How I get myself to write

I’ve started writing again. I love to write, but find it almost impossible to get started. Once I get started, I actually write pretty quickly – at least the first draft stage.

I’ve resorted to little tricks to help myself be productive – faking deadlines, giving myself pep talks, and most importantly feeling like I am part of a group that is in this together.

  • Faking deadlines. I am part of a cool screenwriting workshop that meets once a week. I think it is cool because it is a group of highly non-competitive and very helpful people who spend the 3 hours dedicated to the person who’s work is being read. There are no distractions and everyone provides really great input. Each semester, we sign up for a date on which to bring in our work. I find when the deadline nears, I write like crazy (usually in the two days before) and manage to write 12 to 20 new pages for my script. But the rest of the semester, I do nothing. That’s terrible!!! God, really terrible! I forgave myself while I was till working full-time, but now I have no excuse.
    So, I figured, why not fake the deadlines for myself. I tell myself that I have to email out a draft to someone on X date and I stick to it. I often do end up emailing out the draft to a close confidant to make it more real.
  • Pep Talks. The pep talks take two themes. I either try positive motivation like “Think about the long corporate hours you put in. This is nothing. Just a couple of hours, come on” and if that doesn’t work, then I shame myself with stuff like “This is pathetic. You quit your job for this? You’re going nowhere fast”. The risk with the latter is that I believe it and then I get depressed which kills the ability to write completely!
  • Working with others. The other day, a screenwriter I sometimes read, David Anaxagoras, posted a thread about using the time change to start writing. Basically using that extra hour to write. That was a great idea. I also chatted with a journalist friend in India who’s been procrastinating on her book for a while. And we decided to write for an hour each morning and we fill each other in on whether we did it and how it went. This method works great for me. I remember a few years ago, I wanted to take a 6am spinning class in San Francisco. A colleague of mine from work signed up with me. He lived a little further away and so he drove to my place, picked me up and then we headed to an hour of sheer torture. There were so many mornings that I wanted to just snuggle in and go back to sleep, but the fact that he’d be in his car downstairs forced me out of bed. So, the fact that I committed to my friend that I would write, makes me hold up my end of the bargain.

These are the little tricks I use to get myself to write. What do the other writers out there do?

3 comments
  • shrimathi

    You are addressing one of the most universally applicable questions of all time! Writers, artists, scientists, musicians, just plain ordinary folk face the same dilemma : how to get started.

    Students, teachers and professors have a time-table to follow, and therefore must “get started” anyway, but for the “artistically inclined” there may not be any such regimen. And that may be the secret of it all: a regimen, a time-table, a “must-do” that literally gets us going.

    We need to have this “must-do” list to get us going, on a daily basis, so that at least something gets done. There is the very human need to do something “useful” with our time, and may be the best way to get started is a sense of duty: I must do this now, I have to get this done today.

    Art Buchwald, the humorist, had written a piece on how he gets going every day to write his daily column : how he does everything but write (sharpening pencils, lining up his notebooks, changing the typewriter ribbon — it was in “those days”), and finally running out of excuses and time, he would get to writing his column. Of course, it was a humorous piece on “getting started”, but the point is that, after all the time-wasting tactics, he has to just get down to it.

    So, the answer lies in the timeless and universal advice given by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavat Gita: do your duty to the best of your ability, and the results will be there. Or the more modern take on it : “just do it” !!!

  • Good advice!

    Another thing I’ve found — get addicted to the adrenaline of the act (writing, blogging, whatever). Then you’ll want to do it more.

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