Stay On Track With Your Writing
Insights on How to Plan Your Writing Sessions
It seems that I have a lot to learn about writing. More specifically, about being a writer, staying focused on a current work in progress and how to plan it all. I’ll share some things I’ve figured out and distractions that can get you off track.
When the temperature starts to rise and the sun is shining, it’s natural to want to go outside and do things. Let’s face it, Summer holidays are good for the soul. Even days off in the Summer can add up to distractions from writing. Who wants to be indoors working at a computer, writing a story that you are having difficulty with, when it's eighty degrees outside?
Well, I do. My goal is to write a novel. It’s going to be difficult any way I slice it. I’ve never done this before.
These are everyday things that normally make it onto your to do list. They can also be unexpected things that you can't control. What I have discovered is that in order to stay focused on writing, you need to actually put writing on your to do list. It has to be a planned important event. Even if it is the night before. You have to say to yourself, “I’m going to write tomorrow morning after my walk around Westwood Lake.” Then go out and do it.
It's far too easy to let distractions win out. Far too easy. A writer needs discipline to complete a first draft. Writing has to be an important item on that to do list. Exercise, football, chess, astronomy, friends, family, reading and work, are all important. I almost listed television as important, but I didn’t, because it's not. That’s how easy it is to become distracted while being a writer. A program or movie that you really want to see or watch with the family is different. Endless television watching is a time suck. Be disciplined.
From now on, I am going to plan my writing sessions. Not just say I am going to write and then not write.
With a scheduled time to write, I can be disciplined and say, "Sorry, I'm busy then, but maybe we can do something later." Remember: friends and family are important too.
A while back, I read a good book on time management. First Things First by Stephen Covey. It’s actually the third habit of his best selling Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. I attended a one-day seminar on the third habit. I can still remember the biggest takeaway for me from that course: people who are proactive and plan important things first in their daily schedules, are about five thousand percent more effective than people who don't. Five thousand percent! Saying that you are going to do something isn't nearly effective as actually writing it down, or planning it and following through.
Even though I strongly believe in the principles presented in the book, putting them into practice everyday can be a challenge.
Writing is something I really enjoy. It feels as though I am solving a math problem, or trying hard to make something look and sound right. Time flies when I am writing. It’s work, but it’s fun work. When I stay on track and keep writing, it's logical to believe that I will arrive at the place I want to be - a finished first draft. My goal realized. Then I can edit the hell out of it all I want. By the way, editing is more fun and more challenging than writing. I think I enjoy it because I get to improve it and fix everything. I’m looking forward to that stage when I get there.
There is another element that comes into planning when you are going to write. It’s called balance. Many other things become important in life.
For example, a few weeks ago, I strained my back and hobbled into the ER in pain. Being on pain medication while struggling to walk shifts your balance (no pun intended), Physiotherapy becomes important. Consistent exercise becomes important. A full week of family vacation is important. I didn't write during those times.
Everyday, certain things become important. The key I believe, is to go with the flow. Plan to write, and do it. If something important comes up, then just wait for things to normalize. Go back to a regular schedule when you can; by regular I mean it can be as irregular as you want as long as you are logging hours writing.
First drafts don’t write themselves. It takes several hundred hours of disciplined writing. Yes, it does!
It’s important to also share that support in the endeavor of writing cannot be overstated. Probably why authors dedicate their books to their spouses most of the time. Having someone close to you ask you how it’s going, or stating that you should write when they see a gap, helps enormously. This writer appreciates the nudge.
So, by staying on track with your writing, you will arrive at your destination.
When I want to write a lot that I want to put on paper, but when I want to write it down, I sometimes get confused about what to start with. What are your tips for writing first?