I’ve been spending a lot of my free time writing. Some creative writing for recently release projects, some for forthcoming projects and a whole bunch of almost-technical writing in the form of stat blocks, game mechanics and whatnot. I’ve always known that I love having written something, and putting my creations out there for the world to see. I’ve also always known that I sometimes enjoy, sometimes dread and sometimes even loath having to write – the actual act of creating those things I love having written. Creations a bitch, man.
Here are a for simple ways I’ve found over the past few years to optimize my writing experience, be as productive as I can and come to actually look forward to those writing sessions. Perhaps they’ll help you as well.
Gene Fowler, the American journalist and author, once wrote “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” I’ve never read a single other word written by this man, but I agree with his statement wholeheartedly.
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
The time you write is important. Not just important in that you’re changing the world by adding a little bit of creativity to all of the previous creative bits that have already piled up. I mean, look at that clock. Writing at 2:47am when you’re bone tired may be a really, really bad idea. Conversly, if you’re a night owl without kids or an early starting day job, that may be perfect! Take a good, hard look at your schedule and your internal clock and figure out where you can snatch an hour or three to write when you are at your most creative. For me, that’s in the early evenings, around 8pm to about 11pm. My kids have gone to bed, on the nights I write my wife is doing her own thing and there are really no interruptions. Well, at least not until after 9pm, when my kids are actually asleep.
I’ve also found that writing on my lunch hour can be very rewarding, and provides me with a nice distraction during my day.
The point of all that being, you really do have an optimal time to write. It could be at 5am. It could be at 2pm. You know yourself and when you function best, but do a bit of experimenting if you can as well.
Tweet that Twitter nugget or it will rot in your brain
Distractions are my life blood. Seriously, if it weren’t for the myriad distractions available in today’s connected world, I’d have burnt out writing a while ago. I do love me some long stretches of writing, especially when I’m in that zone where everything flows and time melts away. That zone just doesn’t happen every day though. When I find myself getting frustrated, or having written myself into a corner – even dealing with a bit of the old writers block, I turn to a distraction.
I’ll fire up a twitter client and see what everyone else is dealing with. Perhaps I’ll vent my frustration on Google+, or put an idea out there to see if it gets shot down or lauded. It gives me five minutes away from the currently grinding process of writing, lets me think about peripheral interests and honestly fires up those creative juices. Perhaps this won’t work for you, but I’ve found the mini-distraction to be a great tool. When I’m cranking through the word count, I don’t need it and won’t use it. When I’m dribbling 4 words a minute, it helps a great deal.
As a side effect of this, I find that those pat little sayings I occasionally come up with for Twitter, actually get to twitter, and aren’t taking up space in my head, demanding attention from me while I try to write things longer than 140.
The Anthrax Principle
Music. Music, music, music! I use it as background noise, for the occasional inspiration, to set the mood I’m aiming for when writing and sometimes as a gauge for knowing when I’ve actually hit that creative zone of muse-influenced writing. (The Greek muses, not the band.) I’ve always been able to work better with music in the background. At my day job, while studying in school, and writing is no exception. One aspect of listening to music is I can use it as a tool to measure when I’m in that zone and for roughly how long I was in it. I know that if I start off writing to one song, and am suddenly aware of things other than my writing with a different song playing, that some amount of time has passed. A quick glance at my play list can show me roughly how much. It’s my muse measuring device.
It also (for me) provides a nice background noise, ranging from white noise filter to foot stomping, pile driving motivator. Your mileage may vary but I personally I love having some music on.
I cannot state exactly why, but I can tell you that the two best bands for me to write during listening are Anthrax and Pantera. These are the bands I hear the least of while writing, which is a great thing! They go the furthest towards putting me into that trance which is the opposite of Writer’s Block.
The Boot to Ass Principle
Sometimes you have to be your own boot in the ass. That’s all there is too it, really. There are going to be times you’ve set aside to write when you just don’t feel it. Your games will be calling you, or that new episode of whatever. Hell, even grooming your cat can look like an appealing alternative to sitting down and writing. Well put that damned cat brush away, put your ass firmly in the seat in front of your computer and start writing.
Even if what you write is pure, unadulterated crap, you’re still writing. In most cases, as you write you’ll get into the groove and at least be able to get a few useful bits and pieces out. Who cares if you have to delete 87% of what you’ve written. You’re in the digital age, it’s not like you’re sitting there with velum, ink and a rough stone. Force yourself to write as often as you can write and the act of writing becomes, if not easier, at least habitual.
No one is going to be your motivational coach with this except you. Exercise a bit of that will power and write, dammit.