What's Hardest for New Writers?
When you’re first starting out as a writer -- that time when you have an idea, an inspiration, a sentence that makes you put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, but you have no idea what you are doing -- you could be forgiven for thinking that your biggest problem is learning to write well.
Let me assure you, it is not.
Hobby writers tend to write whenever the whim takes them, rather than make it a regular habit, but any seasoned writer will tell you the biggest hurdle for newbies is making the time to write.
It doesn’t matter what material comes out to begin with. The most important thing is to get into the habit. Make it a priority. Carve out some time for it, just like you carve out some time to attend yoga or to eat out. The attitude I never have the time to write is a false one: we do not own time; it's not something we can ever have. We make time, not await for it to fall on our laps. You have to commit yourself to the task regularly each week.For some it might only be the morning on the weekends, others a few evenings a week, but the more you stick to a routine, the more affinity you will feel with the activity.
So, do you want to know the easy way to do this without feeling as if you must block off a full day or lock yourself up in a room until you reach a certain word count, even if that means emerging as a hunch-backed old crone? This is a step-by-step approach, designed to ease you in gently and trick yourself into a simple, undemanding routine.
A few months back I set a task to those reading this blog to keep track of their daily movements in a journal. Unfortunately, my laptop conked out and we were moving house and I was unable to follow through on that task in the ensuing weeks; life just became too much to blog. I’d like to now take that idea forward a step.
So, as mentioned, keep track of your movements for a two week period. Detail as much as you can, no matter how mundane -- or weird! When you sit down to do this is entirely your decision -- it can be daily, bi-weekly, several times during the day. Whatever suits you best. Eventually, you will naturally fall into some sort of rhythm -- a time that suits you to sit down for five or ten minutes and make these notes in an organic fashion.
This is your basis for your writing routine. Notice how we haven’t yet set about writing anything of any substance, and there’s no excuses to not do this -- ten minutes a day is doable over breakfast, coffee break, while dinner is cooking.
Once you have settled into a short but regular routine, it’s time to take it to the next step. Instead of writing your journal each day, replace that time with ten minutes of free writing. Free writing is where you set a timer for ten minutes, choose a random word either from a dictionary, an online random word generator or -- as one of my writing group members suggested -- phone a friend and ask them to give you a random word. You then set to writing about that subject for ten minutes.
However, you don’t need to stick to the subject -- that’s just a prompt to start you off. Allow yourself to wander down whichever avenues that present themselves. The key to this exercise is to keep writing, don’t stop, even when you draw a blank, just keep going with anything to fill the gap. This could literally be: I can’t think of what to write, I can’t think of what to write, etc. But remember, when you are stuck, returning to the original word can get things rolling again. Do not go back and correct your spelling mistakes or punctuation errors -- nobody will see these writings except yourself. The point of the exercise is to keep moving forward. Just to bullet point the technique:
Chose a random word
Set a timer for ten minutes
Write about that word
Allow yourself to wander into tangents
Do not correct mistake; keep moving forward
If you are stuck either return to the original subject and start a new thread related to it, or write whatever is in your head, no matter how mundane or silly.
Free write in place of your journal keeping for two weeks.
Then we’ll talk about the next step.
Ciao for now!