'Tis the Season... (to forgive all of your non-writing shenanigans)
A new year and a new decade are less than a month away! Yeah, I can't fecking believe it, either, but here we are.
This is the perfect time to press pause and look back at how successful you were with your writing goals in 2019 and develop a strategy to be more productive in 2020.
There are a bajillion, literally: a bajillion, writing memes on the inter-webs. We've all seen them, but the one that makes the rounds most often is the pie chart that breaks down how a writer actually spends his time 'writing', ie: least amount of time spent is on the writing itself, and miscellaneous procrastinations make up the rest of the chart.
Does that resonate with your writing process?
Let me be clear right now: I am one of those writers that believes only the act of writing is writing. Anything less is just bullshit to excuse laziness.
Hear me out.
I could spend 30 years 'thinking about writing' the greatest novel since To Kill a Mockingbird, but if I don't actually Krazy Glue my ass to the chair and tap the keys, it ain't writing. It's fantasizing, much like sitting around all day dreaming about making out with David Tennant does not constitute actually making out with David Tennant (unfortunately).
Browsing porn sites, obsessively checking your IG and FB feeds for new likes, or binge-watching whatever everyone else is watching on Netflix are time-wasters best used as rewards for actual writing.
It's really easy to get sucked into the latest serial killer documentary and watch all ten episodes in one sitting. And there is nothing wrong with that. I've done it, believe me. But I do it only AFTER I've completed my pages for the day. No pages=no Ted Bundy.
On Twitter alone, I'ver seen "writers" hurl such gems as you can't write everyday or else you'll get burnt out and I only write when I'm inspired.
Um, really? Is that so? It's at this junction I usually ask said "writer" how many books, poems, etc. they've published and am promptly blocked by said "writer" on social media. Sometimes the truth hurts. Get used to it. Not everyone is going to yes you to death, and not everyone is going to like—let alone LOVE—your work.
Pro-tip: very often, inspiration will only come if you're actually writing. Imagine that, huh?
Going down the wrong story path is often the greatest fountain of inspiration for me when writing. A wrong turn ultimately leads to discovery, and discovering something new or something you missed is pretty exciting. It's like an adrenaline shot to your brain. The ideas flow more readily and rapidly.
And while I lament tossing fifteen-hundred words out, I'm always careful to remind myself that they were the wrong words.
Burnt out? If sitting down and writing words—whether it be 50 or 500—per day is too much for you, then you really need to ask the bigger questions about what you really want to achieve with this writing thing. Writing is hard, yes, but it shouldn't be that hard.
Here's the truth: I love writing, even when it sucks. No, especially when it sucks.
I'd rather slog through a day of uninspired writing than sit around waiting days, months, or years for inspiration to gyrate on my face. I have always found something worthwhile at the end of a 'bad' session. Always. Writing when you don't 'feel' it is the benchmark of a pro. It means you're taking the job seriously. If you don't take your own writing seriously, how can you possibly expect anyone else will either?
And, let's face it: the writing doesn't stop when the act is over. Obviously you think about it. But you also dream about it. The world you are inventing is always there, bubbling and forming just under the surface. Those eureka moments can happen anytime, anywhere—but they won't happen at all if you're not writing.
I can't even begin to guess how many times I've stumbled onto something fantastic in my own story only because I forced myself to write what I felt were uninspired pages and thought about them later.
Think about it like this: writing is a job. We don't always love our jobs. Sometimes our jobs are work. And, let's be honest and cut through the b.s., writing can be pretty fecking hard work even in the best of times. If everyone could do it, they would. There was a time where nearly everyone I knew was 'writing a book' and yet I am the only one who actually finished mine—and, got it published.
So, a new year. Here's what I want you to do:
1. Think about what you wanted to achieve with your writing in 2019 and ask yourself how successful were you at reaching those targets?
If you can't be brutally honest, don't bother. We all have shit going on, responsibilities, blah, blah, blah. Welcome to adulting.
2. What are some things you can do now to remove obstacles so 2020 will be more successful for you as a writer?
For example, writers almost always say oh, I just don't have time.
Pro-tip: watch a lot less TV. You'll be amazed at how much more time you have.
3. Treat your writing as a job, even if you're not making money off of it (yet).
If you act professional and show up every day, good things will happen. But, as the saying goes, you gotta be in it to win it. Rarely, if ever, do success stories involve a publisher or literary agent knocking on someone's door unsolicited saying hey, I hear you're a writer. What can you show me?
4. Write especially when you don't want to.
I guarantee it will be your best work.
5. Set yourself up for success.
Make your goals attainable. No, you're not going to write 180K words in a night and you will need to polish that first draft. Set yourself up for success, not failure.
Briefly, here's my process:
I write everyday.
I reread the last page I wrote in my previous session, revise anything that jumps out at me, and then dive right in. I strive for two-thousand words a day. Sometimes, it's a slow and painful 2K; others I end up with 4K words without breaking a sweat.
But, I don't force it, either. I know when it's just not working and I need a reset. This is where a pro-mindset is key. I don't stop for the day. I stop for ninety-minutes, then dive back in for another ninety. I can't do that if I'm watching Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, or Apple+ nightly. Just sayin'.
At the end of the day, I just want you to write.
Sincerely, I do.
Why? Because I want to read your stories. The world needs to hear your voice.
Don't wait for inspiration.
Be the inspiration.
Now, give yourself a break if you didn't quite reach any of your targets in 2019, get off your ass and start planning to make 2020 your best writing year yet.
I can't wait to read your story.
See you on the other side!