We've all been there. Those days when you just can't find the time or the will to write. One day isn't so bad. When a day turns into a week or a month, it's hard to break the cycle.
When I don’t write I feel bad about myself. Like I’m a failure and somehow not worth the food it takes to keep me alive. Harsh I know but that’s how I feel. And the longer I go without writing the worse I feel. The guilt making it even harder to write. What if I sit down and I can only write crap today?
Somewhere along the line, I forgot that writing it fun. It’s my escape. Getting through this was and still is not easy. But I found some solid steps to get myself and hopefully you headed in the right direction. The direction that keeps you writing and working hard to make your dreams a reality.
1. Stop Making ExcusesThis can be hard. A mindset shift is the easiest way I’ve found to stop feeling bad about missing writing days and stop feeling the need to make excuses. You need to understand that writing is a choice. As is not writing. Whether you miss a day because your kids are sick or you decided to binge watch that show that dropped on Netflix, it’s a choice. Take ownership of that choice. Take responsibility of that choice. And tomorrow? Make a better choice (if you chose to binge watch Netflix. Obviously taking care of your sick kids is the right call). Look at your choices and see if there’s a realistic solution to get some words down. Stay up late or get up early are two ways to work around family and temptation.
2. Daily AffirmationsThis is one of those hokey silly things people talk about. One of those people being my mentor, Tim Grahl. Tim is not what you’d call hokey or woo woo and he even thought it was stupid and made sure no one was around when he first started but it made him change his behavior. When he looked himself in the eye and said he was a writer and a hard worker every morning and every evening, he didn’t want to be lying to himself. So, he made the changes he needed to, to make sure those words were true. Once he got on a good path with writing and work, he took the affirmations and changed them. Anything he wanted to be (More patient, more attentive, etc.) he made an affirmation. It changed his life (read more about in his book Running Down a Dream, which I highly recommend-link below). I’ve just started my affirmations and have found the same motivation. I don’t want to stand there and say I’m a writer knowing I chose to waste hours watching reruns of a favorite show. (Taking time and self-care are not bad. But make a conscious decision about when and why you watch your favorite reruns. And own it.)
3. Working with an Accountability Partner/GroupHaving someone hold you accountable can be a great way to overcome resistance. I once heard of a man writing out a large check to a political campaign he didn’t agree with and giving it to a friend who was to mail it if he didn’t reach his goal by a specific date. He finished the project he’d been avoiding for months, early. While this is an extreme example, you can see how this can be beneficial. I use this to keep on my exercise routine. By meeting up with a friend to go for walks I can’t talk myself out of it at the last minute because I’d have to call and cancel on her. Which I would never do unless there was an emergency. So, I started a Facebook group. I’m in charge of helping others keep writing but the best thing happened. On days when I wasn’t feeling it, other people in the group stepped up and were writing. And because I was getting notifications, I ended up getting a couple of hundred words even on my bad days. (Link to the group will be listed below)
4. Set SMART GoalsSMART stands for Specific, measurable, attainable, result based, and in a set amount of time. One of the biggest ways authors hurt themselves is by setting outlandish daily word count goals because they saw in their writing group that Suzy WritesALot can write a book every three days and they try to do the same. But here’s the thing, Suzy isn’t you. She isn’t in YOUR situation. So rather than set a goal based on someone else’s productivity and schedule, figure out what is realistic for you. I do sprints a lot. And because I can write about 1000 words in 30 minutes, I decided I should always write 1000 words in 30 minutes. You know what happened? I was writing shitty words or not at all. So, my goal for the day, is 500 words in my fiction project. That’s it. I can usually do that before the kids wake up so everything else throughout the day is a bonus. SMART. Keep an experimental mindset as you figure out what works for you. On top of the word count goals, I like to have specific tasks. Like writing a scene or restructuring my chapter. If you work better with tasks, use those instead of word counts or in addition to. Just do you.
5. Daily motivationThere is a slew of motivational videos on YouTube that are free and anywhere from a few minutes to an hour long. I like to use Jocko Willink’s videos. His videos on discipline have changed my life. There’s nothing like hearing a Navy Seal tell you to stop feeling sorry for yourself and go make the change you want in your life to get you through a tough time and moving toward something better. If that’s not your style, there are also videos from celebrities and other professionals to meet pretty much everyone’s needs. Just find someone who gets you motivated and who you can hear in the back of your head as you’re considering quitting.
6. Give Yourself Permission to Take a Break This goes hand in hand with Stop Making Excuses and Daily Motivation and Discipline. When you take a break when you spend the day watching Netflix or with your kids or husband or whatever, choose it. Make a conscious choice that you need a break on Friday (or whatever day in the future) and then take it and enjoy it. Don’t give in in the second that you feel like you need to. Once you give in once it will be easier to do it every day. Plan your break for after your daily task or for the next day to keep the discipline muscles you built up strong.
This can be hard, and it took a lot to remind myself that writing is fun. Some people do like to suffer for their art but I’m not one of them. Yet I let myself get caught up in the negativity of the writing communities I’m part of and the daily grind. I started looking at writing as a curse to be avoided. But I love writing. And I’m blessed to have a husband who’s supportive and helps me make this dream come true. So, the next time you see a post asking what you accomplished today, if you didn’t get anything done and you feel bad about it, don’t make excuses. Make a resolution to do something specific tomorrow. Maybe write a scene you’ve been playing with in your head or outline that new idea. You can’t go back and fix today, but you can make tomorrow better. Start small and take it one day at a time. See you out there!