“Writing a book is easy.”— No one ever
Sometimes writing is as simple as showing up to our work. The minute we sit down, we can get it done.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that worked all the time?
It’s more than just showing up. There are other fears involved that keep us from continuing our writing. We’ve picked up a few bad habits that prevent us from getting our best work down. We procrastinate, get distracted, and build up an idea of perfection that we will never reach.
If you want to break through some of these bad writing habits and get your work done, here’s how.
“I don’t have to write that down. I’ll remember it later.”
Famous last words, but there’s an easy solution to this one. Everyone seems to come up with their best ideas everywhere except in front of our computers where we need to write.
Your solution is a notebook.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be big — it only needs paper. Find something that will fit in your pocket, purse, or bag and carry it everywhere. Make it your personal habit to carry it no matter where you are going.
And don’t forget your pen either! During my coaching days, it was not uncommon for me to have upwards of three pens sticking out of my ponytail.
It seems that “later” always means “never”. Sometimes the solution to this is just to sit down and write, but often we find excuses to avoid doing so. We get busy cleaning out the fridge, decide our floor needs mopped, and despite the four inches of snow outside, we have to find a way to mow the yard.
One solution is creating a schedule. When you schedule writing into your day, treat it like an appointment with yourself. For a specified time block, you force yourself to sit down, eliminate distractions, and write. When it’s scheduled into your day, you’re less likely to break that routine.
Speaking of routine, that’s a great way to get into a habit. If you pick a scheduled time every day where you’re uninterrupted, you are more likely to sit down and get work done. For me, I always own my mornings. From the time I wake up to the time I leave for work, I make sure I have at least 45 minutes to work on some writing project. Sometimes that means I wake up earlier and sometimes I allow myself to sleep in, but I always have those minutes to my writing.
Fear of the blank page
To beat procrastination, you also need to show up with a plan. Having a writing goal without actionable steps is a recipe for failure. If you determine ahead of time what your next writing chunk of time will consist of, you’re more likely to show up. You break through the fear of the blank page.
By planning your writing, you don’t have to try to figure out where your work is going. If you write articles, make an editorial calendar so you know what you have to write in the future. If you write books, create an action plan, outline, or chapter summary ahead of time so you know what to work on.
Drowning in research
An extension of procrastination is drowning yourself in research. You continue to look for new sources of information. Well, the internet is endless, my friends, and you’re never going to reach the end of it. Set a time frame and allow yourself 15–20 minutes of research (or whatever your project requires). After that amount of time, you need to shut it down and turn to your writing. Having a schedule like this helps you narrow your focus as well as limit the overwhelming nature of finding endless sources.
As writers, we have this idea of perfection. We see a grand goal in front of us with all the sparkles and cleanliness of an ideal final product. Then we look at our first draft and see garbage. Or we realize we aren’t capable of producing the final product in the time we set out for.
When we can let go of this ideal and get down to the “why” of our writing, we set ourselves free from perfectionism. Remember that a first draft is meant to get our thoughts into physical (or digital) form. The polishing comes from the edits, rewrites, and formalities that come after. You can’t fix something if it doesn’t exist in the first place. Quiet your inner editor and let the garbage fly.
Permission from others
Everyone has a definition of success. Success as a writer looks like a traditionally published book, millions of fans, and money spilling out of our wallets.
Crazy, right? While that looks nice on the outside, for most writers that will never happen. I know it’s not my path. That definition of success relies on getting permission from others — publishers who are in the right frame of mind, right place at the right time, and looking for exactly what you wrote. Fans that are flocking to your social media accounts, reading every word you write, and following you like a puppy.
What happens when you change your definition of success? Not everyone has to have the same goal or rely on others. My definition of writing success is having the freedom to publish what I want, provide value to others by what I create, and self-publish my books. Sure, it’s nice to get people to read my books or be interested in what I’m producing, but I don’t need their permission to continue what I do. I love writing, I love the work that I create, and to me that is success.
The only permission I need is from myself — permission to create garbage at first and fix it later, permission to let go when I’m craving that extra internet research, permission to sit down and focus on creating something I value and that provides value, and permission to love what I get to do.
I don’t care to look like that crazy person with three pens in her hair if it means I get to write down a brilliant book or article idea. I don’t need to worry about being judged for loving my work and finding passion outside my areas of study. I have a passion and I’ve given myself the freedom to pursue it.
You can do it too. Give yourself permission to be free in your writing. Break your bad habits, crush procrastination and perfectionism, and find your best writing schedule.