You started a novel. Every day you rushed through the ‘life’ parts of your life in order to sit down and write. Every day the idea of hammering on a keyboard or splashing your emotions out on paper thrilled you. You couldn’t wait to start the next chapter, page, paragraph, or sentence. When you weren’t working on your novel, your mind was still a ringing forge for your story. No matter where you were, or what you were (supposed to be) doing, you couldn’t leave your characters alone; they were so real.
So what happened? These days, when you should be reaching the ‘actually’ exciting parts of your novel, you just don’t have it. Sitting down to write is homework, just like those three pages of algebra problems you have to answer when you’re done reading this. When you’re not writing (which is most of the time) you mind is thinking about some movie quote, humming a sickeningly repetitive song, or worrying about your fantasy football line up. To make things (much) worse, when you do force yourself to sit down, you spend forty-five minutes of your hour on facebook, and the other fifteen you spend reading the terrible prose you scribbled down three weeks ago – when you last touched your novel. You have lost your passion. It’s gone, hopelessly lost. Better post about it on facebook.
But, if you’re like me (and you are, if you’re still reading) there’s something in you that still wants to write. You just can’t get your mind to cooperate, and when you drag it to the office in chains, it becomes responsible for the worst prose written since your four-year-old sister wrote a “novel” about a princess and her pet unicorn. Don’t lose hope yet, this post wouldn’t exist if I didn’t think you could reclaim your passion for writing (or anything else, for that matter.) Here are some very practical tips which recently helped me resurrect my writing life from an ugly summer-break death.
I recently wrote a post focusing on what these goals should look like, so I won’t spend much time here. However, I must emphasize that your goals must be concrete. You must chose to write 100 words in a day, not “some.” You must choose to finish three chapter outlines, not “work on outlining.” if your goals are ill-defined, you will NEVER reach any of them, and will quickly become discouraged. Also, never sit down to write without a goal. You may feel excited enough that you don’t think you’ll need a goal, but you will. Not because you’ll falter that day, but maybe next week. Set goals frequently, and meet them (always.) I have literally come out of bed because I forgot to get my writing done on one particularly busy day. MEET YOUR GOALS.
When I started the 100 word challenge, my writing passion was done. I was blogging, and that was all the writing I could do. No drafting, no editing, no outlining, no critiquing. A couple minutes a day on a blog was too much writing for me. I’d spent too much time just ‘writing’ and no time at all meeting goals. Since adopting the challenge, I haven’t missed a hundred words on a single week day. Even better, I’ve started to get excited about my story again, logging tons of “extra” words on most days. Rather than facing the 100 word drudgery like I was earlier, I now look forward to my writing time (again.) You can too.
Don’t Set Deadlines
Everybody loves a good contradiction right? How are you supposed to set goals, without deadlines. In the sense I am intending, goals are small, achievable objectives which are to be met over a short period of time. Deadlines are thumbscrews. Deadlines sound like “finish my novel by October 15th.” What’s wrong with a Deadline like that? In August, it’s hard to see October. All through August and September you’ll be working (or procrastinating) without feeling like you’re getting anything done at all. Then, when October hits, you’ll have to sprint, spending unhealthy amounts of time writing and come October 16th (whether you finished or not) you’ll be done writing for a good long while.
So, maybe you’re not drafting right now. Maybe you’re outlining, or still way back at the brainstorming phase. My advice here is this: TAKE NOTES. Whatever ideas you have, write them down. (I find the medium of pen and paper freeing for this process.) Underline good ideas that you want to use. Circle ones you’re not sure about. Highlight ones that fill plot-holes. Do whatever it takes, but WRITE STUFF DOWN. Feel free to get excited about what you’re doing. If you are brainstorming, CHASE RABBIT TRAILS, they may lead to buried gold. If one idea grabs your attention, follow it until you find a new idea. Don’t stop writing stuff down. Brainstorm for as long as you can without exhausting yourself. Give yourself time to “get in the mood.” After your done, be sure to keep your notes accessible so that you can add to them all the ideas you come up with when you’re cooking dinner or lying in bed.
Use Your Notes
The next day, when you get to your writing time, USE THE NOTES YOU TOOK. What ideas need to be further developed? What ideas need to be worked straight into your draft? What ideas need to be set aside, for now or forever? So many times I’ve had fantastic brainstorming sessions go for naught because I can’t remember all my ideas the next day. So it’s off to facebook until my mind processes my recall request. And that usually takes a while. Don’t let that happen. You have notes so sit down and GET RIGHT TO IT!
Take a single note, a single idea, and create a single, clear goal. “Edit chapter 1 to add this subplot.” “Show MC holding enchanted knife in chapter 5.” “Brainstorm five disasters which could stop MC in chapter 9. (Bonus points if more than one can be used together.)” Focus on one goal for that day, and get it worked in. If you’re still feeling good when that’s done, pick another specific goal and go to work. You’ll get so much more done than you would just “working on your novel,” and when you’re getting stuff done, you get excited. When you get excited about something three or four days in a row, the excitement is compounded into renewed passion.
These are the steps that I have taken to resurrect my writing (and blogging) passions over the past couple of weeks, I hope they work for you. Check back and let us know how things are going!
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