Tuesday, 28 May 2019

"It isn't work if you love it" ... but what if you don't?

A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with a retired friend who asked me how I found the discipline to actually sit down and write. At the time, I gave him a bit of flippant answer, saying, "It isn't work if you love it. I get up and I want to write, so I do."

Which is true. At the moment. I'm still loving writing the trilogy. And editing it. And editing it some more. In fact, I've yet to have a bad week with it (though I'm sure I've now tempted Fate, and the rest of the year will be spent grinding it out, loathing the thing...).

But it absolutely wasn't true just over a year ago. When I was finishing the first and second drafts of "book 4" I would rather have completed my tax form, done the housework, had root-canal work with no anaesthesia or pulled my nails out with pliers, than sit down and write.

So how do I make myself do the work, when it's not all roses?


1. Carrot and stick (though it's mostly carrot...)
I promise myself a 'reward' if I get some writing/editing done, or say I can't have something/do something if I don't get it done. Almost always, it's saying I can have/do something once the goal is reached, rather than denying myself something, because my brain works better like that!

Obviously, what you deem is a reward will be unique. For me, a reward could be that I get to write something else once I've reached a small goal with the tricky stuff (see more about goals below). This is usually making notes/planning/writing whatever is the 'next book'. Not only do I get to play with shiny new people/places/plots etc., but when I finally get on to writing that book, I've already had loads of thinking time with it and the writing process feels easier.

Other rewards could be sitting reading in the garden, or doing a bit of gardening, or going to the cinema. Anything that I want to be doing, really.

2. Sensible goals
There's no point me offering rewards as incentives if the goal is daft, because I'll get frustrated and just do what I wanted to do anyway! So goals need to be sensible and achievable. They might be to have written a certain number of words (maybe 1000) or to have edited a certain number of words/scenes/pages. I tend not to do time-based goals (though see below for me instantly saying the opposite), because time spent on a goal isn't necessarily time spent well! I could spend two hours writing fifty words (or fewer). I could also write 1000 words in an hour (if I put my mind to it). So I tend to have physical goals, rather than time-based. That said...

3. Setting a timer and doing Pomodoro blocks
Sometimes, I just have to get over the 'activation hump' and once I have, I can clear a lot of stuff. If I really do have a brain that's flitting all over the place, I turn off the WiFi on my laptop and set a 25 minute timer (sometimes I use a 30 minute sand timer, sometimes a timer on my laptop that plays birdsong when the 25 minutes are up). More times than not, this is a productive half hour once I've got going and I blast through the tasks. On those occasions that even this doesn't work, I usually just accept defeat and do something else. Writing isn't always actually writing stuff. For me, it could be sketching an object or landscape related to the book, or searching online estate agents for the perfect house as a setting. Or a whole heap of things that aren't necessarily putting one word after another.
[Oh and for those who don't know about Pomodoro - this link might be helpful: https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique ]

Those are my top three techniques for getting things done when inspiration or motivation feels far away. What do others use?



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