Writing can be a struggle. But for most writers, the writing isn’t the hard part.
Come on, think about it.
You don’t struggle (too much) over how to spell words or use proper grammar. You know how to put a reasonable piece of content together.
It might need to sit overnight for that final polish, but you aren’t a beginner learning the basics anymore.
The killer is starting.
You get bouts of blank page syndrome, where you stare at the screen and type out a few sentences before hitting delete.
You have a stack of half-finished posts because you never hit the groove while writing them.
If you could just sit down, put your fingers to the keyboard and write … well. That would be heaven. You’d find your pace, fall into a steady rhythm, and hit the finish line before you know it.
Let’s see if we can get you off to the races.
First step: Find the time
I bet this sounds familiar to some of you: You get an idea, sit down to write, start that first sentence … and your kid hollers at you. Or your partner comes home from work and wants to spend time with you. Or your email keeps filling up with client stuff.
Your rhythm is interrupted. Your train of thought is lost. And when you settle back down to write?
Your smooth writing flow is gone with the wind, my friend. Sayonara.
No one writes easily when they’re being distracted and interrupted. Distractions crush your creativity. You need a quiet time to write — a time where your kid won’t holler, your partner won’t come home from work, and your email won’t light up every three minutes.
You need a window of writing opportunity that stays wide open — and that can’t be shut by someone else.
Now, don’t tell me that time doesn’t exist. Kids and partners eventually need sleep. And there are as many slow periods in a day for email as there are peak hours.
Commit to finding that time. Wake up 30 minutes early every day. Stay up an hour later than usual at night. Send your partner and the kids to grab an ice cream — your treat. Figure out how to carve out the time you need so you can make it your sacred writing territory.
Second step: Get some space
Imagine a master archer about to pull his string and release the bulls-eye-winning arrow on his target. He’s determined, he’s focused, his arm draws back ….
And his elbow bumps a wall.
He tries to shift his feet, but there’s a table in the way. It’s a little dark too, so he squints to see the target … it’s at a bad angle. He should really tilt his head. Of course, now his wrist is all flexed backwards and his elbow lifts again — bump. There’s that wall …
This poor guy would have to be a pretty crack shot to aim well, considering how awkward and uncomfortable he is standing cramped like that. If you were judging his competition, you’d probably tell folks to clear out the stuff and give that guy some room!
Do the same for yourself. Give yourself room to write.
Many writers slouch in chairs that don’t support their backs (they may even write in bed), tapping away at tiny keyboards in poorly lit rooms that force them to squint. They’re usually bumping elbows into something too, like the arm of a chair. Their heads are forward, their shoulders are hunched, and their wrists … well. Carpal tunnel syndrome, anyone?
This isn’t any way to get serious work done. Come on.
If you’ve carved out time to write, go the distance and carve some space as well. Find a brightly lit room that makes you feel good about being in it. Get a good desk for your computer, and sit straight in a proper chair, with no arms to bump into or rest elbows on.
Be comfortable as you write — so that your writing becomes a comfortable pleasure.
Third step: Build your zone
Musicians warm up before playing. Actors get into character. Parents read bedtime stories. Olympians and professional athletes follow routines that are almost compulsive.
Why don’t you?
No one can do anything well when they’re coming into it cold. You need to warm up and get into the rhythm before you can write something amazing.
Sure, it might work once in awhile when you’re inspired. But it’s an illusion to think writing cold will produce a consistent flow of awesome.
Professionals in any field develop a warm-up routine. A good routine puts your mind in the right frame to write well. It lets your brain know what to expect, to predict what’s coming.
And what’s coming is you, writing.
Build a routine that you follow each time you want to write. For example, go for a 15-minute walk. Or listen to two rockin’ songs as you set up your laptop on the porch. Make a cup of tea or coffee. Put on your special writing hat.
In other words, decide on a few specific actions that you repeat consistently as you make your routine a habit.
Then sit down and write. Anything. Even if it’s garbage for the first few weeks.
You’re training your brain and teaching it that these steps always lead to writing. It takes time to make it a habit, but eventually your brain will become accustomed to following the pattern. It will learn that break + snack + walk = time to write.
It will put you in that optimal frame of mind for writing automatically.
Here’s my routine, just to give you an idea of how this works:
I have a coffee and clear out my email so that I can ignore new ones for an hour or two. No stress. Then I break my mental state from “email processing” by getting up to walk around for five minutes. I loosen up, relax and step outside for a few breaths of fresh air.
Within 10 seconds, ideas for blog posts start flowing. It never fails. My brain knows that coffee, email, walk, and fresh air = writing. And when I sit down to write, my brain is ready to hand me the words I need.
You can use these three easy steps to find your writing zone and build an environment conducive to great work too. All it takes is time, space, and a little preparation — and you’ll be on your way to finishing that stack of unfinished posts before you know it.