Slogging through the writing of your book and running out of gas? Or have you trashed most everything you’ve written and find yourself back at square one? Maybe you can’t picture ever finishing—or starting again. I can tell you from experience, you can rekindle the… [Continue reading below]
Slogging through the writing of your book and running out of gas?
Or have you trashed most everything you’ve written and find yourself back at square one?
Maybe you can’t picture ever finishing—or starting again.
I can tell you from experience, you can rekindle the inspiration to write.
Just look at Stephen King.
Ever notice he announces his retirement almost every time he finishes a book?
After more than 60 novels and a net worth of over $400 million, even he often feels spent, unable to write another word.
After I finished Riven, one of my own novels, I couldn’t imagine ever writing another. I mentioned that to Stephen.
“Whatever you do,” he said, “don’t make any decisions—or worse, any announcements—right now.”
He told me he finally learned to quit going public with his retirement declarations when he realized how short-lived his exits were. “Take some time for R&R,” he said. “Think about anything but writing.”
Stephen said he would kick back, do nothing, read, watch TV, and try to keep up with the news. Before long, an idea would form. It might be based on something real, something he’d heard or read, or it might seem to come out of nowhere.
But it was always a what-if.
Soon, he’d feel that old stirring. And before he knew it, he returned to the keyboard, “suddenly unretired.”
Just as he predicted, I was soon back at it too. Since that time, I’ve written a lot more books, running my total to nearly 200.
But finishing a book so empties me, I still honestly believe I’m done every time.
But I don’t announce that. I get away, regroup, and engage in activities that help inspire me.
All of them.
A powerful distraction-blocking app called Freedom (an affiliate link, so I earn a small commission at no cost to you.)
blocks social media, browsing, and notifications on your devices when you program it, to allow you uninterrupted writing time.
Set aside room for writing that helps eliminate distraction.
Make yourself unavailable during your work time. Set straight friends and loved ones who assume you’re “not doing anything right now, so…”
Learn to say no.
Schedule and practice Rest & Recreation.
Forget writing for a while. You’ll be amazed how a little extra sleep renews not just your body, but also your mind and spirit. You’ll soon find yourself inspired by even little things.
Also, take care of your body. Make exercise part of your schedule, especially after writing for long periods.
Work before you play, but play every day.
You never know when or how an idea will present itself.
Your next story idea might be right in front of you.
Separate your writing from your editing.
As you write your first draft, take off your perfectionist cap. You can return to editor mode to your heart’s content while revising, but for now, just get the story down.
Separate these tasks and watch your daily production soar.
You have big dreams and good intentions, but let’s be honest: writing a book is hard. The competition is vast and the odds are long.
Maybe that has you stuck, feeling inspiration has left you.
Here’s some hard, but ultimately good, news: your fear is legitimate.
You should be afraid.
Recognizing that you’re right to fear your own inadequacy and the competition should humble you. But don’t let it make you quit. Let that humility motivate you to work harder and do your absolute best work every time. That’s what leads to success.
That’s how fear can become a good thing.
Dean Koontz, who’s sold more than 450 million books, says:
“The best writing is borne of humility. The great stuff comes to life in those agonizing and exhilarating moments when writers become acutely aware of the limitations of their skills, for it is then that they strain the hardest to make use of the imperfect tools with which they must work.”
Embracing your fear turns it into humility, humility into motivation, motivation into hard work, and hard work into success.
I could regale you for half a day with the ridiculous rituals I perform before I can start writing.
I know what you’re thinking: surely my track record proves I’ve overcome procrastination.
In a way, I did. But not by eliminating it. As with fear, I actually embraced it.
After years of losing sleep over what a terrible procrastinator I was, I finally concluded it was inevitable because it must be a necessary part of the writing process.
I find that when I do get back to work after procrastinating, my subconscious has been working. I’m often surprised at what I’m then able to produce.
So if procrastination is both inevitable and an asset, I accept it and even work it into my schedule.
That’s right.I actually build procrastination days into my schedule.
By accommodating my procrastination, I can both indulge in it and make my deadlines.
By carefully managing the number of pages I must finish per day.
If procrastination steals one of my writing days, I adjust the number of pages I must write per day to still hit my deadline. It’s one thing to increase that number by one or two a day, but it’s another to double it. To keep my deadline sacred, I can’t let my pages per day become unmanageable.
Set realistic goals, and accommodate procrastination by building it into your schedule.
Imagine telling your best friend your story. Don’t hold back, don’t overthink it, and don’t edit — just write.
Showing up day after day gets the job done.
Don’t give up.
Pushing through discouragement, fear, and procrastination is all part of the journey.