Note from Jenna: This guest post is from one of the many talented writers in my online Writer’s Circle program, Rebecca Brams. Rebecca knows first-hand about the many challenges of writing while being a mom to two young boys, but it doesn’t stop her from getting her writing done. She shares here some brilliant-yet-simple techniques she uses to jumpstart her writing on a regular basis, even as a busy parent.
As you read these tips, look for ideas you can use for yourself — and let us know in the comments which one you’ll be putting into action.
My personal favorite is #5. :)
11 Tips: How I Get (& Keep) Myself Writing
by Rebecca Brams
We all have days when sitting down to write sounds about as fun as scrubbing the toilet. When the Muse is ignoring my pleas and Resistance is strong as steel, I turn to these tips and tricks to get words on the page.
1. Write longhand and keep my hand moving
It’s classic advice for a reason. When I’m stuck, I break out the old-fashioned tools: paper and pen. I start by describing what’s around me: the room I’m in, the clothes I’m wearing, the way the clouds are moving out my window. I add in some other senses – the smell of the old coffee in my mug, the sound of the washing machine whirring – and presto, I’ve tricked myself into writing!
2. Use a timer
Before joining the Writer’s Circle with Jenna, I had mainly done timed writing when responding to prompts in writing groups, but now setting a timer is a critical part of my daily writing habit. I love using Freedom, an Internet-blocking software which temporarily disables my computer’s access to the Internet and blocks new emails from coming in. It keeps me away from online distractions while also giving me a clear “time’s up!” message right on my laptop screen.
3. Write before I’m awake
I’m not a morning person, but there’s something about 6:30 a.m. writing that allows me to sneak past that critical “editor” voice that can make each word a struggle. At night before I go to sleep, I set the scene: pen and notebook on the kitchen counter, splayed open to a fresh page. If my husband’s away, I prop my laptop against the wall by my bed, where it charges silently, waiting for morning when I pull it into bed for the indulgence of writing while still snug under the covers.
4. Bribe myself
On days when Resistance is mighty, I give myself a dark chocolate peanut butter cup, but only allow myself to eat it once I’m at my desk, I’ve set my timer, and the document is open. Some of my other favorite rewards are: a walk around the block, People magazine online, or a few minutes rocking in my hammock, thinking about how glad I am that the writing is done.
5. Suffer the consequences
Here’s the idea I keep in my back pocket for days when I feel powerless to stop avoiding my writing. I tell my husband, “Either I write today, or I have to spend those 15 minutes cleaning the toilet.” I’m pretty sure I know how that one will turn out, and it won’t be with a sparkling toilet.
6. Write in an unusual place
I write in my car, parked on a street where I’ve never before driven. I write in crowded cafes. I write in the yard under the Japanese maple. I write in the bathtub. But I do observe the cardinal rule: no laptops hovering over water.
7. Set a teeny tiny goal
10 minutes. 5 minutes. 2.3 minutes. When the timer goes off, I ask myself, “Can I keep going?” If the answer is yes, I set it for another tiny goal. I think in bite-sized pieces.
8. Write a numbered list
It could be a list of “Reasons I Can’t Write Today.” Or something supremely creative like “Things I Remember.” Eventually my timer will go off, or I’ll veer in some new, unexpected direction, perhaps even stumbling upon what I didn’t realize I was meaning to write about all along.
9. Use the phrase “What I really want to say is…”
Courtesy of writing teacher Laurie Wagner, this powerhouse phrase can make a piece of writing fizz and pop like Alka-Seltzer dropped into water.
10. Release the need to know where I’m headed
Sometimes I’m steaming along, words pouring out as fast as my fingers can type, and sometimes I hit dead stop, no idea of how to move forward. That’s when I remind myself that all I need to do is inch the story along. It doesn’t matter which current I tap into; I just need to move into the flow. Once I’m in motion, I can always change course.
11. Change my mindset
Instead of saying “I have to write now,” I tell myself: “Now I get to write.” What felt like suffering a moment ago might turn out to be my favorite part of the day.
Rebecca Brams is a novelist, blogger, grant writer and mama to two young boys in Berkeley, California. You can find Rebecca online at www.thismamawrites.com.
In her copious spare time, she likes Zumba, nature, and hot tubs.
Thanks for reading!