I sat down at the antique desk in absolute agony, my groin screaming. My jaw was clenched tight as a drum. My fingers were curled as if I was shot with a poisoned dart, hovering over the keyboard. For a brief moment I looked like a 17th century composer gone mad with delirium. I slammed my bony fingers onto the Macbook and willed them to move.
Slowly, like a baby caterpillar struggling to escape its pupae, words appeared. My jaw relaxed, releasing the built up tension in my neck and spine. A small smirk spread slowly across my countenance. My fingers flew like leaves in a hurricane. Momentum began to unravel the resistance from mere minutes previous.
I was writing. HA-HA! Bite me you drunken leprechaun.
Does it really have to be such a struggle to write?
I’ve been writing since 1994. Not every day. There were a few years when I never scratched a single word on the back of a napkin. But after nearly 2 decades of pounding the keys, I’ve learned a few tricks that help me to get rolling when it’s time to write. And to keep me from going mad.
10 Ways To Trick Yourself Into Writing.
1. Determine Your Peak Time
Are you a morning writer, or an evening writer? Me? I am definitely morning, the earlier the better. My iPhone goes off with its vibrating alarm at 5:55 am 6 days a week. Listen to your body! Of course it’s going to whine and complain first thing in the morning. Disregard that voice and search for your inner writer. What’s it saying?
Can you produce 1000 words at 10 pm, or 6 am?
2. Use Your Toes
I generally wear slippers when I write. Partially because it’s chilly first thing in the morning, and I write in my basement office. But mainly because of my toes. When I get stuck on a paragraph, I kick off my slippers and curl my toes into the carpet. I rub them quickly back and forth to make some friction on the soles of my feet. It wakes me up a bit. I can’t seem to write in socks nearly as easily. It affects my flow.
Don’t judge me, writers are weird.
3. Beverage of Choice?
I always have a cup of coffee or peppermint tea within reach when I write. What’s your beverage of choice? The extra fluid intake forces me to pee every 45 minutes or so. That gets me up from the keyboard and forces me to take a break. It refreshes my poor brain and central nervous system which is doing the heavy lifting.
4. Music or Silence?
I used to play Linkin Park and 80’s hair metal in the background when I wrote. It negatively affected my productivity. My subconscious started to listen for lyrics, and to sing along instead of doing the bulk of the writing. Nowadays I write in either silence or with sounds of nature as ambient noise. I found iTunes radio stations still had commercial breaks even when it was supposed to be commercial free.
What music works best for you?
5. Home or Coffee Shop?
This one is tricky. Even with headphones I find writing at a coffee shop has too much external stimulation and distraction. I can write 500 word ezine articles no problem at a McDonalds. But creating good meaty content I save for the early morning at home with minimal distraction. Maybe it’s because I’m heading into middle age but I can’t seem to create art when a 5 year old punches his baby brother in the ball pit at Mickie Dees and screams for the next 8 minutes.
6. Paper or Plastic?
Years ago when you went into a grocery store the clerk would ask you if you wanted plastic bags or paper bags for carrying out your purchases. Nowadays where I live they treat you like an environmental terrorist if you buy a plastic grocery bag for a nickel. They expect you to bring your own canvas bag made from locally-grown natural fibres that you weave at home on your own loom. Some writers look at anything except a shiny Macbook Air still under warranty as Old School writing. I do some of my best work with a pen and an old Moleskine knockoff from Walmart.
Can you create with a pen and paper, or are you a keyboard warrior? Have you tried?
7. Is Wi-Fi Your Friend?
I turn my wi-fi off when I write. I usually use Evernote on my laptop when I get into creating. With no wi-fi I have no interruptions from Skype, IM, G+, Twitter, or push notifications from the myriad of apps I have. When I have to pee because of the steady intake of fluids, I fire up the wi-fi to sync my notes in Evernote. When I sit back down, wifi goes back off. It’s a little ritual I have to reset my brain each hour to keep writing.
8. The First Sentence Is Like A Shout In A Crowded Bar
Staring at a blank page is a recipe for resistance. I write an opening sentence like I was shouting at a couple of friends of mine across a British pub common room. “Hey Chester, I sat down to write in absolute agony!” My goal is to get Chester to shrug like a “what did he just say?” kind of face and saunter over to hear the next line of the story. If I can write one sentence, I can generally write a second. Before I glance around I’m into a paragraph and we’re moving. Get good at writing opening sentences. I have a page of them in my Moleskine.
9. A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations
Mine’s about 2800 words. Roughly 3 hours straight of work, sometimes 3 and a half. With 2-3 bathroom breaks in there. My first clue is I lose my sense of spelling. Homonyms become the enemy. Horse? Hoarse? And I lose the ability to conjugate verbs in the future tense. It’s a sign that I need to sync my work in Evernote and eat something resembling food.
10. Kick The Critic In The Balls
My inner critic has an Irish accent and points and laughs at me in a voice similar to a drunken leprechaun. He constantly screams that my work stinks like shiiite and I just wasted 3 hours and that I’m going to starve and end up like drunk Uncle Wilbur. I’ve learned to love the little jerk. What does your inner critic say to you? What effect does it have on your work?
Steve Jobs once said that true artists ship. Seth Godin constantly pushes Publish. I’ve discovered that your best work is still inside you, waiting to get out. Strengthen your opinions, be bold in your blogging, step on some toes, and let your art see the light of day.
I’m out of coffee, I have to pee, and this post is finished. Go write something.
David Ledoux is the author of half a dozen books including How I Went From Welfare To Millionaire Without Winning The Lottery. He coaches entrepreneurs, owns several businesses and writes a witty and irreverent blog at http://davidledoux.com. His newest book, 10 Quick & Easy Strategies For Successful Living is available for free at his website.