My cat is the best cat in the world, except when I’m writing. When I’m writing, he suddenly insists upon being petted, claims the warmth of my laptop as his own, or feels the need to vomit all over the carpet. The thing about BCITW is that he makes himself something of a distraction. We all have distractions and things that will make us want to put our writing off until later. I don’t know about you, but I can tell myself “I’ll write after I do this one thing” for hours, or even days on end. This can be hugely detrimental, especially if you’re freelance and don’t have any deadlines but the ones you set yourself. This is one of my biggest hurdles to overcome. In fact, it’s a miracle you’re reading this blog post at all. I can be “working on” something for ages without actually getting anything done.
I think the main reason I procrastinate, and I hope others can identify with this, is that I’m afraid to write badly. Moreover, when I do start writing, I become disillusioned and stop, because the actual product I’m producing is not living up to the expectations I built around it. So, things get abandoned, or it just becomes easier to check Facebook or read a blog (thank you, by the way). I mean to do it, but the idea and the possibility of it was better than the actual experience If this sounds like something you’ve experienced, or you’re just having trouble getting motivated to write, there are things you can do to help!
First: Don’t worry about quality on early drafts. There will be multiple drafts. There will be re-writes. The first time, just get the story down. I always say, when I’m writing my first draft: “This is not my novel. This is the primordial ooze that my novel will eventually evolve from.” It’s amazingly liberating. “This is not the finished product! This is not what it will be. I will come back and change this. But, for now, I’m just going to keep on writing and keep the story moving.” It’s the most freeing mental state I’ve found for writing first drafts. And, once you have the first draft down, editing is a lot easier than staring at a blank page. I even use my word processor to color-code things that need re-writing, more research, and so on. That makes it easy to come back to, and eases any pangs of conscious I may have about leaving it less than what I want it to be. Most of the time, when you go back and read what you wrote it’s not as bad as you thought it was anyway. If you draw, think of it this way: your first draft will be your sketch, roughly blocking out subjects, background, and primary focus. Shading, textures, depth, and nuances will all come later.
Second: Get involved with others. Nothing inspires quite as much as being part of a group of writers, most of whom are... amazingly enough… writing. Having something to share with people is a good motivator to write. The boost that made me finally finish my first short story was a local writers’ group. I was going to my first meeting there, and did not want to turn up to the meeting empty-handed, lest there be critiques. Turns out there were none, but I still got a solid polished draft done. That short story turned out to be my first sell.
Even if a group is not available to you, simply telling your friends that you’re doing it and asking them to proofread for you when you get it done can help. Give them a date you’ll have it for them to proofread, even! If they’re anything like my friends, they’ll be constantly teasing you that you haven’t finished that story you told them you were going to have them look at. Nagging serves a purpose sometimes.
Third: Reward yourself. That book you’re dying to read? That new outfit you want? That new restaurant you want to try? Sorry! You can’t have it until you’ve reached your writing goal. Reach a writing goal? Celebrate! It’s an occasion! Make sure you treat it like one. Giving writing goals a sense of celebration and occasion can bring a lot to your writing life. This goes very well with the second suggestion, also. Your writing widows, the people who suffer in your absence when you’re writing, should be very glad to see you, too.
None of this is stuff you haven’t heard before. But, it’s like losing weight. We all have a basic understanding of how to do it, yet the process of actually doing it can be very difficult for a lot of people. Freeing yourself up to write badly, getting friends involved in communities, and setting goals for yourself and celebrating them are ultimately so helpful in bringing ideas into reality that I feel that we all need to be reminded of these things. Now, stop reading blogs and go write! Just make sure the cat is fed first. He’ll bother you in the middle of your best scene if you don’t. That’s what mine does.