Hi, my friends:
Lately I’ve been dealing with family illness while trying to make significant progress on my new novel, Winds of Vengeance, so I haven’t been around much. I really appreciate Victoria stepping in and blogging so excellently.
Since I’m in the middle of a major project — well, I consider writing an epic MAJOR — I thought it might be of interest to discuss just how how a writer keeps up progress and enthusiasm while just basically writing one word after another, one sentence after another, one paragraph after another, one page after another. How do you keep up your enthusiasm so the project doesn’t seem too overwhelming, and you keep making forward progress?
Well, for me it helps to set goals. I set a weekly goal for myself, and do my damndest to stick to it. If I achieve the goal, I try to reward myself in some small way — buying a new hardcover book, for example, or taking my husband out to a new film we want to see.
Of course there are times when you’re not going to achieve your goal. These are the most dangerous times for a writer. If you’ve slacked off writing for a couple of days, or a week, because of some kind of personal crisis, etc., it seems like it’s pulling teeth to get back to it — at least for me.
What I’ve learned about that is that you should then assign yourself a mini-goal. Promise yourself you’ll write JUST ONE PAGE, or that you will write for just TWENTY MINUTES, or something of the sort. An easy goal, one you can envision achieving.
It often helps if you set up a “buddy report” system with a sympathetic friend. Tell your friend what your interim goal is, and then promise to REPORT on what happens. If you know that you have to make a phone call, or send an email, and actually tell your friend what you did, it can spur you into achieving that small goal.
And taking that first step to get back on the wagon is the most important thing. That way, you can at least think to yourself, “Hey…I wrote today. That’s better than I did yesterday. I am making progress.”
Of course the best way to proceed is not to interrupt your flow. Even if you have to write a page by hand, try to write something every day. It’s really crucial in helping you focus on a project. I recently bought a notebook computer, and it’s a big comfort to me to know that I can take this notebook with me when we go to visit my parents on the Eastern Shore, or camping, etc. And that every day I will be able to make some forward progress — and that, even more importantly, my mental FOCUS on the project won’t be lost.
So…try some of these productivity tricks if you’re having trouble writing and completing projects.
Consider doing the following:
1. Setting a daily and weekly goal of what you want to accomplish. Don’t be too ambitious in the begining, because you want to be able to ACHIEVE that goal.
2. Reward yourself when you achieve your weekly goal. That gives you something to look forward to while you’re staring at the cursor and wondering what the heck to write in the next paragraph.
3. If you do lose momentum, get right back up on the wagon and get rolling. Set an interim goal that is easily achievable. Anything to get yourself writing again.
4. Try to keep your focus on your book and your story. Let the flow start. Instead of lines on a page, try to envision your story unrolling before your eyes like a film, instead of as just words and sentences on a page. Stephen King calls this “falling through the hole in the page.”
Anyhow, hope this is helpful. If anyone has any comments on how they “trick” or cajole or induce themselves to keep plugging away at a long project, I’d love to hear them.
-Ann C. Crispin