Pretty much exactly two years ago I wrote a little post about nine things you can do to get yourself in the mood for writing.
It’s taken about that long to think up some more. But since writing is like MRSA – grows resilient to the same old tactics, and then kills you with cigarettes, alcohol, or collapsing shelves, depending on how successful you are – I reckon it’s good to stay on your toes.
So: here are seven more ways to trick yourself into writing.
Don’t tell anyone what you’re writing
You know those things you do when nobody looks? That you’d criticise someone for doing if you caught them?
I mean things like picking your nose, or fiddling around with your genitals.
That’s how writing should be.
Writing should be a dirty little habit that no one catches you doing. That makes you feel a bit good and a bit naughty and even a bit shameful if it’s truthful. Writing isn’t meant to be glamorous. It’s a process. It’s like rolling around in tonnes of letter-y shit for months on end. So be the pig, stop worrying if it doesn’t feel amazing all the time, and get stuck in.
Trust your brains
You’ll know that rising panic about an unsolvable plot hole; about what comes next in the story; about the first sentence not being sharper; about the name for a character, or for a thing; about how to write a synopsis; about how you’ll end it.
You’ll know it because it’s crippling. It puts you off opening the file. It makes you go and clean the bathroom, do the big shop – anything but open that frigging file again.
That feeling is what loads of people call writer’s block.
But it’s what you could also call failing to trust your brains.
When you trust your brains, you can rack your brains for a while, relax, go to bed and wake up all with the answers in a neat pile next to your forehead. When you trust your brains, you’ll find inspiration when you don’t expect to find inspiration – because the art of thinking really hard is to unthink everything and just let it come out when it wants to.
Accept that there’s a writing ‘you’ and a ‘you’ that hates every last thing you write
Picture it: you’re floating in the word-zone. You aren’t cranking out sentences – these paragraphs are crafted from fine filigree. They’re flowing from the feather-tips of Hermes’ sneakers. You’re like some coke-powered Homer. Babe, you’re the greatest writer in the world. You’re going to win the Man Booker six times in a row, in the same year, then set fire to the other shortlisted writers, and Martin Amis at his next reading, before you singlehandedly reintroduce the apostrophe to the Waterstones logo at every UK branch with nothing but some suction cups and a pot of Tip-Ex…
Until the next morning, at least. When you wake up, scan last night’s paragraphs, and notice that truth has lobbed a javelin in your eye. You don’t need to picture this. This is reality. Cold. Miserable. Typos. Overwrought sentences, digressions, weak scenes. And your girlfriend’s used the last of the milk.
Familiar? Course it is. That’s what writing’s like.
If you read something you’ve written and don’t dislike at least 25% of it, you’re reading a shopping list.
Accept it. And crack on.
Stop writing for other writers
Is writing lonely? Is it bollocks – far too many people get in the way.
Despite that, writers are drawn to writers on social networks where we get to validate our shared experiences (writing is hell and so on) and call Dan Brown a nob. Talk to other writers regularly, and you might start to wonder if they’re the only people who’ll ever read your stuff.
Just remember that writers, like artists, musicians, thespians and other nearly-humans – can be selfish, needy, jealous, bitchy, game-playing, and even nasty. Sometimes all at once. Trust me – I am one, and I’m really not sure about the top you’re wearing.
So even though you might have a few lovely ones to call friends, just remember that other writers are not your primary audience. Readers are.
Remember to enjoy yourself
We already know that writers like to complain about intense feelings of existential panic and despair, usually caused by re-reading last night’s work. We decide that a single sentence being skew-whiff ruins an entire page. We get our best stuff panned, and our worst stuff loved. Sometimes we just sit there, staring at a single solitary blinking cursor, picking our noses, fiddling with our testicles and wondering what it’s all about.
Well, if you ever see a writer doing this you should a) slap them, b) tell them to get a grip, and c) remind them that in the olden days there were no keyboards – none of this copy/paste, delete and find/replace nonsense. Or electric kettles. And that you’d get probably get tuberculosis as well.
Keep everything (if only to make a bigger fire)
When Stephen King says to kill your darlings, he doesn’t tell you where to dispose of the bodies. That’s because he’s got more money than you and doesn’t give a toss as long as you don’t drive a van at him.
Well, I give a toss. It’s why I say you should leave your darlings to rot in a dark place and burn them later if you really have to. A drawer, a filing cabinet, a hidden graveyard on your hard drive that’s stacked with untitled ideas. Because a crap idea is going to be better than one you forget forever. Because what if the things we forget could’ve flowered into something more beautiful than all the things we remember? This way if you’re really stuck, you can have a good rummage. Perspective might fire up some different synapses; help you connect the dots for something else — something better.
Oh, and keep a notepad by your bed. Not so you can write down your dreams, but so when you’re in the middle of a writing project you can communicate with your significant other when they go to bed three hours before you, and leave for work an hour earlier.
Ignore all the advice
Sometimes it feels like the first rule of Write Club is to tell everyone in the world you’re in Write Club.
OK, OK, you’re a writer. Those are some lovely writings you’re doing there.
But don’t forget that writers write.
If you’re in Write Club to get the answers, you’re doing it all wrong.
That’s why it’s best to stop reading stuff that makes you feel guilty about the way you do things. Things like this post – especially this post – because what the hell do I know?