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3 tips to persist in writing

Elvis Elvis

It always catches up with me. Eventually, Sunday night rolls around. I have new content posted every Monday. It doesn’t write itself.

Sure, you have those days. You’re working on a particularly challenging project, and you should be – one that really stretches you. If you don’t stretch, you don’t grow. But challenging projects can make the writing move slowly.

Suddenly your mind is alive with alternative possibilities. The yard needs mowing, the bathtub needs scouring, that 25-year-old movie you loved as a kid is on HBO. You haven’t cleaned out the cat box. And isn’t the garage ripe for a cleaning?

Fortunately, I’ve learned a few tricks that get me through the tough times, when grouting bathroom tile seems more appealing than writing. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Remove all distractions. I know I’ve written about the wonders of having toys on your desk. On days like this, you need to clear them away. You need to get rid of anything that could possibly keep you from getting words on paper. If your writing space is not private, pick an alternative site. Write in the bathroom. The laundry room. Your car. Find a room with a door that locks and sequester yourself. It may not seem like much fun, but the isolation will promote focus, and you won’t have to do it for long. Once you are in a quiet, solitary place, stay there until you have written at least 500 words.

2. Start by revising yesterday’s work. This is a technique I have used regularly for years, and it works wonderfully for me. It may work for you, too. I read through the pages I wrote yesterday, correcting a misspelling here, changing a comma there, rewording a sentence, removing a sentence. It then feels natural to start writing where I left off yesterday. It helps me to flow smoothly into new words, rather than feeling I have to attack the blank part of the page the minute I sit down.

3 tips to persist in writing

If you try this one, make sure you stay put until you have written 500 new words on top of your revisions of yesterday’s writing.

3. Freewrite for five minutes. Just open a notebook or document and start writing. Don’t think about it. The whole thing is stream-of-consciousness. No editing, no correcting.

It doesn’t matter what you write about. If you write “I don’t know what to write about” fifty times, fine.

I’m betting you won’t, though. You might start with that, but then you might move to “I don’t know what to start with today.” From there, you might write “I don’t know why my main character is still married to a man she hates.” Next thing you know, you’re writing down new ideas for your story, making a few notes for a new story, describing a new character, defining a new plot point.

You might not even make it to the five-minute mark before you’re ready to start working in earnest. I frequently do about three minutes of freewriting to warm up and get loose. Then I’m ready to start work on my main project. Once you do, stay put until you get at least 500 words on paper.

500 words is a reasonable minimum for me. If you’ve been out of the writing habit for awhile, even 500 words may seem like too much. That’s okay. Adjust things according to your work habits, your productivity. It’s not a race and it’s not National Novel Writing Month.

How many words do you think you can get? When you come up with a number, add a hundred words to it. What’s a hundred more words, right? If your reasonable number is 300, you could easily write 400. No sweat, no bother. That’s how you stretch.

Write that number at the top of your current page and go for it. Keep your butt glued to that chair until you get there.

Try these ideas out. Road test them. If they work, terrific! Use them. If they don’t, experiment. Writing is about finding your own path. That freedom fills the writing life with joy.

How long did it take you to read this? Less than five minutes? Good. Don’t move from your chair. Just write!