A lot of people I know want to be writers but don’t have a practice of writing. Maybe they had one once and lost it. Maybe they’re just getting started in the craft. Either way, they don’t regularly carve out space and time to put words on the page, but they wish they would. It’s easy to understand why they don’t: life interferes. Maybe it’s a job. Spouse. Kids. Obligations can take many forms.
Often, obligations form a secret conspiracy with a writer’s fear to keep that writer from writing. The logic goes like this: I’ve already invested such time, energy, brain, or sweat today into [INSERT OBLIGATION HERE] that I’m totally justified in just chillin’ like McMillan and not feeding my need to write.
Justified, yes. Happy, no. Why? Because that need needs to be fed and it won’t shut up when it’s hungry. This puts many a writer in a tough, tough spot: We want to write but we fear to write. If you’re in this bind, my heart goes out to you, and I really want to help you over the hump and into, or back into, your active practice of writing.
Often all it takes is a catalyst, a little exercise you can do that will transition you easily and painlessly from not-writing to writing. Fortunately, I have just such a tasty template right here. Simply follow these steps:
1/ Recognize the conspiracy between outer events and the inner fear to write. Recognize that we often use the excuse of [OBLIGATION] and many, many other excuses to serve our fear of writing and impede our practice. Nothing can be done about that. Fear is part of the package, a standard accessory in most writers’ lives.
2/ Acknowledge this fear and move on. Recognize and accept that you’re in a “gentle conspiracy of non-productivity.” Now get over it. That’s yesterday’s news. Today’s news is all about moving on.
3/ Set up a writing day and time. Put it in your calendar. This isn’t a lifetime commitment, just a one-off. And here’s good news: For this exercise, even a half-hour window will do.
4/ Set an appropriate goal for that time. You only have half an hour; you won’t be writing War and Peace. What you will be doing is experiencing or re-experiencing yourself as a writer. Without value judgments. Without any investment in outcome at all. Your appropriate goal is just this: to feel how it feels to write.
5/ Set a doable task, something you can get through in half an hour. One I like is the exploration of an explosive moment of change.
6/ Now here comes the (easy) writing part. (Easy because the goal and target are so clear.) First thing, create a new character. Any one will do, so make any old choice. You might call him or her Sam.
7/ Assign your character an emotional state. Sam is sad.
8/ Now just ask yourself this simple question: What could change your character’s emotional state? It’s Sam’s surprise birthday!
9/ Next, note the new emotional state. Sam is happy.
10/ And that’s a moment of explosive change: a transformation from one emotional state to another, facilitated by a new piece of information. Write one page about that.
Well, there it is. You’ve started, or restarted, your practice of writing. Good job. [Read more…]