One of my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) friends asked me recently if I’ve kept up my near-daily writing frenzy, and I was sad to have to say that I haven’t. The act of writing is something I struggle with, as I can always find things to do other then make the clackity noise. But summer is finally here, which for many means a chance to work on personal writing projects. For me, it means a season devoted to making writing a habit. No matter what your motivation, there are going to be obstacles.
Obstacle #1: Writer, meet block.
Whether you’re writing a script or a novel, short stories or blog posts, getting started is often the most difficult part. There have been many times where I’ve sat down to write only to find myself staring at a handful of words on the screen an hour later.
I asked my writer friends what they do to overcome writer’s block, and many recommended prompts. Words, situations, pictures, maps—there are a variety of writing prompts that can help spark inspiration. I’ve found them most helpful when I want to write just to write.
Many writers recommend that you stop writing while you still have words left in you so it’s easier to start again. There are many “rules” for writing. Follow them, break them, make your own—it’s up to you.
Obstacle #2: I don’t have time, but hold on while I tweet that.
Having an idea of what to write doesn’t matter unless you make time to write. To help, I’m going to take a cue from Dawn Armfield:
I live on Google. Ok, not the planet Google, but the great spacious cloud of Google. I use many of the tools extensively, for nearly everything. [...] So how could I make them work for me in the same way that 750words works for others? I created a calendar event that emails me every morning, alerting to me to my time to write for 10 minutes (I picked 10 minutes to get me started — and I typically write about 500 words in that 10 minutes). I also use Docs to write in, so I can write from anywhere.
I think it’s brilliant when someone can take the tools they’re already using and use them in a new way. With all that connectivity, you really can write anywhere. But then there’s always…
Obstacle #3: No one will know if I don’t write.
To stay on track and keep writing, find someone who will hold you accountable. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a fellow writer, be vocal about your intention to write and count on your network to support you. Use whatever works best for you.
During NaNoWriMo, I discovered that I benefited a lot from meeting with other writers. Ask around to see if your area has a writing group or workshop, or start your own. Not only will it hold you to your writing commitment, but it’ll give you a chance to get feedback on your work.
If you’re on Twitter, you can use the hashtag #amwriting to tweet your progress and connect with other writers. The practice was started by Johanna Harness to “bring writers together to talk about their writing thoughts—as they write.” It’s great for both accountability and inspiration.
Obstacle #4: Distractions, distractions, dis…wait, I was writing?
Sometimes writing comes down to avoiding distractions. Ice cream, beaches, and sunshine certainly don’t make it easy to sit at a computer for any length of time (though you can always go old school with a notebook and pen while sitting outside). If you’re like me and aren’t lucky enough to have an iPad for a writing coach, these online tools may help you focus.
Ommwriter (Mac only)
CreaWriter (Windows only)
What tools and methods have worked for you? What are your writing habits?