By Guest Connie Mann
In my head, I envision myself as this ethereal creative creature that floats through the mist, scooping up ideas in my pretty basket. The moment I alight at my desk, beautiful, perfect words pour from my fingertips like rain as a story magically appears.
Then I wake up and squint at the mess on my desk. I scowl at the big red due date on my wall calendar, slurp more coffee and panic.
For most writers I know, creating new characters, building a story world, and envisioning a juicy plot is the fun stuff of writing, the misty creative part. I can talk stories with you all day long and enjoy every minute of it. But tell me to spend the day at my desk writing? Hmm, I’m pretty sure I need to clean out the guestroom closet—right now. Can’t go another day without new curtains in the living room, either. And really, what was I thinking buying those socks?
In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says, “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
Pressfield calls what keeps us from doing it “resistance.” I call it a big sweaty battle against inertia. And fear. And insecurity. Whatever name you give it, the moment we set out to do something creative, a force pushes back just as hard to keep us from it. How do we break through? How do we get our stories down on paper?
Here are my best strategies. They may not work for you, but I hope you’ll give them a try.
I know, I can hear some of you groaning from here. Last fall I sat between two writer friends at lunch and realized both of them had full-time jobs and families and were getting up at 4:00 am (yes, you read that right) every morning to get their writing done. I decided if I was going to take my writing to the next level, I needed to do the same. The next morning, I set my alarm so early I wasn’t sure God was up yet and got to work.
I don’t like 4:00 am much, and realized I can’t keep it up for long, but I can do 5:00 or 5:30. So I’ve been gradually resetting my internal clock to get up at that time, gulp coffee and head to my computer.
The added benefit: my internal editor isn’t awake then, either. Apparently that naggy voice in my head that tells me this is clearly not misty creative material doesn’t get up early. I can simply pour the story out on the page and tell my internal editor she can gripe at me later.
I like to think I’m organized and disciplined and all those lovely things that sound so good, but the reality is that without a deadline, nothing happens. Nada. If I have all day to write 1,000 words, they will get dumped on the page exactly 30 minutes before hubby gets home from work to ask if I got everything done.
If that sounds familiar, try word sprints with friends, set a timer, or whatever makes that deadline panic work for you.
When I write before my day job, I can’t weasel out. The deadline is real and I only have so much time. I am a boat captain (just like the heroine of Tangled Lies) and work out in the sun most days, so by the time I get home from work, my brain is mush. I’ve learned that if my writing doesn’t get done first, it won’t happen that day at all.
It sounds completely counterintuitive, but it works. I’m an optimist, which means I’m always pretty sure I can write a novel in a month; six weeks, tops. Then reality slaps me upside the head and I notice my gut is clenched and my palms are sweating because I’ve set an impossible goal. I just can’t do it.
I’ve learned to do the opposite and set small goals. Instead of 10,000 words in one day, I’ll tell myself I just need to write 500 words in this one hour. That’s it. No more. Usually, when the timer rings, I’ve written far more than 500 words. But even on days I don’t, I’ve met my goal so I can feel good about my progress.
4 – Keep a record
Speaking of progress, several years ago, I discovered the beauty of a yearly wall calendar, the kind that lets you see the whole year at once. That’s been a huge help in planning projects, setting reasonable goals, and meeting deadlines. But it also lets me record the successes--the days I met my goal, submitted a project and especially those days when good news arrives--like the day I sold Tangled Lies!
Writing is often solitary and kudos are few and far between, so this visual reminder of my progress throughout the year helps me stay the course. And for seasons when life interferes—as it inevitably does—it helps me cut myself some slack when progress is measured in teeny tiny steps.
That’s my battle plan for winning the creative war. It starts with the ‘butt in chair’ adage--and prayer, too--but without goals, deadlines and a set time of day, I never get close to my ‘misty creative’ ideal.
What about you? How do you get the story down on paper? What strategies do you use?
Leave a comment letting us know you’d like to be entered to win a print copy (U.S. address) of the newly-released Tangled Lies, from Waterfall Press. Available now!
Some Family secrets are best left buried at sea…
Orphaned as a child in Russia, boat captain Sasha Petrov has spent most of her life adrift, anchored only by her loving foster family. So when they beg her to return to the family marina in Safe Harbor, Florida, for Mama’s sixtieth birthday, Sasha complies, hoping to put the past behind her. But Mama has other plans: she wants her three foster daughters to find Tony, the biological son who disappeared twenty years earlier.
Sasha agrees to try, but that’s easier said than done when bad boy Jesse Claybourne shows up, reigniting an old attraction. Back in Safe Harbor on a quest of his own, Jesse gets tangled up in Sasha’s search, and soon the two are close to uncovering an old town secret that some will stop at nothing to protect.
When Jesse is violently beaten and Sasha’s dog is poisoned, they realize the past is hiding something more sinister than they ever imagined. Can they uncover the truth without destroying Sasha’s family and breaking each other’s hearts, or are they sailing against the wind?
Connie Mann is a licensed boat captain and the author of romantic suspense novels Tangled Lies (May 2016) Angel Falls and Trapped! When she’s not dreaming up plotlines, you’ll find “Captain Connie” on Central Florida’s waterways, introducing boats full of schoolchildren to their first alligator. She is also passionate about helping women and children in developing countries follow their dreams and break the poverty cycle. You can visit Connie online at www.conniemann.com.