There are so many strategies out there for being a better writer: write in the morning— Murakami does it.
Write in the afternoon! Maya Angelou did it. Write strictly in Moleskine notebooks— Neil Gaiman does it. Drink up to 50 cups of coffee a day— Balzac did it! (No, seriously.) Bloody brilliant for them. None of these things will make you a better writer if they're not the thing for you. Now, I don't claim to have the answer, only an answer, and it is, of course, what works for me. These tips, however, revolve around creating constructive habits, rather than focusing in on niche techniques or consumer purchases.
In my head, these tips for writing are coming into fruition because of a long habit of writing fiction, but I really think the could be applied anywhere, like, say for example, blogging. Just a thought.
1. Schedule it.
Find your time. Close the door everyday. I know, shocking to hear this coming from me if you've ever spent more than twenty seconds here. Lists? Schedules? Goals? It cannot be.
But it is. No matter what it is that you're writing from blog post, to promotional content for work, to the hobby novel, if you schedule it, it validates your work. It says that you value it enough to put time aside to do it, and this often means that it will get done. And it becomes more real that way, if it's on your list right there with vacuuming, making dinner and getting a flu shot, it has to be done, right?
2. Spread the word.
Tell those around you that you're writing. If you're someone who keeps what you're writing close to your chest, you don't need to tell them exactly what is going onto your page— just letting someone know what you're up to is a good idea. Why, you might ask? For the same reason it is good to tell someone your goals. It makes it real, and it keeps you accountable. In a way, if you're lacking motivation, there is a teeny tiny obligation to fulfill your goal of writing every day, or of finishing your novel by June to whomever you told. You can't let them down, right?
This also helps show your commitment to your writing goal.It shows that you're willing to set aside time, and set aside some less prioritized things to get the writing done.
And it tells people what's happened to you when you start acting strangely, or they haven't seen you in eighteen days.
3. Get clear with WHY you're writing.
This is an important one, and a difficult one. I often find that my writing lacks energy and direction if I don't have my reasoning sorted out in my head. It becomes a lot easier to write, and to write with purpose when you do. It doesn't necessarily matter what that purpose is— and it changes from piece to piece.
You could be writing for your fans. For your little sister. For yourself. For your boss. For the phat/fat stacks of cash (both applicable here). You could be writing for charity, or for your sanity.
But it's important to know which one of those it is. Feeling like it's been done before and your writing isn't good enough? That's fine, it's for yourself. It's to make you happy. There is a shit sandwich and a silver lining to each of these reasons (see: Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity & Shit Sandwiches). When you really know why you're writing (or perhaps even adjust why you're writing), you can get through anything.
4. Find a system that works for you.
Fucking stick with it.
Experimenting to find the thing that works best for you is great, but it has a time. And an expiry date. I can't count the amount of hours I wasted trying sixty three different word processors, ten kinds of pen, three kinds of ink, and twenty notebooks. Did any of that change anything? Definitely not. Was my writing made magically better, or more efficient? No, because there are better ways to increase talent and efficiency— most of them are by writing.
For me, this meant switching to paper and pen. No more could I procrastinate by finding the perfect font, the right margins, the right program, the right internet-blocking tool, etc. Give yourself a certain amount of time to experiment with what works best for you with the least amount of distraction and get going. Whether it's a quill, a MacBook, Notebad, or Scrivener, I guarantee that releasing yourself from the urge to find the perfect system will allow you to see that you already have the perfect system.
5. Don't get inspired, get writing.
Shocking, considering how much I write about inspiration here, but I promise, that's more about bringing the feeling into your life rather than creating some kind of on-off inspiration generator. It doesn't work like that, and it never has. Almost all of the great writers will tell you the single best way to get inspired and to get writing, is to write (see: inspiration finds you working).
Pen to paper. Fingers to keys, just write.
I've mentioned this one before, but my favourite trick to get writing when I'm really stuck is to start stream of consciousness. I find the rhythm of handwriting really soothing, so I'll start with "Here I am, bit cold, sitting at the desk. I'd really like to get writing done today, and I was thinking about working on the scene where Professor Meowsworth says..." and then all of a sudden I'm off, writing in detail, writing dialogue without thinking too hard about the process. But that's what works for me. You'll find what works for you to get the pen to the paper.
And it is a muscle. The more you make writing a habit, every day, at the same time, if you can, the easier it will be to keep going. Just like exercise (of which I admit I have a deplorable habit, or lack thereof). That being said, there are a few things I turn to in order to get inspired to the physical active writing— inspiring the habit, not the content.
If you want to read more about the extremely bizarre habits of famous writers, check out this charming and eyebrow contorting article by Brain Pickings.
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