Welcome to this month’s ‘Writerly Witterings’ blog post. Each month I publish a blog post on an aspect of being a writer, and the focus this month is on ‘keeping going' as a writer. There is little doubt that writing requires commitment and self-discipline. There will be times when you find it impossible to devote the hours or to find the energy. Here are some ideas to keep your work-in-progress moving forward:
Write every single day, even if you only do notes, or an unrelated writing task. It can help to concentrate on your output, rather than time spent, i.e. a page a day instead of an hour a day. You will then have definite evidence of progress.
Appoint a particular time of day (or night) to write; make it a habit. Writing needs regular practice. If you schedule your writing time, you’re giving your writing the priority it deserves.
Thinking is an important part of the writing process. If you’ve established your regular daily writing time, make the most of that time by preparing yourself mentally beforehand. By thinking about your work even when you aren’t doing it, you’ll make it a natural and necessary part of your life.
Keep Reading not only for pleasure, but as part of your continuing writing education. Mark passages you especially like or dislike and try to figure out why they make you feel the way you do. Pay attention to how other authors combine dialogue and narration, the effect of the vocabulary they choose and the way they have structured their scenes into chapters.
A Place of Your Own
You also need a place as your writing space, where you won’t be interrupted, where you can leave your work out when you’re finished for the day. My earlier blog post ‘A Place to Write’ has more tips about this.
Picking your Writing Back Up
No matter what you accomplish, you’ll often have to pick up in the middle of something left unfinished, and you may be worried about maintaining your momentum, or picking up the thread of your thoughts in the next session.
Ernest Hemingway used to intentionally stop in the middle of a well-thought-out scene; he liked to stop writing whilst still flowing. When he was eager to go on to the next word–when he knew exactly what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it–that’s when he’d stop for the day, often in the middle of a sentence. Therefore Hemingway seldom had trouble getting started the following day.
There are different schools of thought as to whether ‘writer’s block’ even exists. I would suggest that it is not our words, that become ‘blocked,’ more that external life factors block our writing and prevent us from moving forward. Here are a few tips to counter this and keep going:
- Go for a walk, swim or some other repetitive activity. Often the best ideas and scenarios for your writing can occur when you allow your mind some space to wander.
- If you are a little stuck on where you are going next, perhaps talk about a scene with family and friends – this invites a fresh perspective.
- Perhaps you can obtain specific feedback on part of your writing to breathe new life into it.
- Shelve your writing project for a day or two and work on a different writing-related project.
- Write the ending of whatever you’re working on. If you know where you’re going, it is easier to get there.
- Go back over any planning you have done. Pose some ‘what-if’s’ to possibly change its course of action.
It is easy to ‘beat ourselves up’ when any amount of time has elapsed since our last writing session. However, this is counter-productive. We cannot retrieve time gone by, we can only mange the now and the future.
By following one or more of these tips, hopefully you can get your writing moving again. Just keep writing and going forward as best you can. Remember, no one can write your story, but you!
If you’ve any hints or tips you use to maintain your writing momentum, please post them into the comments below. Next month, the writing focus will be on setting writing goals. See you then!
PS: I’ve recently updated my online creative writing courses. (Novel, Poetry, Short Story and Life Story.) Their year-long-fortnightly structure will ensure you never lose writing momentum! Click here for further information.