To be an author is extremely hard work that requires an extremely self-disciplined person, especially if you are, like me, self-published and trying to juggle a full time job, a wife, and two kids under 5 (at the time of writing this. Just like any other profession there are good days and bad days. You will have deadlines of some description, be it from your agent or publisher, or a self-stipulated deadline.
I’ve found that authors generally fall into one of two camps…
The first type of author is more regimented. They set themselves a routine, treating their writing as a traditional job with start times, lunch break, and finish time, maybe even factoring in the odd tea break at specific intervals. Part of the reason this writer is successful is through his committed routine.
The other type of author is the mood writer. They have to be in the ‘mood.’ Four pages one day, two the next, nothing for two days. This type of write can be very creative.
What happens if you ‘hit the wall’? The ‘mood’ writer might take a break, go for a walk, do something else to take their mind off the story completely. Just like when a word is on the tip of your tongue but you struggle to spit it out. The ‘regimented’ writer sits there and works through it.
May a regimented write would argue that it is keeping to a timetable their muse knows where they are and always turns up.
Many new writers ask the question. When can I call myself a writer? I cannot remember who said this but one authors reply was … when you say you are. If you start to think like a writer and say that you are a writer, and you write, you ARE a writer, and this will be reflected in your work. YOU ARE A WRITER! Just maybe not an earning writer lol
Some ideas below to help you stay focused when writing. They are not a ‘do all’ list. Just have a read and it’s up to you if you use some, all, or even none…
1. Remove all electronic devices from your writing area.
Get rid of everything… tablets, mobile phones, etc from your chosen location. It is far too easy to just reply to that incoming text from a friend or loved one. If it’s an emergency they will come around and knock on your door!
2. Make your computer as distraction free as possible.
If you can afford it, try to get yourself a second PC or cheap laptop just for writing. You can pick up a cheap new laptop these days for next to nothing, as you will not need a high spec one as it will just need to be able to handle your preferred writing program. If a second PC/laptop isn’t an option one tip is to create a second profile for your writing. You could even deny other programs and games from running under your writing profile.
3. Go Outdoors.
We can often spend a long time staring at a screen. If you're struggling get outside, even if it’s just for just ten minutes to get yourself back on track.
Focus on your daily pattern. Write it down if you have to over the course of a week. Work out when you perform at your best, and when your down time is. Plan around this to maximize your creativity.
5. Keep A Positive Mental Attitude.
Keep saying to yourself, ‘I can do this’ and ‘I will do this’. Having your own little positive mantra can help no end.
6. Keep a list.
Have a notepad with you all the time, lots of authors keep one beside their bed for those night-time thoughts and dreams, just be aware that, if you are like me, doing this can wake you up fully and ruin the rest of your night sleep. I don’t keep a notepad in the bedroom! Also, write down anything that distracts you as it could be an issue that you can sort and prevent it from encroaching on your writing. With today’s technology the notepad come as a handy app from your mobile app store, so there is no excuse! 😉
7. Use Reminders.
Have things in your space that inspire you. These can be inspirational quotes, pictures of your favourite (wealthy) author. Pictures of your favourite author saying an inspirational quote haha. No, seriously, do it. A picture of your dream house or a sports car. They are material things but also represent financial assurance.
9. Try Set times.
Some can do this, some can’t. Life gets in the way. You could try setting a time and it’s ok if you are busy with the kids, but it can be disheartening and play on your mind thinking about it. Try setting a realistic time when you can guarantee some writing time. Set more times but of a shorter 30 or even 20 minute block. If you plan 20 mins every day. Out of your weekly 7 blocks, you have more chance of doing 3 of those over the space of a week than if you plan a 1 hour block on Saturday and something comes up and you miss a week.
Spend a little time before you start writing, even if it’s just a couple of minutes deep breathing to push out the days stress, worries, the adrenaline from running around after your 2 years old twins lol
11. Ditch Multitasking.
People often think that multitasking is an excellent thing. It's not, it has been proven to confuse the brain. The time it takes to refocus as you jump between writing and Twitter really does slow you down. I can write a 350 word page in 15 minutes (Oi! No laughing if you can do it in 5!) But, if I’m jumping between twitter and watching Netflix and writing in slow time 1 page can take me an hour. I’m not saying don’t do it, EVER, try a little test. Set your timer on your mobile phone and do a 15 minute ‘Power Write’, nonstop. You will be surprised.
You know it’s your writing time yet 10 minutes into your session you need the bathroom. You get back to it, 5 minutes later you don’t just need a drink, you NEED a drink. Get yourself squared away before you get seated. Take a drink with you (for sipping! Lol) and have a snack before if needed. Eating will take up writing time (see multi-tasking lol.)
Why do we prioritise everything else over our writing? Why not push our daily writing session up the list and get it done first?
14. Close the door on the world.
Don’t let other people draw you away from your writing. Close the door on the world in a metaphorical way also. Turn your mobile off or in another room. Can’t you do without it for an hour?
15. Ditch the Caffeine.
Wow, this is not going to make me popular, no sir, not at all! We all seem to love coffee. Not only does it stimulate the brain, it also stimulates the body. Sitting in a chair can be hard if your brain is hyped up telling your body to get moving can be hard. I quit coffee once ( I have one cup in the morning now) but I had a withdrawal headache for 3 days at the time.