What happens when you write everyday? Two things. You get further in your writing project than if you hadn’t. Two, you end up needing to give your mind a break. Yes, step aside from the written word for a day or two. Do something else entirely. Work out in your garden, do a craft, go to a movie, play a game, do some house work, or all of the above.
What happens is this, your mind can get stuck, and you lose your steam. Your brain gets tired like the rest of our body when we do too much of something. When you work out in the yard for a couple hours, aren’t you tired when you stop? Your body feels sapped. You have no energy left. You need to rejuvenate. You might even go and feed your body a Gatorade and/or a snack.
Today I felt mentally drained because I had been writing everyday, working on my manuscript that’s almost finished. I can see the finish line from here. I want to get it done. So I’m sitting at my desk with my laptop in front of me, and my brain is saying, ‘uhhh, no.’ I didn’t want to do anything. I had no ‘juice’ left. Getting up and doing something else didn’t appeal to me either. So what did I do? I got up and did something anyway, kicking and screaming. Well, that’s a little extreme. After I got going with my other activity, sweeping the patio and gardening, it rejuvenated me.
Any of you out there who are long distance runners know that, when it comes to running, it takes endurance. You run until you reach your goal and you don’t stop. I’m not a long distance runner, but I have run distances up to 3 miles. Yes, there were times I wanted to stop. What I did was play mind games with myself by saying I’ll stop at the next corner. Then I would keep going at the next corner and say ‘ok, the next telephone pole I’ll stop’. Again, I’d keep going. I would do this all the way to the end. Eventually, I wouldn’t need to play these little games with myself because my body would get used to it.
The same thing goes for writing a novel. There are times you want to stop before you reach your goal of whatever word count you promised yourself you would write that day. So, you play a mind game. Let’s say you fixed yourself a goal of writing 1000 words everyday starting Monday. Monday comes and you are 500 words into your writing and you want to stop. You tell yourself, ‘ok, I can write 100 more words and I’ll stop.’ You accomplish this, except now when you reach the 600 word mark, you can’t stop because you’re on a roll. You keep going. All at once you look at your word count number and you have 1200 words. YAY!!! You went over your goal. Does this happen every time? No. If you find you just can not think of anything past the 500 word mark, then stop and come back to it later that day. Who said you have to write 1000 words in one sitting? As long as you reach your goal by the end of that day.
There will be down time when you need time to think about your story and what should come next. I call this ‘Planning Time’. So…plan away. I consider my walks as part of my planning time because it gives me time to relax and think about my story. Much can come from one’s brain when they relax. Another thing that will help keep up your writing endurance is by talking about your story with someone else. My daughter helps me with that. Let me tell you…it helps in a BIG way.
Writing your novel doesn’t have to be a chore, so make it fun. Run those fingers across the keyboard or your pencil across the paper. Let your brain run in several different directions as it thinks of new ideas for your story. Endure. You can do it.
How picky are you with your words, when you write? Do you have to choose just the right ones in order for you to move on? Or do you belt them out there onto the page and rework them later? The first way can stop you up and prevent you from making headway at a steady pace. Because what happens is this: a creative idea for your story may have popped into your head, and you might forget it by the time you’re finished making your wording what you ultimately want it to be.
Get the words on paper first along with your ideas and worry about making them just perfectly right later. You can also make notes for yourself along the way about what you want to go back and fix. Your draft will still be there waiting for you.
Today as I was climbing the steps up to my apartment, I happened to notice two yellow jackets fighting on one of the steps. I mean they were going full force. I stood there and watched them for a minute. Eventually, they parted about a centimeter, but their legs were still going at it. No, I didn’t stomp on them. They weren’t bothering me; just each other.
Isn’t it like that when we write sometimes? We fight like mad trying to find the right words to use in our writing projects. Just when we think we’ve found the right words, we back up, re-read it with our mind still fighting with the idea, ‘Did I get it right this time? Did I not? How do I know?’ Yes, we all have writing days like that. The answer is to tough it out. Leave your work and go back to it a day or two later. If you still don’t like it, continue fighting to get it the way you want it. Or, you can ask advice from someone else.
