We’re a couple of weeks into January and I’m betting that all of those resolutions about writing more this year are starting to feel more like grudging obligations than well-meant intentions. I never fail to be astounded how many tweets I see from people who claim they “should be writing”. Should? Should is one of those words that means things you must do, not things you want to do. Should turns something into a chore, not a joy. Why would you turn something you profess to enjoy into something you dread doing?
It’s all very well me saying this, of course. I have an outline for my current project that needs finishing, and chapters to start writing. I should be working on them. However, I’ve altered my terminology so that I have an outline I would like to finish before I can work on the chapters in earnest. True, saying I would like to do something is no guarantee that I’ll actually do it, but I’m more likely to aspire to do something I’d like to do than I am to finally pull my finger out and finish something I should do.
So how can you make sure that you either keep those writing resolutions, or at least get yourself to stop doing the Procrastination Polka and start doing the Writing Rumba?
1) Be realistic.
If you’ve set yourself a resolution that you’ll write 2000 words a day, no matter what, but you find you’ve only actually got time for 800, then naturally you’ll baulk at the prospect of writing more than you can fit in, and sooner or later, you won’t be writing anything at all. Make sure your resolutions suit your resources, and if achieving your goal means altering your resolution then do so. Resolutions aren’t set in stone, after all.
2) Be consistent.
Things happen in life and sometimes writing has to take a back seat. That’s fine, don’t beat yourself up about it. But if you find you’re skipping writing sessions for fairly mundane reasons (e.g. ‘I’ll do some writing when I’ve done this next bit on Skyrim‘, or ‘I’ll do some writing after I’ve checked my emails’) then recognise you’re simply procrastinating. Chances are, you won’t do any writing at all that day, and then you’ll start berating yourself about missing sessions. Skip too many and it just won’t seem worth writing at all. Small amounts of writing on a consistent basis are easier to do and you can always do whatever it is you want to do after you’ve gotten some words down.
3) Shake things up.
You might be putting off writing because, deep down, you’re not keen on your current project. That’s fine. It could be that you’ve just hit The Wall and you need to keep going in order to break through, and fall back in love with your project. Or it could be that you’ve realised it’s not really working, but you’d rather keep flogging a dead horse that put it aside. No, the time you spend writing those words you’re now going to put away was not wasted. Just think of it as a warm up for the big piece you really want to write. Put the current project aside and try something new. You can always come back to it later.
4) Examine your motivations.
If you consistently find ways to avoid writing then perhaps you need to ask yourself if you really want to be a writer. You can’t really call yourself a writer if you don’t actually write, and if you’re not doing it then maybe your heart just isn’t in it. Maybe it was a passing phase, or your realisation than JK Rowling sized pay cheques aren’t the norm for every writer finally put you off. If you’re doing it for fame, or money, then forcing yourself is never going to work. If you’re doing it because you love writing, then you probably don’t need to read this post.
5) Read something else.
Sometimes we stop writing because the well of ideas runs dry. There are countless prompts and writing exercises available online (and on this blog!) but sometimes just reading the work of another writer is enough to kickstart your imagination and get you itching to write again.
How about you? Did you make any writing resolutions at New Year – and have you kept them?