Seriously, This works
I am leaving for a two week trip to Montreal. My first solo trip ever. I am both nervous and extremely excited. I will keep internet to a minimum, I am dropping twitter for the time being. So I leave you with the best writing advice I have!
That may be presumptuous, but everyone I say this to seems to respond well to it. I know I have.
So here are my four prescriptions for people struggling with their writing. Anyone who can’t seem to get their projects done or get their word count up.
All of these came from Neil Gaiman or slightly adapted from various other sources. Every time I listen to his interviews or speeches, I gleam some sort of higher writing truth from the American Gods author. I don’t know, I just know this works.
This will also ignore the usual advice of finding a routine, making time, dealing with distractions, outlines vs pantsing etc… This is entirely focused on – You are staring at a piece of blank paper/blank screen and you feel blood seeping from your eyes or you have checked twitter for the 10th time.
This is the in-the-moment, I AM WRITING NOW struggle of not knowing how to deal put words down.
So here it goes
Give yourself permission to write crap – Why? Because as Gaiman puts it, “No one will ever see your first draft. No one cares about your first draft.” Be free and be liberated in knowing no one cares about this first attempt. A thousand times we have said “You can’t fix an empty page.” Now believe it. Put down crap and accept it. WRITE GARBAGE AND REJOICE! BE FREE AND WRITE AS YOU PLEASE! You can fix it later. In my Defense of Trash, I talk a lot about this.
Write on pen and paper – There are a few good reasons NOT to do this; cost, space and environmental considerations. Absolutely reasonable. There are several damn good reasons to write by hand. One, It makes writing more work. Hold it, listen. This makes your writing better. When you are typing and you think of two ways to say a thing; you write both. Writing with pen and paper forces you to write better by making writing work. Ever since I have switched to writing by hand, the writing itself is better. My quantity is lower, but the quality is better. Stories become focused on the story, not the word count. I know I find it easier to write by hand than typing. I am prone to regular headaches, so looking away from a screen helps immensely.
Give it a try, I has completely changed my writing for the better.
Give yourself permission to do either nothing or writing. Give yourself five minutes of nothing at all – Before you write, just sit there for five minutes. Think of it as meditation. Put everything aside. If you prefer writing with music, put it on and don’t touch it.
You can either do nothing or you can write. You can’t text, call, check twitter or even chores. You’ve set your time aside for writing. You can write or you can do nothing.
After five minutes of doing nothing you’ll want to write out of sheer boredom.
Write one word at a time – When staring at a blank screen or an empty piece of paper, don’t think of the next line. Only think of the next word. One word at a time. Then you write the next word, and the next, and the next. Eventually you fall into a flow.
I imagine this like those old cars that had to be cranked. You are getting your engine going. One word at a time.
Get stuck? Only ask what the next word should be.
Super Secret number 5 – Creative Input
If none of these work. If no matter how hard you are trying, thinking of the next word is too painful. If your head hurts, eyes glaze over and your back aches and still nothing comes to mind… This means you are creatively depleted.
There is one answer to this. WALK AWAY. Go read a book! Go watch a movie! Binge a TV show! Walk outside! Experience life! There is nothing else that will fix you when you’re brain is dry. You need time to walk away, enjoy something. Give yourself permission to watch an episode or something.
We are creatives. As much as coffee and wine are our fuel, so is creativity.
As per Ira Glasses’s famous advice on writing. “We get into this because we have good taste.” In order to continue writing, you need to have a creative input. Anything can be this. Living your life, reading books, watching network TV or schlock movies. You need inspirations, you need to refill your creativity.
My bad habit (due to my constant self-loathing resulting in my need to never stop working on something) is that I always keep a notebook with me when I watch TV. This creates this cycle of missing chunks of what I’m watching and not really committing to writing. It doesn’t work and I need to stop it.
SO I hope this helps. These bits of advice have certainly helped me. There are plenty of other helpful tips on writing and I am sure I will discuss them on day.
These are the big five that help me every day and I hope they help you.