Stick with it. Don’t let that fight get you down. You can do it.
In December 2019 I wrote an article entitled Writing Stability. In that article I mentioned keeping a writing binder for the writing project you’re working on. It really doesn’t matter if you write by the seat of your pants or plan your novel out in advance, a binder to keep all of your information straight can only serve to help you.
Possible Sections to Include in Your Binder
Characters— This section will include everything about each of your characters. Possible types of information include: physical features, likes/dislikes, occupation, their role in the story, fears, character arcs, just to name a few. You could even create subsections for each character if you like.
Settings— Included here can be maps, setting descriptions, list of places and their significance, etc.
Story— I have a section in my binder with this label. What I use it for are ideas for my novel. Sometimes I’ll do a free write or I’ll write a quick plot summary for an idea.
Style Sheet— Here I keep a style sheet to keep the technical details consistent. For example, are you going to write your numbers out or not, make a list of words that MUST be capitalized consistently throughout, names and dates of events (It’s easy to lose track of this information when you’re writing). This is just a small list. What you decide you need to go in this section is up to you. When you’re editing later, this section will be your friend.
Doodling— This would be where you jot down any revision ideas or play around with language (If you’re writing fantasy, making up words can be fun).
You can always add to the above list. It depends on what kind of story you’re writing. I write urban fantasy, so I have additional sections such as, realms, fantasy creatures, photos, and questions. I love my binder because it frees up room in my head (kind of like a memory extension for my brain, LOL). If you don’t want to use a binder, a journal works well too. I’ve used both.
You wake up on a Monday morning. The day is gray outdoors, much like the weekend had been, and the temperature is 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Already you have a dull ache in your head that starts traveling down your neck to your extremities. Coffee isn’t helping either. You sit in your favorite easy chair, drink a second cup of coffee, and watch the morning news. Thinking the day has to get better than this, you get up and go to the bay window and look out. Then you see it. It’s a silver lining in your current humdrum Monday.
In the distance this silver lining is coming in the form of a streak of blue sky across the horizon. Hope. Is it a foreshadowing of the rest of the day? Will the blue sky reach through the gray clouds, pull them back, and shine in all its glory?
Sometimes our writing goes like this as well. We can sit at our computer for days at a time punching out 400 to 500 words. Your goal was 1000 per day or more. Then the inspiration hits. Is this the inspiration you needed for your writing to take off again?
Whether that blue streak of sky gets bigger or not, and whether that writing inspiration grows or not. Use it anyway. Make it grow intrinsically and use it. Focus. You can do this. Relish those humdrum days because it gives you more opportunities to experience the great ones when they come.
Do you warm up your writing engine before you start working on your writing project? I guess I would have to say, for me, it’s split 50/50. Sometimes I will warm up and sometimes I won’t. It all depends on whether or not the creative juices are flowing when I sit down to write. If I know what I’m going to write next in my work in progress (WIP), I don’t do a warm up. If I’m stuck, I do a warm up. That will get the ideas flowing again.
Types of Warmup Exercises
Writing a blog article
Write a poem
Look at a painting/picture:
Describe the setting
Describe what’s is going on (Remember, a picture is worth 1000 words)
Write a poem using your descriptions (Who knows, you might be able to use it in your WIP)
Take a walk in a cemetery. Speculate about the people who once lived. What do you think they looked like? What do you think they did for a living? How do you think they died and/or what’s the story behind it? Come up with scenarios/stories regarding random people. Did they know each other? If so, what was their relationship? You could go on and on with this.
Go to the beach. What do you see? What connections can you make with what’s in front of you? Maybe the people you see walking along the beach are sea people. If so, why are they there on the beach? What’s their story? (FEEL FREE TO STEAL THIS IDEA IF YOU LIKE)
Don’t be daunted by the blank page ever again. The only reason the blank page is a stopper is because nothing is there. So put something in your head first before you look at that blank page, then you’ll be able to readily transfer it to the blank page when you look at it.
