Writing is hard. There are a lot of days getting out of bed, sitting in front of my computer, and typing out coherent words is more difficult than holding my breath 24 hours straight. Seriously, some mornings I’d try. Which takes me forever, meaning I have an excuse not to write. WRONG.
It’s especially hard to write when it’s the fifth, or fifteenth, or fifty-sixth day in a row where you wake up and don’t do it. Eat breakfast and still don’t write. Go to the gym, go to work, call a friend, drink coffee, and still don’t write. Then it’s time for bed, and some form of the words, “oh well, I’m doing such a bad job this week, maybe I should take the rest of the week off from writing and start again next week” cross your mind. You just rationalized not writing, so the feeling of being an awful person for not writing is nagging the back of your brain. But it’s okay, because you gave yourself a pass for this week. YOU ARE A LIAR.
Here’s the deal. A lot of people who know me and are writers ask me how I get the motivation to wake up and write as much as I do. I think they’re all nuts because most days I feel like a failure. If I write, I don’t write enough. If I wake up late, I run out of time to finish the word count I’d aimed for.
There are days where I sit back, re-reading what I just wrote and listening to the screams of my invisible readers as they realize the mind game I just twisted them into, and think, wow I am a genius. Those days do not happen often. Even when they do happen, I usually go back to edit it later and think it’s horrible and wonder how I ever thought it was genius level work. I know this is the way things are, so when I have an “I’m a genius” moment, I hold onto it. I relish in it. I tell people about it so they can remind me when I’m at the other end of the spectrum and ready to attach my manuscript to dynamite that there was at least one time I thought my writing was phenomenal so I probably shouldn’t throw it out.
So on all the normal days, where I am not a morning person but need to be awake to write, here’s what I do.
First, I bribe myself. I am a normal sucker just like everyone else. Bribes work on me if it’s good enough. And in the mornings, “good enough”=coffee. I will do a lot for a large cup of black coffee. It’s a weakness, which I know well and fully use to my writing’s advantage. Find something to bribe yourself with that you only get after you write. Sometimes, it’s enough.
Secondly, and more effectively, I put fear in my soul and dwell on it until I’m terrified out of my mind. It sounds scary, and it is, but not in the way normal people would think about. I write because I feel like I have a story I want told. I also write with the intention of hopefully making at least a small amount of money from it, and at the very least being published at some point in the near future. If I don’t feel like writing, I ask myself: In five years, what will I wish I’d done? TERRIFYING.
Then I start imagining myself in five years still working a part time job and talking about how I like writing but I don’t complete anything or have anything published or have any success of any kind to attribute to my name. AHHHHHHH. That makes me nervous and angry and full of self-hatred, but ultimately I will not be happy if I don’t write. I know that, my soul knows that, my mind knows that. The fear of never having written anything in five years time is enough to force myself to sit in front of my laptop and type.
Writing is what I want to do more than anything in the entire world. The thought of not doing it scares me more than anything else because NOT WRITING IS A CHOICE. Choices make up life, and you only get one shot at it.
If you want to be a writer, writing is not optional.
Bad words are better than no words EVERY TIME.
Good writing is not easy. That does not mean it’s impossible. That does mean it takes work.
When you don’t write, you are choosing not to.
In five years, what are you going to wish you’d done?