No more excuses, only writing.
The past few weeks I’ve been a bad writer and a bad blogger.
That is to say, I haven’t done much of either. Now, I could spout off a litany of excuses, most of which are about school work and preparations for the Big Move, but in the end they are still just that — excuses.
Even though those are all things that have to get done, they are still just excuses. The truth is, if I had wanted to badly enough, I could have squeezed in more writing time. But I didn’t.
Afterall, it didn’t hurt anybody. There aren’t any deadlines I have to meet with my writing, and that Scene where that Thing happens didn’t have to be completed by 2pm Tuesday. Besides, I could always write later. Or I could write extra tomorrow.
Many of us all have lives outside of our writing. We have jobs or school. We have family obligations. We have kids and spouses. We have Other Things To Do, and sometimes that means our writing has to take a backseat.
A lot of times, I find myself trying to emulate my writing friends. Though my skill level isn’t as high as theirs, they all have amazing writing habits, and I try to copy that so that I, too, can be a more prolific writer. My friend Cid, writes an amazing blog that has different topics each month, works full time, takes belly dancing, knits and reads/reviews for Book-Addicts. And still she seems to crank out stories right and left. Suzan also has a great blog. She also has an awesome podcast and is a single mom in the military with two kids. Oh yea, she goes to school full time and reads for Book-Addicts too.
They’re just as busy, if not busier, than I am. I’m in school full time, I’m in the middle of a Big Move, I knit, I read and review for Book-Addicts and I maintain a strong social media presence — I control three Twitter accounts, four Facebook pages and five blogs.
So why don’t I seem to write as much as they do?
Like many of you, I had been so busy with Everything Else that my writing was taking a backseat. And sometimes that’s necessary, but if you are serious about writing that can’t happen.
Part of my problem was that I kept telling myself I had to write at least a certain amount of words daily. This was a problem because I still had not built a strong daily writing habit. I needed to tell myself to write daily, not write x-amount daily. Cid and Suzan are at a point where they push themselves to write thousands of words every day. Because I admire them so much, I wanted to write that much too.
But running without learning how to stand, all I managed was to put pressure on myself: “Write 2K everyday or you fail as a writer.”
Telling myself things like that made me try to schedule writing time at the same time each day. My daily schedule varies, and that made it difficult. I would put my daily writing time from 8pm to 9pm. After class, after homework, after dinner. But Wednesday would find me inspired to write at 3pm, instead of 8pm. But I was so adamant to write at the same time, I would wait. And at 8pm, I would frustrate myself by staring at a blank screen for an hour.
Yesterday, Spring Break began. And in the prospect of nine days off of school with no homework, I grew excited at the chance to make headway in my writing. And last night I did. This morning, well rested and looking at my situation with new eyes, I remind myself to take at least 10 – 15 minutes every day to write. Not to maintain a blog, or a FB or Twitter account. Not to cook or clean or worry about whether This or That needs be packed. Not to worry about school assignments or knitting patterns or what’s in my Netflix queue.
Fifteen minutes, every day to sit at my computer and write. It’s not an easy habit for me to build, because I’m so used to telling myself that This has to get done now, or That has to get done by a certain time. Right now, my priority is still school. I graduate in May, and I’m not going to jeopardize that. I can’t do anything about the move. But I can do something about my writing, and so can you.
We may not be able to write at the same time everyday. We may not even be able to write for the same amount of time everyday. We might write for 30 minutes on Monday, an hour on Tuesday and only eight minutes on Wednesday — it does not matter how long you write, so long as you write.
The moment you take away the pressure, it’s liberating. Whether we write for five minutes or five hours, doesn’t matter. Whether or not we write does.
So I’m going to try something new. Every Sunday I want to blog about how long and how much I wrote the past week. I’m hoping that it keeps me encouraged when I feel frustrated at only five minutes of writing, and proud when I manage an hour. I want other newbie writers to feel encouraged too. The point is not quantity or quality. The point is just to build the habit.
What kind of pressure do you put on yourself that negatively effects your writing? How are you handling it?
Addendum: Julie Duffy, from Story a Day, has a great video on creating an action plan for your writing. Useful tips for building a stronger writing habit.