We all know the official advice is to write every day, but, frankly, fuck that shit. We’ve got jobs, we’ve got kids, we’ve got other commitments, we’ve got quiet, insidious hangovers that make us stare into the abyss of infinity until our hearts start palpitating. So when people dance around saying WRITE EVERY DAY WRITE EVERY DAY, it’s really bloody easy to stick two fingers up and say ‘actually no thanks, I’m going to eat a whole tube of Pringles’. Which is fine. Eating Pringles is FINE. But sometimes the Pringle eating extravaganza becomes a Pringle eating marathon, and before you know it’s been four months since you wrote anything and there’s cheese and chive crumbs in your bra and really, why the fuck haven’t you been eating the paprika ones which are far, far superior?
So now it’s time to dust off your monosodium glutamate tits and get back on the mixed metaphor writing horse. It’s tough, though. You can’t just launch straight back into your super self-disciplined two hours a night routine without getting saddle sore. What you need are our five handy tips for getting you back in the Pringle-free, no arse pain, writing saddle:
1. Get off social media
OH MY GOD this is becoming such a tired piece of advice now but there’s a reason for that. Really and seriously and totally put the fucking Facebook down. Log out of Twitter.
It’s not just that your cosy echo chamber stops you realising that half the planet’s populace wants to watch the world burn. It’s not just that all those heavily filtered pictures of beautiful children running on the beach at golden hour makes you feel totally inadequate as your filthy children harass each other mercilessly while Mr Tumble prattles on in the background. It’s the sheer amount of brain space it takes up. While you flick mindlessly through pages of status updates, you are forcing everybody else’s thoughts and opinions into your head and not leaving anything for yourself.
To be creative you need downtime. You need boredom. You need blank spaces of brain in which your imagination can have an illegal rave because writing is, essentially, you footing the bill of one hell of a party that you weren’t even invited to.
Turn that shit off, just for a bit, and see the difference it makes.
2. Ease into it gently
Look, no one jumps into a super hot bath with both feet and expects it to be relaxing. Instead you dip a toe in first and wait to acclimatise. Then you slip a whole foot in and clench your fists against the heat knowing that it’s going to be totally worth it in the end. Then another foot, and then you slide your body in bit by bit and, wow, isn’t your patience worth it? Yes, is the answer to that question. Yes it is worth it.
If you’ve been out of the game for a month or two or three or four, leaping back into a gruelling routine of 5am starts and 11pm finishes is going to kill all your enthusiasm dead.
Start by committing to 20 minutes an evening, a couple of days a week, because writing every single day is a big commitment and it’s HARD! Read through your old work, make notes on what you want to do now, get your head back into the story. Spend time thinking (bet you’re pleased you’ve freed up all that brainspace from social media now).
The next week, commit to 30 minutes every couple of days. Start writing and even if it’s going well, stop dead on 30 minutes. Don’t push yourself. The following week eke it up to 40 minutes, or write four days out of seven, or something REALISTIC and you know where this is going next. Be gentle, don’t push it, and you’ll find your natural enthusiasm is soon desperate to be let off the leash.
3. Make yourself care about it again
It’s highly likely that one of the biiiig reasons you’ve fallen off the writing horse/wagon/train is because you’ve kind of stopped caring about your project. It’s a tough one. There’s a lot of shit going down in the world right now and sometimes our personal creative projects can seem… insignificant. The thing is, they’re not. Without art, without culture, without literature, we’re really just shaved monkeys with a propensity for blowing shit up.
Your art is important. YOU are important. Know it. Believe it. Flick through your work in progress and find that moment that sparked it all off for you, that bit where you suddenly thought ‘Oh. I have to do this or I might die dramatically and flailingly.’
And if you can’t find it? Write something else for a bit. You might find it naturally comes back round to your work in progress.
4. Three is the magic number
Someone somewhere said that you have to do something three times for it to become a habit. It’s probably not true, but it sounds good. If you can get to the third day of your new writing regime then you can get to the fourth, and then you can get to the fifth. And if you miss a day, don’t fret, just start counting to three again. Easy peasy.
5. Don’t worry about other people
While we wholeheartedly support the aims and ideals of NanoWrimo, it can actually be detrimental to some writers. It’s tough to keep up with 1,600 words a day and if you don’t manage it, you’re gonna end up feeling pretty shit about yourself. There’s people all over Twitter boasting about their daily word counts, and certain providers of day-long sweary writers’ retreats (ahem) proclaiming that you can write 5,000 words in one day. I mean, you CAN do that. We’ve done it. We had one person at a retreat writing 10,000 words in one day, because they’re certifiable. Does that mean you should be doing that? Not in the slightest. You do what you can do, even if that’s tearing one sentence a day from your veins. And as long as you’re actually turning up and doing the work, that is okay. That is enough.