It’s All Words on a Page

Sunday 4 January 2015 by

I find this time of year particularly difficult for writing. The New Year’s Resolutions might give you a burst of energy for it, but if you’re anything like me, this energy follows weeks of lethargy. All that Christmas food and drink slows down my brain, and I find very little time and energy for writing between the chaos of parties and visiting relatives. Getting back into it in January can be a real slog, resolutions or no.

It’s my general experience that my fiction writing is the first thing to suffer. I guess it uses a different part of my brain, or the comparative length of my fiction vs my non-fiction stuff puts me off. Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to warm my writing brain up a bit by doing a lot of blog posts, catching up with my non-fiction stuff, but I’ve still not even opened the fiction files in order to attempt digging in to them.

I used to feel bad about this sort of thing. I know the wisdom of writing every day and why it’s hugely beneficial to have a routine, but the fact is, even if you are utterly dedicated to your writing and do 1000 words even on Christmas day, there will come a time when life throws a spanner in the works and you’ll need to know how to come back from that.

I am by no means perfect. I’m as quick to fall out of a habit as I am to form one, but I do have a few things I’ve tried and tested and found to be pretty good for getting the writing going again.

1. Concentrate on small goals

For me, launching straight into editing a 60,000 word fiction project just isn’t going to happen. So for the past week, I’ve been doing a lot of blogging. In fact, so much blogging that I’m ahead of myself on the blog almost by a whole month, and Fran is receiving this post on time, without having to prod me for it first! Yes, it isn’t what I feel I need to be doing, but it’s not wasted time. It’s gaining me time, because when I have the energy to write, I won’t have blog posts sat in the pile waiting to be written, leaving me able to concentrate on my fiction guilt free.

If your key project is looking too big and unmanageable, work on something else that’s smaller. Write blog posts or articles, do some character studies or background stuff. It’s all good practice and will help warm you up to the big goal.

2. Have a plan

The reason I’ve been able to get so far ahead with blogging is because I sat down one day and planned what I was going to post. I have four regular slots on my blog, only one of which (a ‘what happened last week in my life’ feature) that I can’t write ahead of time. With those planned out with topics, it was simply a case of filling in the gaps with reviews and the extra stuff, like posts about resolutions etc. Without this plan, I know I would have sat down to blog and just ended up in the weird corner of YouTube again, with nothing to show for the time. With the plan, I was able to focus and get a lot of writing done very quickly. Which I always find is the one thing that consistently makes me really want to write more.

3. Little and Often

One of the best bits of creative advice I ever got was from my music teacher in secondary school, who said writing music (substitute any creative endeavour here, it’s all the same sort of thing) was 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. He said it so often, I can still hear it in his Geordie accent whenever I think of it. It’s not new or ground-breaking advice – I’ve heard much the same from a number of different avenues in the years since – but it’s advice I took to my heart at the time, and have remembered ever since.

Inspiration is unlikely to come when you aren’t doing anything. I always find that the more words I write, the more I want to write. It’s why things like NaNoWriMo work – if you write a lot regularly, you will find it easier to write a lot. So rather than waiting for inspiration, sit down and write 250-500 words every day. It will be a horrible slog at first, but I guarantee after a few days, 250 will not be enough. And soon 500 won’t be either. The more you write, the more that part of your brain works, the more ideas and inspiration you have. So get that 99% perspiration started as soon as possible. Sweat out the fatigue and the apathy and a few of those Brussels sprouts you were forced to eat over Christmas.

But don’t sweat the words. Don’t waste time worrying if they are good or not. Remember, whatever you’re writing, it’s all words on a page. And ultimately, words on a page are progress towards whatever you happen to be working on, whether those words be good, bad or ugly. Get the ugly out of the way, and the good will inevitably follow.

You can follow Loralei on Twitter: @LAHaylock

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