How To Write When You Have No Reason To
We’ve all been victims to it: Procrastination. It gets worse during weekends and long breaks. When deadlines are our own or don’t exist at all, when inspiration has run out, or when our interest is elsewhere, it strikes. As the summer nears an end, I look back on all my precious free time wasted in front of the television or on the internet instead of writing and wonder what I could have done to write more. Everyone has their own excuses for not writing more, so I’ve designed some of these tactics to be customized to you. Do what works best for your specific needs, but write. Just write.
Time. Do you have it? Maybe you’re a single parent working three jobs while you upgrade your degree. Maybe you’re an unemployed dropout living in your parents’ basement whose unfinished manuscript is the one thing keeping you from getting kicked out. I don’t know. Either way, here are your solutions:
- No time. You’re super busy? No problem. Make it portable. Put it on a tablet that fits in your bag or in a notebook so that you can sneak it into classes. Every spare moment on the bus or during class if you’ve finished your work early, take it out and work on it. Trust me, as someone who did most of the first draft to her first novel on the school bus to and from school (and during boring math classes…don’t tell anyone), you’d be surprised how much you can get done between things.
- Average amount of time. Maybe you’re just not very good at putting aside time for writing. That’s okay. Try this: Write for an hour every weekday, two hours weekends and holidays, and an extra fifteen minutes before bed every day. You can adjust it according to your schedule, but when you have stuff to do and time to write, it’s just a matter of recognizing your time to write and taking advantage of it.
- Too much time. Yes, it’s possible. Your life has no structure and you don’t write because all of your time is spent doing nothing. You know you should write, you just don’t. You need structure. You need goals. So make some. Try writing two chapters per day—or whatever you think is reasonable—and spend a minimum of two hours writing per day. Or try writing three hours per day, a minimum of one chapter daily. Race yourself and see how many words you can write in ten minutes, and keep track of your high score so you can aim to beat it. Every ten chapters or whatever you think is reasonable, treat yourself to a movie or something (preferably not a video game or something that will distract you from writing for too long. The exception is books. Books are good).
Motivation. Writing without motivation is like breathing without oxygen. It just doesn’t work. You may be lacking it for a variety of reasons. You’re bored, things are too predictable, you’ve been working on the same thing for so long, and writing has become (*gasp!*) a chore.
- Write on location. Does your story take place in New York? You might not have the resources to go there, but take a little satellite tour of your setting using Google Maps or read books that take place there. Everyone knows books transport you places. But your book takes place in Ancient Greece? Go to a toga party. Take a “Which Greek God/Goddess Are You?” personality quiz. The story takes place in the far off future on a planet you made up? Build a diorama of that place! Make a toothpick sculpture of your protagonist’s home. Immerse yourself in your story’s location. Better yet, go there if you can. Sit on the bench where your protagonist had their first kiss and write. Sometimes, all you need is a change of scenery.
- Simplify it. Our stories can overwhelm us from time to time. Pretend you’re in sixth grade again and do a book report on your own book. I’m serious. Make a poster with the title in block letters smack dab in the middle. Draw out the main characters and glue their pictures on the board next to each of their descriptions. Come up with all the ridiculous English-teacher-symbolism you can get from your writing, whether you meant it to be there or not. Think as a twelve-year-old and list the things about your work the twelve-year-old you would have loved or hated. Map out the plot on a very much simplified plot line to the best of your abilities. All those complications, false climaxes, and flashbacks are suddenly boiled down to beginning, middle, and end. If you want, you can look up book report ideas for elementary school online and do those. I remember doing diorama projects and paper bag book reports in sixth grade. Keep it creative.
- Entice yourself with the tools you use. If you write longhand, choose a notebook with a cover you’ll never get bored of or decorate the cover as if it were the cover of your published work. Use new pens that write in crazy colours or that have feathers coming out the end that make you feel like some fancy-pants writer. Because screw it, you are. Maybe even use a typewriter for the satisfying *ding!* you get at the end on every line. If you use a laptop or computer, get a cool keyboard that looks like it’s made of wood or put some keyboard stickers on. Do something that makes you want to use your tools of the trade more.
- Surround yourself with the right things. If you’re lacking in creativity, a messy desk will help. If you need structure, a neat and organized desk will work better. If you’re writing a scene set in the Sahara Desert and there’s five feet of snow outside, change your computer background to camels and turn on the extra heater while you play with that weird sand-dough stuff that can be found everywhere and is meant for children ages 3 and up. If in your next scene your main character is going on a romantic date, light a scented candle. If you’re writing about vampires, pour yourself a cup of cranberry juice and pretend it’s blood. You can take sips during the messier scenes.
- Get excited. Before you start your next chapter, think about what you look forward to writing in this scene. Are you introducing a new character you really like? Is the drama going to make you cry as you write? Is a planet going to explode? It’s going to be good, and you just can’t wait to get it all written down. If you only listen to one thing from this article that I spent a whole three hours writing, make it this. If you aren’t excited about writing your next scene, your audience won’t be excited about reading it. It will be too forced. It just won’t work. I’ve told you how you can get interested in writing again, you really don’t have to do much more. Just get excited and write.
I hope these tips help you out. When you think about it, time and motivation are all you need for a lot of things, including writing. Now you can go on your merry way and write!
If that didn’t help you, here’s a piece on Writer’s Block: