Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Trouble Writing? Leave the House

Some days it’s harder than others to open up the file and get started. Who am I kidding? Most days, it’s hard. I honestly don’t know why this is. I have been writing 1500 words per day, 6 days a week, for the last two years. You’d think it would be easier to just sit down and write. Maybe it’s all the distractions. Email. Stupid articles on Yahoo News and the accompanying inane comments. The giant waste of time known as Facebook. But even before Facebook existed, I was the queen of wasting time. In college I rearranged my room to put off studying for a test. In my younger and more vulnerable years I watched MTV. Okay. So that dates me.

The point is there’s always going to be something else you can do besides writing. Unless you have an editor breathing down your neck (which, I don’t, alas) than you’re going to have to motivate yourself. I’ve figured out that if I can just get started, the rest usually takes care of itself. Then I have a hard time stopping. But that’s an issue for another day.

So what have I learned over the years about getting started? Here’s my list in no particular order:

Leave the house. When my family first moved to Columbus I had no idea that it has cloudy gray weather to rival Seattle’s. A kindly neighbor with Seasonal Affective Disorder pointed this out the first week we were here. “November. Yep. It’s Cloud Season,” he said. “Won’t be sunny again til March. If we’re lucky.” I thought he was joking. He was. Turned out it was April. Our house was dark. Cold. Dreary. I could barely crawl out of bed, much less write. I had to get the heck out of there before I went crazy.

Most days in winter, I pack up my computer and haul my lazy butt out the door to the library. In our town it’s warm and well lit. It has nice comfy chairs. They’ve reserved one for me. (Not really, but it seems like it. I sit in the same one, back in the quiet reference section, near the big windows.) The library is a great place to write because it smells like books. Which is what I’m trying to write. Some days when I need an extra dose of inspiration, I meander over to the YA section and make a large space on the shelf where they’ll some day shelve my books. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

If I have $3.75 I head over to the Caribou Coffee shop. Our town has two, both within walking distance. (Not that I ever walk, haha.) A coffee shop is a good place to write because you can get a nice shot of caffeine to spur you on. They have electrical outlets where you can plug in your computer. And there are usually other people around working, writing, studying, so you’ll get a good motivational kick to go with your caffeine surge. (For the record, I also frequent Panera Bread and Starbucks.)

Make a date with a writer friend. It helps if you pencil this in on your calendar: Thursday—12 to 3 meet Jill to write. I used to think this method wouldn’t work. The person and I would get to talking and nothing would get done. But you’d be surprised. Throw two writers together and usually one of you will be in a productive mood. The other one will have no choice but to get cracking too.

Have a place in your house set up for writing. You know how articles about sleep issues always suggest that you make your bed a place for sleeping and nothing else? Well, I’ve learned this applies to writing too. Not the bed part. But having a place where all you do is write. An office. Or at least a desk. Last year my supportive handyman husband converted part of the guest bedroom into an office for me. It has a comfy chair. Shelves of children’s books for inspiration. A table for spreading out all my notes and research. And a wall-to-wall corkboard where I can pin up my ideas (typically scribbled on folded grocery receipts). When I walk into that room, I feel like writing is my job. Which I guess it is. Except for the getting paid part.

And my final suggestion: team up with an accountability partner—another writer like you who needs a nudge to get started every day. My writing partner lives in another state. We have only met in person a few times. Every morning we email each other our writing goals. At the end of the day we email what we’ve accomplished. Some days when we’re both lagging, we text each other, setting up mini races, such as write 100 words in the next ten minutes.

Let’s try that now and see if it works. Okay? 100 words. Ten minutes. Go.


  1. Jody, this is great stuff. Making a resolution to set goals tomorrow! Well, maybe Thursday. Or the weekend . . .

  2. Thank, Tracy. I still don't understand why it's so hard to get going every day. Nice to know I'm not alone.

  3. Jody,

    Robin Gibson directed me to your site, in response to my tweet about procrastinating. Nice to know I'm not the only one. Good luck with all your writing.

    I'm in Granville if you'd ever like to meet IRL. Especially this winter when we'll both need to get out. =)


  4. LOVE the race. That's my favorite, and it ALWAYS works.