some great ideas.
- Think about your manuscript when you’re showering, exercising, driving, or lying in bed. It’s amazing how many issues you can work out in your mind while doing other activities! I had the idea for this blog post in mind when I showered, and by the time I got out, I knew what I wanted to say. Of course, I was almost late driving my daughter to her bus stop. Oops! But I made it in time, then rushed home to start typing.
- Make a goal (or several smaller goals) and reward yourself when you hit it. Splurge on some music, get a massage, take a well-deserved TV break—whatever will motivate you to write, write, write.
- Don’t let shiny new ideas distract you. If another idea starts screaming for attention, take a few minutes to jot down notes so you’ll be ready to plunge into it later, then get back to your current project.
- If you have trouble getting back into your manuscript each day, write down a few things that should happen next before you leave your computer. That should help you leap back into it!
- I had mentioned turning off the phone when participating in a word war, but it’s also great to get rid of as many distractions as possible when you write. I love feeling like I’m in the zone, and cringe when the doorbell rings. Do what you can to block the outside world—put a note on your door, turn off your e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and other notifications.
- You can collect pictures that remind you of your characters or the world you created, or place encouraging sayings around your writing area.
- Realize that you CAN do it. That you WILL do it. And then glue your butt to your chair and write, write, write.
If you have any tips to share, I’d love to hear them!
Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s Twitter, Facebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.