You want to be a writer? Then write. It’s that simple.
Hah! No it’s not.
A) Writing a lot doesn’t necessarily make you any good and
B) Finding the time to write when you’ve already got a full life can be next to impossible.
So does that mean it’s hopeless? Absolutely not. It’s just not quite as simple as we’d like it to be.
Let’s start with this – while it’s true that writing a lot on its own won’t make you any good, it will do a whole lot more to improve your writing than not writing at all. And, I believe, that in all of that writing, rambling or directed, you will start to find your voice and discover your stories. You have to get them out of your head and onto paper before you can do anything with them. Actually, good writing is really in the editing, but that’s not the point for right now.
So if you’re convinced that you want to be a writer and that means you have to write, how do you actually get yourself to do it? How do you make yourself sit down at the computer when your brain is fried from a full days worth of work, your friends are calling you to go out, it’s time to make dinner, or your floors really need to be swept? (Although I will admit that my floors never seem to need to be swept until it’s time to sit down and write.)
It’s hard. There is no way around it. It’s one thing if you are getting paid to write and your boss will be screaming at you from across the newsroom if you don’t hand him copy RIGHT NOW! (This is an extremely motivating scenario by the way.) So no one is there to yell at you and no one is there to pay you in the immediate future. It’s just you and the key board and your hopes and dreams that you can put this story in your head on to paper and into someone’s hands.
This is when you have to make it up. Set your own goals and your own deadlines. Set them high – just at the edge of attainable. Still doable, but enough of a stretch to make you push yourself. Here are some things that can help:
- First and perhaps most important, answer this question: what will it mean to you to have finished this project? Write down that answer and keep it in mind when the last thing you want to do is to sit down to the computer.
- Set word counts rather than time limits. It’s far too easy to get stuck on a thought and doodle around until the timer goes off.
- Set long term and short term goals. Do you want to finish the book in a month? Two months? Three? Work backwards to figure out how much you need to get done.
- Find someone to hold you accountable. Make a promise that you will donate so much money if you don’t make your goals.
- Leave cookies out in the copy for yourself – notes about things you could write about when you sit down to write, it’s easier to get started.
- Think about your reader. If you feel a need to tell this story, then someone probably needs to read it. Get writing so he or she can.
- Don’t worry yet if you don’t think the writing is as good as you want it to be – that can be fixed later, but you can’t fix what you don’t have, so get writing!