I posted here a few weeks ago about how I (re)kick-started my writing so-called career by the simple act of getting up an hour earlier each day. Maybe you’ve done the same, or tweaked your daily schedule in some other way to gain time. If you did, you now have opportunities to write that you didn’t possess before – but how do you make the best use of them?
Start as you mean to go on
There’s no point creating time to write if all you do with it is stare at a blank screen or distract yourself with other tasks. If something is that distracting, do it the night before, or schedule it for later in the day. Then forget about it and do what you’re there for – start writing.
Although we all know, of course, that starting isn’t always (or ever) as easy as “just doing it”. And with only an hour to spare, it’s important not to waste precious minutes prevaricating, procrastinating or generally beating around the bush (much like this introduction).
If, like me, you need all the help you can get in surmounting the activation-energy barrier, the following tips might help.
Trick or treat
The nicest one first – promise yourself a reward once you’ve reached your target, be that time spent, words written, pages complete or any other goal.
If you’re writing first thing in the morning, your reward could be as simple as breakfast. I have a different delicious morning repast planned for every day of the week (breakfast is now my favourite meal of the day) and I’m not allowed to even think about preparing it until I’ve finished my hour on my WiP. Your reward could be a shower or even coffee (though I will never, ever deny myself my early morning can of PepsiMax, to which I am mildly addicted).
If rewards don’t work and the thought of returning to that blank screen remains as scary as ever, try reminding yourself that you’ll only be there for an hour. I wasn’t too keen on writing this post (does it show?) and clock-watched incessantly for the first five minutes I toiled on it, but once I got down to work the time began to fly; by half-way through, I’d stopped checking the time and was even beginning to enjoy myself.
Then, almost before you know it, your time is up. Chances are, you’ll be enjoying yourself so much you won’t want to stop. So do you keep going? I would say, no. Put your WiP away, get on with the rest of your day – and hope that your new-found enthusiasm carries over into tomorrow!
If neither of these strategies works, you can always try fooling yourself into starting. Tell yourself you don’t have to write for an hour if you don’t want to. You can work for just 30 minutes, or 15, or 10. And you can stop whenever you like, if things get too bad. No pressure. All you have to do is write one sentence.
If you’re anything like me, one sentence almost always turns into two, then into a paragraph, then a page. Repeat that a couple of times and your hour will be over – and as painlessly as it was productive.
Carrots, not sticks
Whatever you do, don’t punish yourself if you fail to meet your target. Life is too short, writing is meant to be fun, everyone has their bad days (or years) etc., etc.
Just give yourself a pat on the back for what you did achieve (even if that was only sitting at your desk for the required time), learn lessons (e.g. don’t go to bed at three if you’re planning on rising at six), then come back tomorrow and start again.★
Do you use sticks, tricks or rewards to start – or keep – yourself writing? Which work best? Let us know in the comments below.
Image by Woudloper