You know the feeling, right: you carve out time to write, you have all your favorite pens, pencils and gadgets handy…and you just can’t get started.
The more the clock ticks down on your precious writing time, the harder it gets to write anything.
Yesterday I talked about the power of being around other writers, either online or in person, to give you accountability and make writing seem possible. But the fact is, when you’re sitting alone at your desk, it can be really hard to get started. I have lots of theories about why that is (and so do John Cleese and Steven Pressfield and lots of other creativity gurus), but understanding why it’s happening only takes us so far.
Sometimes you just want a solution.
I’ve taken a lot of courses. Maybe you have to. Someone promises you a solution and then they bombard you with worksheets and theory and lectures, and then they disappear, leaving you with a sense of being even further in debt to your workload than before! And even if you do manage to complete some character sketches and descriptive exercises, you still have no completed work to send to publishers or show to friends.
I’ve always tried to avoid that with StoryADay. The idea has always been to blast through first drafts together, day by day, finishing them and putting them aside to revise later.
But even with the prompts and the blog comments and the community, it can be hard to get started on your writing every day. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself staying up too late, waiting for that deadline of 12 midnight, the clarity of crisis, to help you get started.
Then I discovered a better way.
It started with podcasts. I’d listen to an episode of “Writing Excuses” or “I Should Be Writing” or even “Selected Shorts”, and all of a sudden I’d be raring to go. Full of ideas. Even if the topic of the podcast or story was completely outwith my areas of interest.
Then I took a course from a writing teacher, who provided short videos every day, either inspirational or on an aspect of the writing craft, almost all the way through his course. Every day when I sat down to write, my first 5–10 minutes was spent NOT listening to my own insecurities, but watching a friendly face tell me I could do this.
And so I did.
That was one of the most productive periods for my writing in recent memory!
When mentors and teachers take us through our practice step by step, day by day, they help us break down our resistance to starting. They build up our belief that we can do it. And, all of a sudden, you’ve been doing The Thing for two weeks, a month, two months. And now you find you can write regularly, and produce completed works. You become better at shutting down that voice of doubt, because you brain knows that you are capable of doing the work. You’ve done it before.
Since I was having such success with it, I started applying these principals at StoryADay.
in May 2018 I introduced a new program at StoryADay, where participants watched daily pep talks and in-depth explainers on the writing prompts, by me. I spent 5–10 minutes talking to a camera for every prompt, and encourage writers like you to think their way into today’s story, so that, by the time I stop talking, they already had some ideas—starting didn’t seem so scary. I encouraged participants to think about different aspects of the craft, story structure, characterization, conflict….but not all at once. Only in bite-sized daily doses designed to help them get to the end of every story.
And I have to tell you, people really liked it.
Better than that, the people in the Superstars group were all still writing at the end of the month, celebrating meeting their goals, and enjoying having a new cohort of fellow writers to lean on.
StoryADay is coming, and in a couple of days I’ll be inviting you to join the September Superstars group. It’s optional (there will still be prompts on the site and blog comments to hang out in, if it’s not for you), but stay tuned for more information in case it sounds like the kind of thing that could help you meet your writing goals next month.
In the meantime, I’m interested in hearing what you do to get yourself into the writing zone. Do you read? Do you listen to podcasts? Do you use mentors or teachers in another way? Or do you just sit down and write? Leave a comment, below.