So many times in a writer’s life (#ahem. Every. Single. Day?), we are faced with “I don’t wanna”, and no tricks to talk ourselves out of that mindset.
The problem is not that we can’t write; we know we can. The problem is that fear-boredom-anxiety-busyness, resistance, or the big green monster, or whatever you want to call it, has taken its death grip, and we can’t even get our butts in the chair. It’s hard, so hard.
And, Wow!…don’t I know, exactly how steep of a mountain climb lethargy is. I get it; I really do. You just can’t do it. Not today. Mañana-mañana, please.
If given in to my preferences, I’d sip a warm sencha, and proceed to whim everyday away until years later my manuscript is still sitting on the hard drive. (Been there, done that.)
Magicians have all sorts of hidden secrets up their sleeves, yet we still ooh and aah when they slice the sword through the wooden box, seemingly chopping their victim in half, only to whirl the box around and find their assistant totally intact. This is how it works with writing tricks too. You will ooh and aah when suddenly you find yourself in a groove, unable to shut down the computer because you can’t stop yourself from writing.
Here are the five super-easy, painless tricks to rev us all towards that glorious tipping point where our brain-heart-body and fingers-on-keyboards want to go, go, go.
1) Set a low, low bar
I’m talking real loooooow. Have a heart and assign yourself one of the following gentle tasks:
- Set one-minute alarm; write anything that comes to mind.
- Write one sentence for the piece you are avoiding.
- Write, pen to paper, two questions you have about your project
- Mind map about your story, chapter, scene, or characters. Again, one-minute only.
Of course, if you feel the desire to keep going…enjoy. This low-bar distinction saves me over and over and over again. Ironically, it also gives me more back-door access to productivity than any other trick I have up my sleeve.
2) Open the file.
When it gets so bad that I just can’t bear the thought of cranking out a single word, I simply open the document I feel I ”should” be working on. Yep, that’s it; that’s all you need to do, Sista. Keep it open on your desktop for tomorrow’s low-bar assignment.
I can’t tell you the number of times that overcoming this one-minute barrier to entry turned into an hour-long writing sesh. (If not, that’s perfect, too!) Before you diss this profound trick for its crazy simplicity, consider that you just skimmed bits of your work and jump-started your conscious thinking on the matter. You’re also set to get typing tomorrow; no clanky document to fiddle with.
3) Dessert first, hell yeah!
I’ve heard that eating a little something sweet before our meals allows us to absorb nutrients better. Sometimes, too, the spirit needs an up-lifting break before producing good work.
I’m not saying gorge yourself on an entire cake (real or metaphorical). But, allowing 15 minutes to satisfy a craving might just open the floodgate of ideas and help you concentrate when you couldn’t before. Watch a sunrise with a cup of coffee. Read a few pages in a crime thriller. Make love to your spouse. Take the dog for a brisk walk. Go on down that rabbit hole of the Internet. Even, eat some chocolate. A mini-massage, an afternoon at the movie, a lunch with friends? All are fair game.
4) Create a clearing
When all the items weighing on our minds have built up too much, they will distract us and slow us down. I like to give myself half an hour to tackle the pile. Wash the dishes, return some phone calls. Get that email response off my chest. The goal here is to clear enough energetic breathing room to focus, to have the headroom to even think up what we want to write down. So, take some time to first empty out your own internal operating system—not completely as this is a fruitless task—but enough to create space. Then, see what emerges.
5) Put on the pajamas
In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert, wrote about taking out “the goddamn scrunchie” and dressing up to get to work. Part of the message seemed to be that your muse doesn’t really want to smell you anymore; the other part focuses on self-love.
In my book, love starts with accepting ourselves in pajamas. Sometimes, the only way that muse will be fed is if I bring it into my bed. When we don’t feel like being all writer-business-like, I say, get comfy and crawl under the covers. With love, grace, and of course, the laptop. Don’t worry if you doze off while you are working; allow it. When you wake up, rest the laptop back on your thighs and write a paragraph from that sleepy head, the glorious place where ideas have a chance to live before being scheduled or squelched out by all the to-dos.
Remember: It’s up to you to flesh out what tricks and tips magic-ify your life. The rest that don’t? Dump ‘em. Repeat your personalized, cinchy tricks as often as necessary, every day if you must.
Elizabeth Bartasius applied each and every one of these tricks (often!) to complete her award-winning novel, The Elegant Out, praised by Kirkus Reviews as “…a riveting tale of maturing womanhood and an insightful peek into the creative process.” She lives in the Caribbean with her husband. Connect with her and access an array of tricks & treats in her private creative gallery at www.elizabethbartasius.com.