First, a cute baby elephant picture to start off with since, well, they are adorable and people need to STOP POACHING THEM. I digress–a conversation for another time.
So, I thought of this post while I was cleaning the house, and decidedly NOT writing. It’s something I’ve pondered in the last few months (while ALSO not writing), and I thought it’s something to discuss. Because I’ve seen a lot of posts about:
how to write,
what to write,
how to build characters,
how to build worlds,
etc. etc. etc., (all informative and wonderful, by the way)
but not as much about
what to do to keep yourself from not wanting to write!!!
So for a long time, I thought that maybe I didn’t really want to be a writer, because I wasn’t dedicated enough, I didn’t wake up at 3:30 a.m. every morning to write (YES, I spoke with a mother of numerous children who said that’s when she would wake up to work!). If I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to do anything, this is what I would look like:
and if anyone approached me, I would do this:
So, this leads me to my point, that everyone works differently when it comes to their art. Some people can wake up before the world exists (because in my eyes, if the sun ain’t up yet, it’s a literal crime to be conscious), some people get an idea and work obsessively on it, no food, no water, no sleep, peeing into a cup (but what about the other functions? THAT is not something I even want to explore…).
I do think though, that for a lot of writers, it is not something they always want to do, it does feel like work sometimes (or a lot of the time, depending on what else is going on in your life), and that you shouldn’t feel ashamed for not wanting to write every second you have free time.
Because that’s how I felt (and still feel) since I began to realize about a year ago that I really wanted to do this whole writer-writes-a-book thingy.
And back then, I would write in spurts, pulling out the old drafts I’d puttered on when I was 18, reading them over and being like “hey, these aren’t half-bad, I’m pretty fucking awesome and talented!!!!!”
So then I would start to read them over and tweak them, editing, re-wording, looking up really cool words online that made me sound super smart and that I only sort-of understood the meaning of, and guess what?!
I got super bored, super quickly and left that draft unfinished to watch some Real Housewives of whatever city was on at the time.
So the first lesson I’ve learned, and want to impart to other budding authors (since seasoned ones have long left this mistake in the dust), is this:
1) Don’t re-read your drafts until they are done.
Yes, you can read the last few paragraphs to refresh your memory of what is going on, but to start from the beginning of that chapter, or the beginning in general, is a sure-fire way to make you not want to write anymore. Why? Because of a few reasons:
-You are inevitably going to find things that you want to change, fix, re-word, etc.
-And because when you read that first draft chapter over again, you will most likely get caught up in how “terrible” or “amateur” it is, and lose confidence in your art, which is the ultimate killer for aspiring writers.
-So just KEEP WRITING, read your stuff at the end, don’t bother looking up words in the thesaurus (I just put the word that comes to me in my manuscript with a * next to it so I can change in the following draft), and finish it. It can all be fixed in the 2nd draft.
You may have seen something around social media that said something like: “a female writer either has a finished book, or a clean house. Not both.” (I can’t find the exact quote, maybe someone can comment with it?).
This bums me out, because it is mostly true, in my experience. When I was working full-time (which I’m not anymore, until I run out of money), I only had two days a week to do most of my errands, clean the house, buy groceries, etc. I would spend most of my Saturday cleaning, and by the time Saturday afternoon came around, I was too tired to write. Can anyone relate with this frustrating conundrum?! So what did I do?
–Priorities. And to me, a clean house and well-stocked fridge for the week were priorities. But so was writing. And I found that I had more of an incentive to clean than to write, so what did I need to do first on Saturdays and Sundays? Write!
Once my couple thousand was on paper, then I had half a day to do the other things I wanted/needed to do, and they were things I knew I would complete. Because, like I said, I need a clean house to feel okay with life and obviously, the boyfriend and I need to consume food.
It took me awhile to learn this, and maybe I’m just slow, but to keep yourself from not wanting to write (or rather, to force yourself to do it), make writing the first “priority” when you have free-time on weekends/other days. Because I can assure you–if you don’t get it done first thing, it’s probably not happening at all that day.
3) Systems and Rewards
Stephen King says in “On Writing” (the bible for writers, please go get a copy if you haven’t already) to write at least 2,000 words a day. Having a word count is great, to give you a gauge, a goal, and also because that is a considerably large number and will get you to the end more quickly. But 2,000 words?! That’s, like… a LOT!
And it felt like a lot to me when I was working full-time (not so much right now when I’m not exhausted and stressed and my creative energies have been zapped by the corporate world). And it probably feels like a lot to you.
So what did I do?
I did set up a word count, 500 on weekdays, and 2,000 one day of the weekend, 1,000 the other. One “cheat” day a week.
Setting up a schedule, and making it something that I was ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH, was huge. Because for ME, 2,000 words was just TOO MUCH and the large number scared me away. So that I wrote zero words every day for a long time.
So set up a realistic schedule for yourself, follow it, and give yourself little goodies when you complete it!
-For me, rewards are TV shows are little desserts. So when I had completed my word count for the day, I could have some ice cream, watch a Total Divas episode (embarrassing, I know), and socialize with the boyfriend.
And in my opinion, you are STILL a writer, and a good one, if you have to give yourself motivation to do it.
That was the thought I’ve struggled with most, as mentioned before–that the fact I was putting it off meant that I didn’t really want to be a writer. But writing is like having another job. It is using your brain muscle, it can be difficult at times, and it takes discipline. Don’t feel bad if you’re not jumping out of bed in the morning, ready to write the next scene of your sci-fi-steampunk-erotica-love story (Yes, that is seriously what my current WIP’s genre looks like right now) with aplomb.
And I know that not everyone can do this (most people can’t, and I might not be able to much longer), but I can vouch for how much easier writing becomes when you are not working full-time somewhere and you have the time and the creative energy to write your stuff. Before, I was lucky to get 1,000 words on the page on any given day.
Now, I am expecting myself to write 3,000 words a day on my WIP (I’m expecting to release Part 1 mid-July, but I may have bitten off more than I can chew with that one). And it has been pretty damn easy for the most part. So it wasn’t that I wasn’t inspired, or creative, or really wanted to be a writer… it was because I was so fucking tired all the time.
And you probably are too. So don’t get down on yourself about it. You have the talent. You have the skills. You have (some) time.
Try to steer clear of the mistakes I’ve listed above, and feel good about yourself knowing that you have a dream, you are an artist, and you are creating a work of art that very well may change someone’s life when you’re done.
Thank you everyone for the support and reading this. I am learning all of this stuff just like you, and we are not alone. Tweet me @AshleyRCarlson1 and tell me about your own tips for writing when you don’t want to write. Share this post on Facebook so we can spread love and confidence, and the reminder that writing is HARD WORK. I can certainly use the help, as we all can.
And now, another cute animal picture as I say goodbye: