What Makes a Writer
Jun 08, 2020
Writers are not people who simply talk about writing, dream about writing, think about writing, or plan to write.
A simple concept for sure, but for many aspiring writers, a ridiculously difficult one to execute.
Two weeks ago, I shared "The 4-Step Solution to Getting Your Non-Fiction Book Out of Your Head and Onto the Page," and last week, I dug into Step 1: Narrow Your Focus. I called out lack of clarity about a book's point as the number one reason people don't get their books written.
Truth be told: Step 2: Put Your Butt in the Chair is a strong competitor for that #1 slot.
If you don't put your butt in the chair, it doesn't matter how clear you are about your point. If you don't write, you aren't going to get your book written.
Why We Avoid Writing
Writing is hard. It's "creation," which means making something new. It's scary. It's vulnerable. It brings out our insecurities, our fears, our doubts.
What if my writing isn't any good? What if I don't have anything worth saying? Who am I to think I have anything new to add to the conversation about ______ ? (You fill in the blank.)
Why would anyone want to put their butt in the chair with those kinds of thoughts flying through their head?
Writing feels self-indulgent. We all have 24 hours in a day and most of us have more tasks to accomplish than time to accomplish them. Maybe no one's waiting for your pages. Maybe you wonder if anyone cares. Maybe you wonder if your words can really impact others.
Here's the thing: If you don't feel compelled to write, don't! There are many other ways you can spend your time. And if you don't care enough about getting your words down on the page, it's unlikely others will care either.
But if you do feel compelled to write, and you are still not doing it, read on.
There is a Solution to Your Problem
Follow these steps so you can put your butt in the chair and get some writing done!
- Look at your calendar every Sunday and schedule in your writing sessions for the week. If you have a consistent schedule, set your writing sessions on repeat.
- Treat your writing sessions as non-negotiable appointments: hint, set them at times you are less likely to run into scheduling conflicts with your other commitments.
- Before you start each writing session, set a clear and realistic intention for what you'd like to accomplish in the time. Best practice is setting small, bite-sized goals. For example, "I will write a first draft of the scene when I was waiting for the train to Penn Station" is better than "I will write Chapter 2." Even better, when you end each session, note where you want to continue on for your next session.
- Manage distractions during your writing sessions. Shutdown your phone or move it out of sight. Set up a distraction blocker such as "Cold Turkey Blocker" to prevent you from visiting social media (and other) sites when you are supposed to be writing.
- Find an accountability partner and/or write in community. You are much more likely to show up if you know someone is waiting for you. Way back in the mid-1980s, my office-mate and I had a standing date to meet at the Reservoir in Manhattan's Central Park for a pre-dawn run. Believe me, there were so many cold dark mornings I didn't want to get out of bed, but I did because I knew Sarah would be waiting for me (and I'd catch hell in the office later that day if I didn't show!). Find a buddy and commit to at least one weekly writing date a week. Find a group that writes together regularly. FYI: I've been leading a complimentary co-writing time every Monday during Coronavirus lockdown. Come join me or start your own co-writing time.
- Create your own deadlines with consequences and/or rewards. If you don't have a publisher, editor, or a book coach waiting for your work, it can be easy to blow off your writing sessions. You need to create urgency to get your creative work done. Do what works best for you. Do you respond better to rewards? "I will treat myself to a new pair of Birkenstocks IF I get ten chapters written by xx." Make sure the goal for your deadline is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive. Or maybe you respond better to consequences. "If I don't get ten chapters written by XXX, I will have to donate $100 to Donald Trump's campaign."
Writers Put Their Butts in The Chair
There's no other way to be a writer. And you do want to be a writer, right?
Experiment with these six steps, find what works for you, and stick with it.
You can do this! If you have other tips to help writers get their butts in the chair, share them in the comment section. Share your success stories too. Claim your call as a writer. Do the work. Get your butt in the chair and be the writer you know you are capable of being.