Early last year (wow, time flies doesn't it?), I wrote what has probably become my most popular blog post of all time, in which I discussed the fact that so much of a writer's work relies on the principle "just do it." I've met a lot of writers who have the same issue: they spend hours and hours (or even days or weeks) just thinking about scenes, plot structure, or what have you, but they don't actually write anything. If this was a crime, I'd probably be serving a life sentence without parole. I wouldn't say it's exactly procrastination (though God knows I'm guilty of that too), and you're not necessarily accomplishing nothing. A lot of the pondering and considering I do comes in really handy, because it means I have a more definite path to follow when I do eventually get around to writing. But that's the thing -- if you're just sitting there thinking about writing, you're not actually doing any writing.
I'll confess to being in a little bit of a writing funk lately. This happens whenever I get stuck in one of my I-don't-have-time-for-anything ruts (see my last post, Making the Most of What You've Got). I think back to last year when I was done with Ronan and so excited about everything. With the exception of the ~20,000 words I'd written during July and August of 2014, I wrote all of that 157,000-word monster in just a smidgen under 6 months. I clearly remember diving back into it on January 3 and finishing it June 28. That was during school and everything! And now here I am wallowing around in Fracture and Embers; I've been messing around with one or the other of them since October (10 months) and between the two of them I have a measly ~34,000 words to show for it. Granted, that's partially my fault, because per the MtMoWYG blog post, limited time means I have to pick and choose how I spend that time, and the sad truth is that writing ends up not always being a priority. I've got Life Responsibilities™, yo.
So see how that difference in progress could be discouraging? It's easy to look at what I'm doing (or more accurately, not doing) now, think "this isn't what it was like when I was working on [previous book]," and get all depressed about writing. That in turn hampers my progress even further and the whole thing turns into a big downward spiral.
Obligatory disclaimer: this does not BY ANY MEANS mean I'm ready to quit, delete all my WIPs, burn my existing books, etc. etc. etc. I feel like I shouldn't have to specify that, but I also don't want to scare anyone 😉
And of course it's not like I haven't been making any progress. 34,000 words is much better than nothing, and part of the problem is also that I've been using kind of an experimental jump-all-over-the-place approach that really hasn't been that efficient. I actually have an old, pre-Dakiti Ziva story that I'll be able to partially recycle for the plot of Embers, which will cut down on the amount of planning I'll have to do. And to my credit, I've spent a lot of time picturing all of the scenes in my head, but as I mentioned, that doesn't count for much unless I actually get them written one of these days.
Well, this past week, I had one of those days. I tend to write a lot while listening to presentations or something similar, but since I'm not 100% focused, it's usually tough to write any more than half a notebook page (yes, I write by hand when I'm on the go, especially when it's supposed to look like I'm paying attention or, at the very least, taking notes). I was dabbling in a small, semi-unimportant scene I'd been thinking about a lot lately, and...I just kept writing. The more I wrote, the more the ideas flowed, and the easier it was. When you've gone a long time without making much progress, it can be hard to remember what that feels like. It's an incredible sensation. I ended up with a whole page rather than just half. I went home and typed it all up and then kept going a little further. It still wasn't a lot of progress in the grand scheme of things, but relative to what I'd been doing, it was a lot.
It seems like every time something like that happens, I think to myself, "Wow, it's amazing how much I can get done when I just sit down and do it." And no matter how many times I've done it before, I'm still somehow surprised. Self-discipline is huge for indie authors, even those of us who don't write for a living (maybe even especially for those of us in that boat). There's that same old question people ask about the best way to conquer writer's block, and self-discipline is the answer. Just write. Just. Do. It. It's the only way to generate the momentum necessary to make progress, and momentum is everything. Quality doesn't matter at first; that's what editing is for later on. The important thing is just getting the words on the page/screen.
It's incredible how the answer can be that simple yet that complicated, isn't it? Someone asks you how you beat writer's block. You tell them "Just do it." They think you're joking. But what else are you supposed to do? Just continue outlining and planning? That's fine and dandy, but at some point you're going to have to actually write something.
So Just Do It. And get into a routine. Set goals. Keep track of your word count so you can watch it grow. The more you Just Do It, the easier it will be to Just Do It. That's all there is to it.
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I should write a song.