Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
Making yourself write when you don’t feel like it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. But the reality is, there are some amazing tips that will help you get past that misconception, some quickly and some easily over time. So, I’ve compiled a list of 7 tricks to get your writing done.
People talk about writer’s block all the time. Or they talk about sitting down and just not being able to get started or about how hard it is to get started.
The 7 tricks to get your writing done I’m about to share with you aren’t tips to get out of writer’s block, but rather, tips to keep writer’s block from ever happening, so that even when you don’t feel like it, you do it without even thinking about it. I’m going to help you build habits and discipline, which beat motivation every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
7 Tricks to Get Your Writing Done
Work in the same place every day.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
Now that’s not to say that every once in a while it’s not important to move around, or to go some place else. Sometimes your normal writing space won’t work, for dozens of reasons, so maybe going out to work in your van is a lot easier than staying inside.
I get that there’s always an exception. But ideally, you’ll pick one spot that you can work from. And work from that spot every day.
How does this help?
When you sit in this spot to write every day, you’re brain will associate it with writing and make writing all the easier.
Work at the same time every day.
Don’t jump around. Set a time to write and stick to it. Period. Do it every day (that you’ve deemed a writing day) without fail.
Whether you do it for 30 minutes, an hour, two hours, or whatever. It doesn’t matter, but it matters that you do it at the same time, for the same amount of time every day.
Why the same time every day?
Again, it helps build a habit that tricks your brain into focusing. It’ll start to learn that at this time every day, I’m writing.
At the end of a writing session, stop in the middle of a scene instead of at the end of it.
Often, the hardest part of starting comes from the fact that we’re starting a new scene. And starting new scenes can be a challenge in and of itself.
So, instead of finishing whatever scene you’re working on at the end of a session, stop in the middle of a scene instead.
That way, when you start writing in your next session, you know exactly what needs to happen. By the time you get to your new scene starter, your writing juices will already be flowing, and it’ll be so much easier to push right on through that beginning.
If your office space is in a place where you have a lot of people around, like kids, and/or other distractions, set a firm rule: For the next 15 minutes, you can’t talk to me. For the next half hour, you can’t talk to me.
My publisher, Christina Dymock of Gelato Publishing, gave me the idea for this fantastic trick. She works at home and has three kids there. She discovered that about every seven minutes one of her kids would come and bug her about something—always at different times (naturally).
So, taking the number of kids she had, 3, she’d multiplied them by how often they’d bug her, every 7 minutes, to get twenty-one minutes. She would then tell them that none of them could talk to her for twenty-one minutes.
At the end of twenty-one minutes she would take a break, and her kids could come and ask her whatever it was they were going to ask her. Then she’d start all over again for another twenty-one minutes. And I believe she did this for a couple of hours a day.
She said she saw her productivity rise substantially.
This helped for two reasons. First, because she knew for twenty-one minutes she would have uninterrupted writing time, and second, because it also put her on a clock, which made her work harder and write faster.
This one’s gonna sound a little silly, but it works. Ahem . . . Have a writing hat.
Yes, a literal hat that you put on your head. Or, if you don’t like hats, it could be a shirt or a sweater. It could be a ring. It could be anything that you can put on and take off.
The trick is that you wear it every time you write and only when you write. It has to be designated for writing and writing alone.
How does this help?
If you do it for long enough, no matter what’s going on, as soon as you put that item of clothing on or that hat or that ring or whatever. Your brain is gonna immediately think, “Oh, it’s writing time.”
Use a particular font, and only this font every time you write.
I love this trick and use it for when I’m editing as well. But for editing I have a different font. I use Times New Roman for when I’m writing. And I use Comic Sans for editing.
By doing this, I’m triggering my brain to jump immediately into writing or editing time. My mind sees the particular font and knows what I’m supposed to be doing.
Start your writing session with classical music and listen to it for a few minutes when you first start writing or the entire time if it helps.
Let me give you an example from one of my friends who has had enormous success with this process.
He starts out every writing session with a piece of classical music that lasts exactly fifteen minutes from beginning to end. And it also has a gradual build; it starts out slow and gets faster as he’s writing.
I can’t remember what piece he uses, but that’s okay because different pieces will work for different people. And there are a lot of classical pieces that have that same effect.
It works so well for my friend now because he does it all the time. It now tricks his brain. He hears that piece of music, and he knows it’s writing time.
In fact, he told me he once went out somewhere, maybe to a store I want to say, and the piece of classical music he listens to came on.
He immediately started patting his pockets, looking for his phone, and then realized when he had his phone out that he’d subconsciously been looking for something to write with. Sure, he wasn’t entirely aware of what he was doing until he had his notes open in his phone, but his muscle memory knew he was supposed to be writing and tried to get him to write. And so his muscle memory did that.
Is that awesome or what?
Does it always have to be classical music?
No. It doesn’t. The wonderful thing about classical music is that it doesn’t have words in it, which can be very distracting, but sometimes classical music just doesn’t fit the bill for what you’re doing.
It’s great for getting yourself writing, but once you’re writing you might want something else to listen to that better matches the mood of the scene. For example, if I’m writing a fight scene, I usually will listen to harder angrier music, or if I’m writing a romance, I might want to listen to love songs.
It can be so smart to listen to music that will elicit certain emotions in you, so you can channel that into you’re writing. You’ll know what works best for you and when.
And you can harness this productivity tool by creating playlists to have ready for when you’re writing specific scenes.
Have you heard of Hans Zimmer? If you haven’t, I’m a little worried about you. Zimmer is probably the greatest composer of our day. And, fun fact, much of his music is intentionally written to start slow and increase in pace as it continues.
Why is this good?
Because it helps create momentum and can even help you increase your word count as you go.
You can listen to him on Pandora. Just put his name in and create a playlist of his songs. I listen to his music a lot when I’m writing and always feel more productive when I do.
Think of it as listening to “Eye of the Tiger” as you jog—only it’s Hans Zimmer while you write. If that doesn’t paint the perfect image of what this can do for your writing, then I don’t know what will.
Those are my 7 tricks to get writing done, even when you don’t feel like it. There are other things you can do, little ways you can trick your mind into remembering “this is writing time, I have to focus,” so that as soon as you sit down at your computer, you immediately get working, but these are the ones that have helped me the most.
Studies have shown that it takes twenty-one days to create a habit, which means you may have to sit down and force these things for two-thirds of a month, but the result will be lasting habits that help prevent writer’s block, that create discipline so you can get your writing done even when you don’t feel like it.
Pick one or two of these techniques and do them for 21 days straight (they can be your specified writing days as long as you’re consistent.)
Make note of progress so you can see if they’ve actually helped.
Whether you succeed with the one or two you pick or not, pick another one or two, and try those out as well. It could be that an option here that you don’t think will work, might be the perfect one for you.
If you have any other tips or suggestions or if there’s a tip listed above that resonates with you, please let me know in the comments below. I want to hear from you, and get your thoughts and suggestions.