Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Five Ways to Trick Yourself into Writing When You Don’t Want To

I have come to think of my writing self as a little self-centred, more than a little childish but luckily easy to confuse, so here are some tricks I’ve played on myself to get those words onto paper.

1. Give yourself a word count for the day and keep to it.

Depending on your own process, it may be 200 words, 500 words, 1,000 words, 2,000 words, but make a pact with yourself that this is the amount you are going to do every day.

No matter what else happens.

The secret is not in fulfilling it (after the first few days) but stopping when you’ve reached it. There will be days when you want to go on and on writing, but making yourself finish at the exact word count – even in the middle of a sentence - will send you back to the page the next day. And then the next.

2. An alternative to a set word count is to do what Hemingway is reported to have done, and deliberately finish mid-sentence.

It sounds daft, but it really does make it much easier to get into the work the next day. I’ve seen it called, Parking on the downwards slope. A phrase that sums up the perfect picture for me.

3. Have a soundtrack to a particular piece.

This is what I have done for every novel so far. It helps me get into the voice of my character, and the mood of the book.

Because it’s the same song every time, I soon stop listening to it but having it in the background, lets me sink straight into the writing.

4. Ask questions.

After you finish writing for the day, write yourself a question for the next bit of your project. Or your new project. Then when you come back to your desk, concentrate on the question you’ve set yourself. The writing will come naturally.

5. Use a mixture of carrot and stick.

Put away all the things that distract you – facebook, twitter, emails, the phone, today’s crossword – until you have written as much as you have set yourself for the day.

And then enjoy them with your full attention. Plus some chocolate, or a glass of wine, or whatever rocks your particular world.

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pinkgecko said...

Very helpful and sensible advise: as always. Particularly liked the idea of finishing mid sentence: will definitely try that one.

jem said...

Yet again I've been a blog thief - darting in recently and grabbing useful tidbits, but not saying that I've been here.

But these ideas have been quite useful. I'm doing the carrot/stick thing - short treats and great writing rewards between. And I thought the leaving yourself with questions idea was great, and I aimed to start doing it. And then yesterday I looked back through some old notebooks, and realised I often leave myself questions, I just hadn't ever gone back to try to answer them!