In 2016, I attended a two-day workshop run by an author and psychologist. Its purpose was to give writers the necessary tools to finish their project, focusing on how to get in the right head space and plan properly.
Many attendees, including authors who’d published multiple books, were stuck. I was bored and had almost stalled because the drafting process felt endless.
At the end of weekend, I came away with a solid, realistic plan to finish my novel. I exceeded my goals and finished drafting well before my deadline. I’m using the same tools now to help me finish my redraft before Christmas.
Here are a some helpful points that came out of the workshop.
The optimal mindset for creativity involves being a little excited, optimistic and seeking pleasure. You might have to fake it til you make it, but don’t give in to negative thoughts.
There are ways to help you create this mindset. Close your eyes and imagine a welcoming, mental place you can travel to before you begin work. For me, this was a deserted beach with wild waves on a cool days. For someone else it was a brightly coloured circus tent. You might also like to do a bit of relaxation, meditation, repeat some affirmations, go for a walk or do some breathing exercises before you work.
If you have a bad writing day, and we all do, separate yourself from your work. Don’t judge yourself and create fear and anxiety, which will be counterproductive the next time you write. The work simply didn’t go well — it wasn’t your entire being the failed.
Develop strategies to push through fears and doubts. There are many books on this, or read a piece by an author you admire about how they achieve this? The are loads on the Internet.
Be prepared to go beyond your comfort zone into new creative territory. Play, have fun. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Not a lot when you think about it. Trust yourself! You can always adjust your words later. Just get something down on the page.
This is about creating the optimum writing environment for you. When, where and how are you most productive? The aim is to find regular times to write and the best physical space in which to do that with the technology and other resources you need.
Write down your answers and create a plan. Diarise these times and build strong boundaries around them to ensure nothing gets in the way of your writing.
Set your intentions
Write down your long, medium and short-term goals. Be specific.
- Specificity = measurement = accountability (to yourself).
Measure your progress daily, weekly and monthly. Small achievements over time add up and are motivating.
I keep a diary of my daily weekday word limit because that’s how I’ve decided to monitor my redrafting. But word count is only one possible way. You could set goals for outlines, chapters or a manuscript end date. For example:
- I will finish redrafting my novel by 21 December. My MS is x words long, there are x weeks until then, which means I must draft x words 5 days per week.
- I will have a first draft completed in 12 months i.e. by 24 October 2018. The average book is 80,000 words long and I plan to take 3 weeks holiday in which I won’t draft. This means I will draft 1,630 words over 49 weeks. I will write 3 days per week.
- I will write 1,500 words, 4 days per week.
- I will write for 1 hour, 5 days per week before work.
In your plan, make sure you have the following elements:
- Specific, measurable goals
- Creative mindset strategies
- A creative environment you go to each time you write
- A diarised writing schedule.
For more hints on creating a writing routine, see this post here.
Now go for it!