One of the hardest parts of writing fiction for me is the getting started part. Every time I sit down to write, it takes a good twenty to thirty minutes to find a groove. Which is frustrating when you’ve only got an hour and a half to write. I’m always looking for strategies to increase my efficiency (btw, have you seen this awesome post on increasing your daily word count?), so I’m happy to welcome Alyssa Archer to talk about methods for settling down and getting busy…
As human beings, we design transitions for ourselves. We might move from sleep to wakefulness with an alarm clock, toothbrush, and a cup of coffee. Our routines propel us from one mode of being to another. And yet we often plop down in front of the computer or notebook and expect to transition instantly from day-to-day life to writing genius. As a result, we might do a lot of throat clearing, writing meaningless or empty paragraphs, and wasting a lot of time in the process.
Consider developing a set of writing rituals that work much like your waking routine to propel you from the state of everyday being to that of creative master. If you sustain the habit of following these rituals, there’s a good chance they’ll catapult you past the half hour of wasted writing time by giving your subconscious additional clues that it’s time to write. The following are some suggestions for you to build your own creative routine. Choose a few that suit you, or design some of your own.
Get ready. Take care of anything that might distract you during your writing. Get a snack, make some tea, go to the bathroom, let the dog out. Don’t do the dishes, but do spend a few moments caring for yourself before you enter your work zone.
Start with intention. Regardless of your specific writing goals for this session (e.g., write a chapter or write for 60 minutes), choose a one word intention for the feeling you’d like to embody at the end of your writing session. Maybe it’s “creative” or “accomplished” or “happy” or “masterful.” Focusing on the emotion unhooks the intention from any paralyzing expectation of a certain accomplishment and yet provides the subconscious with an immediate goal that sends the desired message: it’s time to get to work.
Settle down with a snow globe meditation. Imagine yourself as a giant snow globe all shaken up—the emotions, flotsam and jetsam of your daily cares, what’s for dinner, all your chattering thoughts swirling inside. Sit and envision the settling of the snow globe, each of the flakes moving slower and slower until at last they have all fallen, a layer of forgotten cares resting at the bottom of your consciousness, leaving a blank canvas for your creativity.
Do nothing for two minutes. Visit this website at the start of each session for two minutes of peaceful reflection at the beach.
Pick a theme song for you as a writer. Play it at the start of each writing session. Much like that cup of coffee or slug of mouth wash, this Pavlovian approach will wake up the writer in you within a few bars of music. Every time you hear that song, your fingers will itch for the keyboard.
Light a candle or ring a bell. Mark the time you start your writing session. Again, ritual is a tool for telling your body and mind to prepare for a certain activity. You don’t want to overdo it, but you want to send clear signals. I am writing now.
Leave the voices behind. Banish the voices of your inner critic, your grandmother, and your 12th grade English teacher; banish your fear of what you’ll have to do if your writing is successful, and banish your fear that it won’t be. Those voices are simply not welcome in the writing zone. Treat your ritual as the threshold that, once crossed, leaves only you and your writing in the room. If these voices crop up despite their lack of invitation (how rude!), simply notice that they’re there and tell them you’ll get back to them later. Do it out loud if it helps. “I know, Granny. I know. This writing isn’t for you, though. It’s for me. I’ll talk to you later.” Added benefit: anyone in the vicinity will now be convinced you are an artist.
Honor your commitment. Write for as long or as far as you said you would. Don’t stop early. Train your mind to follow through.
Close the sacred space. When the timer goes off or you’ve otherwise reached your goal for the session, put your tools away and blow out your candle or ring your bell, acknowledging that your writing time is over. Check in with your intention. How do you feel? How was the writing? Acknowledge your transition and accomplishment for the session. I think an ounce of divinely dark chocolate is in order. You deserve it.
Alyssa Archer is passionate about to building commitment to the craft of writing through community and, along with co-founders Leslie Watts and Jennifer Hritz, she created a year-long, online writing program called Writership to do just that. She has published a paranormal romance novel, Across the Veil, and is currently at work on a second book. Please visit her online at www.writership.org.