I love to write. I can write for hours. I dream about writing full time, eight hours a day. I have many, many ideas and with more time, I could write them all.
The reality is that I usually have one hour to write each day, sometimes an hour and a half. I love to write and yet I find it difficult to ignore distractions and just sit down and do it. Once I start, I’m fine. I quickly get into the groove and the hour flies by and I don’t want to stop. So why does it take me so long to get started?
I’m not alone in this struggle. On podcasts and blogs I’ve heard professional, full time writers confess that they, too, struggle to sit down and focus. They’re living the writing dream and yet it sounds like it never gets easier to get started.
Why is it so hard to sit and write?
#1 Writing is hard. Writing takes effort, concentration, problem solving, empathy, research, and creativity. You have to pour your subjective heart into something and then critique it objectively, push your imagination to the extreme, keep hundreds of details straight, and build an emotional connection with characters who only exist in your mind. It’s fun, but it’s hard.
#2 Guilt. I have a family, a home, and responsibilities. Is it okay to take time away from those to play at my writing hobby? Shouldn’t I be cleaning bathrooms or bonding with my children or planning meals? Maybe. But when I stop writing for days to be responsible, I miss it. I get antsy and crabby. Writing makes me happy and I’m a person, not just a mom. I need to take care of myself, love myself, blah blah blah, sit down and write.
#3 No hurry. It’s amazing what a deadline does for your focus. When the sequel to Sex Soup and Two Fisted Eating was only half written, my publisher asked to see it, and could I have it to him in three months? Sure, absolutely. It took me one year to write the first half of More Sex Soup and three months to write the second half. When something is due, you get it done.
What if you have no deadline? Writing (and publishing) takes a long time and it’s hard to keep up a sense of urgency for something that won’t be complete for a year or more. If I don’t write today, no one cares but me. Sounds a bit sad, but it’s true.
You have to make your own deadlines, your own urgency. Submit to contests because they have deadlines. Put your writing on a blog and commit to posting every week or every month. Even if you only have four followers, it gives you a sense of accountability to those followers. Set goals for your work in progress and attach rewards or consequences to those goals. For example, reward yourself for meeting your goal by buying a new book or dinner with a favorite friend. Conversely, if you don’t meet your goal, no TV until you do or dust the baseboards in the whole house. You can even challenge a writing friend to see who can finish 100 pages first. Loser buys coffee. You get the idea.
When you want to write but find yourself wasting time with distractions, know that you’re not alone in your struggle, but you do need to sit down and start. I’ll race you!
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24
Images courtesy of AZ Quotes (Stephen King), iz Quotes (Wole Soyinka), Boost Media (deadline)