Sometimes, the hardest part about writing is simply sitting down to do it. Between work, family, and social obligations, the time and motivation to write is often chipped away at and ultimately put off until “tomorrow.”
Of course, tomorrow comes, and none of yesterday’s demands have lessened (and may have actually increased), and so the cycle continues.
When it comes to being a writer, maintaining consistency in your writing practice is what makes or breaks your success.
Try these 7 tips to improve your writing practice:
1. Dealing with the Self-Doubt Monster
This one gets me. All. The. Time. Also–famous authors get hit by this. All. The. Time.
It’s called Impostor Syndrome, and you know who else had it?
Emma Watson (hey, feeling like a fraud for your successes isn’t limited to fiction writers, you know!).
Stop catering to the self-doubt monster chowing down on your productivity. You can do this. You should do this. Now, get back at it and write!
2. Appreciate the Rejections
So after everything I said above about getting over self-doubt, I have to say… you do know you’re going to get rejected, right?
Like, rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter.
You’ll have so many, you’ll never have to buy wallpaper again.
Of course, that’s only if you’re doing your job right. As in writing and then submitting it to editors and publishers to read. Write prolifically. And then submit constantly. Send out the stories that were rejected 12 times already (Harry Potter was accepted the 13th time Rowling sent it out, by the way).
And save those rejection letters. I keep mine in a bin on my desk in plain view. They’re a badge of honor reminding me that I am accomplishing something–and that someone has read my work.
Okay, so they didn’t like the work… but they read it! And that’s the start.
3. Achievable goals
In my classroom, we always set two sets of goals. One is our baseline goal, the other our stretch goal.
The baseline goal is what we are striving for in the short term. It’s something that is achievable within, say, three weeks, with some hard work and guidance.
The stretch goal is longer-term. It what we are shooting for after a semester or a year of hard, intensive work.
Make sure you are setting both sorts of goals. When I started writing, all I ever did was dream about that stretch goal of being a successful novelist. I became so focused on it that I didn’t allow myself the practice of actually writing plotlines through to completion.
Think about your writing critically; analyze what your weaknesses are and set baseline goals to address them in the short term. For me, that meant writing short stories to practice working through a full plotline before returning to my ultimate goal of novel writing.
4. Time management
This one may seem like a no-brainer in theory, but I know it can be pretty difficult to accomplish. Set aside time every day to write. Turn your phone to silent, turn off your computer’s wifi, and write. No distractions, no excuses.
Being a writer is not something you’ll accomplish on a whim. Think about the phrase: Being a writer. Can you say you are a runner if you ran once five weeks ago and maybe you’ll run again next week? Of course not. You’re a runner when you run regularly and on a schedule.
Writing is just like any other skill; the more you do it, the better you’ll get. The idea that writers are born is nonsense. This shit is hard work. Only through hard work will you succeed, “natural” talent be damned.
5. Writer’s Platform: another reason to write
Building a writer’s platform (you’re on mine, by the way) is beneficial for a number of reasons. Not only does it add extra motivation to sit down and write (I know that as soon as I hit publish here today, I could have someone reading my work, which is pretty cool), it also provides an additional outlet for you to practice your writing.
Yes, blogging helps your fiction writing. Writing practice of all sorts improves your writing brain in general and makes it easier to keep the words flowing. It also helps you develop and strengthen your voice, which will carry across most genres.
The bonus kicker to starting your platform now? You are building a readership. A group of people who grow with you and learn about you and come back for more. When you reach that glorious day of having a book to market, you will already have a group of people willing to listen. Awesome!
6. Ignoring your inner-editor instincts
That voice that makes you doubt that one word and leaves you anguishing over it for three hours? Yeah, shut that off.
This is the hardest one of the seven for me. I can spend
hours okay, days obsessing over the last word I wrote in the story instead of continuing to write the damn thing.
Look, you can edit later. It’s a lot easier to edit if you actually have words down on the page, you know? Just let the words flow and obsess about their quality later. Develop the ideas first, then edit how you want to convey them.
7. Personal accountability
My super-spreadsheet-savvy husband created a nifty setup for me to track my writing, a color-coded automated graph included! The bonus of this is that I can see over the long-term how my productivity increases the longer I practice at writing. It used to take me five or so hours to hit 1,500 words. As I learned how to wrangle in my monsters (primarily #1: Self-doubt and #6: The Inner-Editor), I now hit that in about half the time.
There’s nothing like a little confirmation of the progress you’ve made to boost the day’s productivity!
I hope these tips are helpful… Now get back to work!