I love to write, but there are days when I just don’t feel like it. I’d rather go to the beach or play with my grandkids or work on some home improvement project. In other words, I’d rather do just about anything than write.
My clients have days like that and I bet you do too. It would be OK if not writing didn’t have consequences.
If you’re writing a book, you need to maintain momentum. Otherwise, no-work days will start to outnumber the workdays and your book will die from neglect. That’s especially true for my clients. They’re mostly mid-career folks who are writing their book while they carry on an overstuffed life. They may only have two or three writing days per week. Miss one, and the project falls further behind.
It doesn’t matter how much writing experience you’ve got, there will be days when you’d don’t want to write. Sometimes, that’s okay. This post will help you with the days when you can’t afford not to write.
If you’re working on a book project, you need every writing day you can get. And only writing is writing. You can’t substitute research or deep thinking.
There you are, staring at a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper and wishing you are somewhere else. How do you crank up that writing engine?
Try letting go of the project for a little bit. Take a walk. Eat some pistachios. Do anything where your body is on autopilot and your mind is free to roam. There’s a good chance that ideas for what to write will start popping into your head. Make sure you’ve got a way to capture those ideas.
If that doesn’t work, try freewriting. Just start writing. Write whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be about your project. It can be about the plants you want to grow in your garden, where to go for lunch, or the state of the moral universe. It doesn’t matter. Just start writing. My favorite way to do this is to start with something like “I really don’t want to write today.”
An Ounce or Two of Prevention
If you’re not facing the immediate challenge of the blank page, you can do some things that reduce the possibility of an “I’d-rather-do anything-but-write-day.”
Write in the same place every time. That way you train your brain that when you’re in your writing space, it’s time to write. If you can write at the same time every time, that’s even better.
Know what you’re going to write before you start a session. You do that by quitting a session while you’re still going good. Decide what you will write when you start the next session.
Develop a starting ritual that you use in every writing session. Part of this is to train your brain. Another part is setting you up for productive writing.
Touch your writing project every day. On days when you don’t work on your book, take at least a few minutes to “touch” your project. Review some material. Save ideas.
The Seinfeld Strategy
The Seinfeld Strategy is super simple. It builds on our human nature to encourage consistent productivity. For Jerry Seinfeld, it was how you write great jokes. Write every day. When you’ve accomplished your work for the day, mark the day on a large calendar to show it.
Pretty soon, you’ll have a chain of marked dates. Don’t break the chain.
If you’re writing a book and you don’t write every day, mark every day when you work. Your chain won’t be as complete looking as Jerry Seinfeld’s, but it will work just as well.
Here’s my corollary to the Seinfeld strategy. There will be days when you just won’t get it done. Sometimes fate or family obligations or the call of the beach will intervene. When that happens, make sure it doesn’t happen for two writing sessions in a row. Miss two in a row, and you’re on the slippery slope to giving up.
Take a walk.
Same place, same time, every time.
Touch your project every day.
Follow the Seinfeld Strategy – don’t break the chain.