We all have days when we feel less than adequate. It’s a battle we all face at one time or another. When we feel this way, it’s all to easy to slip into that ‘I don’t want to do…’ mode. Yet, there are deadlines we have to keep, whether they are self-imposed deadlines or otherwise. What is one supposed to do when we feel this way? I’m not going be unrealistic; it’s difficult to climb the ladder out of this mode.
I felt like this yesterday (3/17/2021). My creativity was sapped and I couldn’t think up anything that would contribute to my current WIP. Have you felt this way at times? I was full of self-doubt. Have you had these thoughts too at one time or another? On Twitter I read a tweet by another author who wrote about feeling just this way, and she felt like giving up her writing. She went on to say that one of her fans (not knowing she was feeling that way) sent her a tweet telling her how much she enjoyed her books and even included a photo of the newly purchased book this author just released. What a joy that must have been for that author. That simple act from a fan renewed the author’s faith/confidence in herself.
Since we are all different with different interests, jobs, and hobbies; we will get lifted up in other ways. Sometimes we have to lift ourselves back up. That isn’t always easy to do. I think we need to find the source of our doldrums ourselves at times.
What can we try?
Talk to someone
Workout and get the blood/endorphins flowing
Get off your phone. Yes, this means stop playing the games/scrolling social media, etc…
Pray (yes, this really does work). You have to be receptive to this. Spend time with the Lord. He enjoys your company. Sometimes we are the impatient ones and expect results NOW. It doesn’t always work that way.
Even though negating moments such as this don’t feel very good, I firmly believe it keeps us humble and in check. Stay strong. Ask yourself what can be done to turn the negative feelings into positive feelings. You CAN do it. I have faith in you.
Sometimes we put up barriers when we write. This is different for everyone. Some of us analyze too much, while others plan too much. Yet some may strive for perfection before moving on. My barrier is the analyze thing. I question everything. Not that questioning things is bad to do. We should do that, but when you continue questioning whether what you wrote or in which place a scene/scenes was put, it takes up precious writing time.
Another author I follow and get advice from, told of a first time writer working on his first novel. This young writer asked his advice on his first chapter. So the author read the young writer’s first chapter and ended up being very impressed with it. He asked for more. The young writer didn’t have anymore to show, as he had been working on the first chapter for months trying to get it just right/perfect. The author shook his head and told the young writer to stop striving for perfection. Why? If you do that, you will never get your book written. As long a time it took him to get chapter one finished, he could have had multiple chapters finished had he focused more on getting the story out.
The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. You just need to get the story written. When that first draft is finished, THEN go back to square one and change what you don’t like. This may be difficult at first, but with practice of letting go and letting the story unfold as it comes, perfection will take a back seat eventually.
You wake up in the morning, shuffle your way into the kitchen, turn on your coffee pot, put in a pod (or scoop of coffee depending on the type of coffee maker you have), and pour yourself a cup of coffee. As you sit and drink, you catch up on anything you may have missed on your phone while you were sleeping. The thought of writing starts scratching at your brain, as you begin to think about what you have to get done that day. Many other activities come to mind, but writing is still scratching at your brain. You know the only way to itch it is to sit down and write. But, you’re too tired, even with one cup of coffee in you. The creative juices aren’t being felt. So, you start to do other items on your list of chores to get done. Writing is now banging and clanging against your brain. The story wants to be written, but you don’t want to write because you’re still too tired. You continue doing other things. It’s now 3:00 in the afternoon and you don’t have anything written. You feel guilty because you promised yourself the day before that you would write at least 1000 words today. Uh oh, what do you do? Can you pop out 1000 words from 3:00 pm on?
YES, YOU CAN. Force yourself to do it. You CAN do it. Yes, even if you’re tired. Something will come. I’ve been caught in the “I’m too tired” trap too (too many times). Don’t let procrastination be your mantra.