So I am super in awe of your ability to write so much, let alone so well. Do you have any tips for getting into a writing habit? / How do you keep yourself accountable for updating and the like?
In the past I’ve generally said it’s not a good idea to learn how to write as much as I write, because being this prolific is usually a sign that something else isn’t going so great in your life BUT ACTUALLY I do have some tips lol.
Feel free to ignore them. These will not apply to everyone, and you are not doing anything wrong if you’re not already doing them or just plain don’t like them. <3 Being a great writer has never been predicated on writing every day, and that’s the plain and simple truth.
But here’s how I do it:
* I have a monthly wordcount. It used to be daily, but this didn’t work because I have chronic illnesses that sometimes make it impossible for me to write several days in a row. My monthly wordcount is 25,000 words per month. Last year, and for the years previous, it was 50,000 words a month. Yes, I did a NaNoWriMo every month for three years. Do I recommend this to others? No.
* I don’t add up my words per day, I add them up per chapter. That’s satisfying for me. But it also makes me feel accountable re: my writing in that, I can’t make 25,000 words if I work on like….fifteen different chapters and don’t finish any. So I have to finish chapters. That’s the rule.
* Plot out my stories or my big stories for the year. I like to know where my output is going. I know I want to be putting a certain amount of words into four different projects. There’s room for movement. But I stay accountable because I know what I’m meant to be working on.
* Er, guilt. Never underestimate the power of guilt when you think ‘shit I haven’t posted a chapter in a while :/ :/ :/‘ this is apparently something that makes me write things. It’s not healthy, lol. I mean it’s not terrible? I care about the people who read my stories and I want them to enjoy what I’m doing, and that’s like…pretty normal if you’re creatively minded and want to share that kind of stuff with people. But guilt can be pretty crushing, I don’t recommend it.
* I’m meant to take five days off for every 25k I write. I play hooky with this all the time, especially if I feel guilty about not posting enough (I am currently resisting taking a break right now lol). But anyway, scheduling breaks is important. I have other things I love! I want to do those things too.
As for tips re: how to get into a writing habit. My advice for that is actually different to what I do now. Writing is like…flexing a mental muscle. I might be at a level where I’m powerhousing in the gym every day, I’m not going to tell everyone else to do the writing equivalent of two hundred sit ups if they can only manage three.
So here’s some advice on how to get into a writing habit:
* 100 words a day, over 100 days. Or 50 words a day, over 50 days. This is great. This is great for writers who have forgotten to write, this is great for newbie writers, it’s great for people who want to write and don’t know how.
Here’s the thing, you write 50 words a day for 50 days, you have a nice little hashtag/goalpost if you want them. It’s doable for most people. Also if you’re having a good day, chances are you’ll write a lot more than 50 words. You can alter this if you’re disabled or have different needs. Maybe it’s just 50 words a day on weekdays, or 100 words a day on weekends. Or 50 words a day when you have spoons.
That’s about flexing your writing muscles when they are little and need some stretching. You learn how to do the push ups before you do even one, let alone a hundred, and exercises like this are great, even if you totally abandon them later on, because you can trust in your output.
* Like to get in the deep end? NaNoWriMo. Supportive communities, accountability in general, and a sense that you’re not alone and everyone is struggling like you are, lol. Except for that one person who is done in three days. Ignore them.
* Consider writing some stuff that you can finish. A lot of people want to write a novel, but it will be fun to write some poetry, short stories, drabbles, novellas etc. that you can finish faster, and get a sense of accomplishment for. Writing can be very lonely, and it can lack validation, so it helps to build in a sense of achievement and accomplishment. Some writers do it through wordcount, but honestly, finishing things is pretty amazing. Even if you don’t like it, if you finished it, that’s awesome.
* Look up some writing blogs and websites. Get overwhelmed. Feel like you’re doing everything wrong. Then take a deep breath and sigh out every shitty thing you read and remember the two or three things you were really excited about trying. Try them. Ignore everything else.
* Consider prompt communities. They can be amazeballs.
* If you’re someone who likes accountability, and are in fandoms big enough for this, consider signing up to Big Bangs and Exchanges. These can be very stressful for people so obviously YMMV (I don’t do these myself), but what they provide is a sense of community (this is important) and they provide deadlines. Doesn’t mean everyone always sticks to them, but it can be quite motivational. Especially if there are Tumblrs / DW sites etc. associated with the Exchange where you can see others struggling as well.
* Take breaks. And don’t just take breaks when you’re burnt out (I learned this the hard way). Take them when you’re inspired. This last bit is something I have always struggled with. I have always grown up believing that if you feel motivated and inspired to write, then goddamn it, you should write!!! But over the years I’ve come to realise that sometimes you should let that energy stir excitedly inside of you and not write. And that will be when you rejuvenate yourself, and come up with new ideas.
* Try writing when you don’t particularly feel like it, but have the time. Sit there and say to yourself: ‘I’m going to try to do this, just one or two sentences, and if inspiration visits me, then cool, and if it doesn’t, then cool.’ This strengthens the writing muscle of cultivating inspiration by doing the work. No one generally likes strengthening this muscle, because it requires the most self-discipline. It’s the one that will pay off the most in the future. At least you’ll get a couple of sentences out of it. But if you really want to write more, sometimes you have to sort of…do that part of the exercise that is less fun but means you’ll have more capacity to create inspiration in yourself in the future. <3
* Ignore any writing advice that pulls you down or makes you feel like ‘I can’t do that, it’s too exhausting/draining/no one can do that.’ Including anything here. As with going to the gym, anything that taxes you too much straight away is not good for you or healthy. Start in a way that works for you, and be prepared to stretch yourself, but again, in a way that works for you. If you find yourself going gung ho into writing exercises and then losing all motivation for months afterwards, chances are, you went too hard, too fast. You did the equivalent of ‘going to the gym every night for a week after never having gone before, and then finding the experience so offputting you hate the gym.’
And if you go too gung ho into things and stop for months, give yourself permission to just start again, instead of telling yourself you’re a bad or lazy writer. I promise you, that you are neither of those things. (I don’t mean you specifically OP, I mean anyone reading this). Learning how to write is like…it’s hard to do, and we each have a unique formula for ourselves that takes time to work out. It’s only natural that we will find ways that don’t work for us more often than we find ways that do. Give yourself permission to give up on things, abandon exercises and stories, because as soon as you clear away that space, you’ll have more energy to try things in the future. <3