This is a guest post by author Kaiya Hart
|Kaiya Hart is a fantasy and horror author. She currently has five books published.|
So you’ve done it. You’ve decided to write your book. You have made the plan and you are so excited for this. You are determined, motivated, and… distracted. You sit down to write, but every time you feel like there is something more important you should be doing. The days begin to slip by and, you might get on the computer and type out a few lines here and there, but you’ve only got ten pages. Tops. A week is gone and then another and, at some point, you realize you haven’t opened that file for your book in months. You tell yourself it is just not the right time, that you’ll do it someday. I’m here to give you the rules that will make someday right now.
I have a set of rules I call The Eight Rules Of Write Time. I used to be really good at talking myself out of writing. Like, really, really good. There was something else that was always taking precedence and I would go months at a time without working on my books at all. After making this set of rules for myself, I find that I do something with my writing almost every day and I’m in love with it. Now, I’m going to share it with you so that you can create the writing life you want.
1. Routine. Understand that being a writer means tapping into your creativity, which can get pretty messy. It is all about reaching into your subconscious and there is no real rhyme or reason to that part of the brain. This is why you have to have a routine and a schedule. Know if you are going to sit down to write in the morning or evening. Know what you need to do to prepare. Every day, before I write, I get ready to go to work. I write in my journal, I feed my dogs, I make my coffee, whatever I would do if I was leaving the house for an outside job. This helps you shift gears and tunes you in. This needs to be consistent. During a first draft, you should be writing at least five days out of seven and it should be no less than an hour each time. I prefer a minimum of two because it takes me half an hour to really get warmed up.
2. Write. I will write every single day – or work toward writing by researching whatever it is I am thinking about writing. This does not work for all writers in the sense that not everyone can sit down and just write. For some people, it gives them writer’s block. So research your idea. Or map out the location of a scene. Or play around with writing practices. Get warmed up however you like, so long as this time is spent engaging your creative side, then write something. I usually edit a few lines of writing from the day before. It gets me thinking on the creative level and ready to actually write. The important part of this is actually sitting down and getting your pen or your fingers moving. This can be so hard on the days you don’t feel like it and that is why you should experiment a little. Figure out what works for you. As long as it is moving you toward your work, not away, it is acceptable.
3. No phones allowed. If you are like me, your phone is your next big obstacle. Put it down. If you can’t leave it alone, put it across the room, preferably turned off. How many times have you picked it up and thought ‘ten minutes,’ then lost an hour or two? For many people in our over connected world, it has become like an appendage. We feel like we must have it. When it comes to working, however, you should be doing just that, not worrying about your phone. You are a writer. And, if you want to succeed at it, you need to learn to guard your concentration. There is an upside to locking this distraction away while you write. Once you get used to not having it, you’ll find it is relaxing not to have to worry about it. Better yet, you’ll find that your focus becomes far more intense and that your writing begins to flow smoother.
4. Respect the job. Respect is the key word here. Don’t hate it. Don’t feel like it is an obstacle between you and the rest of your life. You should love what you do with a passion. You don’t need permission to write, but you do need the will. What this means is that you’ve got to love writing more than you love playing video games. You’ve got to love it more than Netflix. You’ve got to love it more than you love distractions. When you ask yourself ‘do I love my job’ the answer should be a loud and joyous ‘YES’.
However, there are going to be times when you feel as creatively dry as the Sahara and just too tired to even try. No matter how much you love it, there will always be times when you want to be elsewhere. And this is when your schedule takes over. I’m not saying you can’t have a day off once in a while. That is very much okay. However, remember that you want to be a writer as well. You are going to have to work at this. You are going to have to respect this job like you would respect any job. If you want to be a writer, you have to write and you have to do it a lot. You have to learn to deny that voice that wants to convince you to go watch TV instead. You have to create and respect what I call Write Time. That when you’re meant to be writing and you must treat it as though it deserves the time you’ve set aside for it. You have to treat it as though this is what pays the bills, and do not allow yourself or anyone else to belittle that. When you are at work, be there and be off limits for everything but emergencies.
5. No muse, no problem. I have spent whole lot of time with writer’s block. A whole lot. Like years. And I spent plenty of time trying to chase down my muse. I searched for her in coffee shops, I looked for her on beaches and in the woods. I listened to classical music and meditated. I read a hundred books on writing and listened to a thousand podcasts.
I suggest doing all those things. Not because they will bring you to your muse, but because they are good for the soul. However, if you want to get in the groove and really get writing, if you want to overcome that writer’s block, you have to write. Yes, it seems like it is a catch 22. But it really isn’t. What are you thinking about? What are you doing? Write a sentence. Write a word. Sit down at your desk and research your idea. Write about why you don’t feel like writing. Edit something you wrote six months ago.
It doesn’t matter how you start, just start. So what if it’s wooden and feels like every word is a struggle? It doesn’t matter. Convincing yourself you have to wait until you are inspired to write is another form of procrastination. The only answer is to write, no matter how badly, and keep moving forward. First drafts are always painfully bad, so just go ahead and write it, even if you think you’ll end up deleting 90% of it. Get the story out, fast as you can. Editing is where you get the real beauty anyway. But you can’t edit a story you haven’t written, so get in there. Do your work and stop waiting around for the inspiration fairy to come fling sparkly dust at you.
6. Read. Writing isn’t just about the story you want to tell. It is about how you present it. The language you use, the flow of the sentences. To grammar or not to grammar. It is about presenting your story in its best possible form. Reading what other people write teaches you about telling stories. It teaches you about rhythm and style. Read a lot. Read so much that people ask if you ever do anything else. Be open to everything. Read the masters. Read the newbies. Join a writer’s group and read the stories those people write. Do not limit yourself. Read motivational books, philosophy, and weird science. Read as many books as you can about writing because there are so many ways to come to this life and it will remind you that you are not alone. Read like it’s an all you can eat buffet in Vegas. Try everything. You may not like it all, but it will certainly fill your head with words and, for a writer, that is a wonderful thing.
7. Feed the Muse. There is such a thing as setting yourself up to succeed and feeding your creativity is absolutely setting you up the right way. You must think of your muse like you’ve acquired an invisible child. They never need fresh towels and they don’t leave their dirty laundry on the floor. They don’t ask for money or to borrow the family car. But you must nurture them. They eat words and experience. They feed off the books your read, good or bad. Encourage them to grow and evolve by giving them plenty of variety. That doesn’t mean you need to sweep off to Paris, though.
Here’s the really beautiful thing. Feeding the muse is as easy as being present in your own life. Go to the movies. Date. Go walk your dogs in the woods, read several books in a row, go out to dinner on your own. Walk in museums and listen to people talk. Go people watching. Read the news or look up strange facts. The only requirement is to be there. Be present in that moment and fully awake to it. Don’t think ‘how am I going to write about this’. Think about what is happening around you, embrace it, and it will all come back to you later. The more present you are, the more curious you are, the richer and more abundant your writing will become.
8. Sleep. There are so many studies about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. I say sleeping and dreaming are the two things that can really make the writer. Tired, gritty, and angry are never a good way to go to work. Practice sleep hygiene. If you watch television, shut it off about an hour before you go to bed. Use this time to read. Write a few lines in a journal or spend time cuddling pets or your children. But allow no electronic intrusion. There are all sorts of studies on this which prove you sleep better if you give yourself time to switch off. Do yourself a favor and get a great night’s sleep; you will be a better writer for it. Then wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.
These eight rules give you control over your writing life. The mind is so often like a wild horse. It bolts and bucks and rears. It is all over the place. The rules give you a fence to put it behind. They give you structure so you can grab hold of yourself and write the way you’ve always dreamed of doing. You can tweak them to better suit you, but the ideas behind these rules are the foundation for getting – and keeping – yourself working. And that means you can stop waiting for the right time to start and start practicing Write Time instead.