5 tips to help you get started

Getting started is often the hardest part of any project, whether it’s tackling that difficult scene or cleaning out the basement you’ve been tossing things willy-nilly into for the past ten years. I spend an inordinate amount of time procrastinating, especially when I’m making the transition between two very different tasks, say–for instance–wrangling my three children into bed and writing. A lot of laundry-folding and RSS feed checking goes on during that time.

Along the way, I’ve developed some tactics to help me get past the how-do-I-even-begin hump. Here are a few:

1. Warmups. Not every project lends itself to warmups, of course (I don’t know what sorts of warmups one can do before scrubbing out the bathroom–and no, I don’t really need to know if there are). But you can ease into a difficult task. No one goes into a rigorous exercise routine without stretching out their muscles. I don’t tackle a difficult piano piece without limbering up my fingers with scales, or something easier.. In the same way, writing warmups can help get you into the mood before you have to figure out how to rescue the beautiful Princess Meliandora from the Dark Lord’s impregnable fortress. I recommend freewriting.

2. Break it down. Writing a novel is a big undertaking. So is cleaning your entire house. Or starting a business. Or creating a historically accurate Marie Antoinette costume. My advice? Break the project down into manageable chunks. Don’t think of it as writing an entire novel, but as getting to that first candybar scene. Focus on one drawer instead of the entire house.

And celebrate the milestones, even if it is with a cookie or five minutes to check Twitter/Facebook/email/[insert social media of choice].

3. Give yourself a time limit. I’ve extolled the virtues of  writing in sessions of 10-20 minutes before. You can do anything for a short burst of time, whether it’s weeding or scrubbing the inside of the oven or drafting a blog post. Sometimes that short time period is enough to get you going so you can continue even when the timer beeps. Or, if you’re like me, you write super-fast in order to cram in as many words as possible before the time runs out!

4. Get support. Make your goals public. Tell your family and friends what you’re going to do. Use the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter, tell your Facebook friends you’re attacking the attic today (and that they should send in search parties if you don’t re-emerge in a few hours). Get your spouse to prod you, and your friends to harass you about your goal (in a nice we-support-you sort of way). Tell your blog readers you’ve decided to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday–oh wait, did I say that out loud? *grin*

5. Get it on the schedule. Clear your schedule for your project. For the longest time, exercise wasn’t even in the kitchen for me, much less the back-burner. Now, with my husband working from home, I have a standing date with his iPhone to listen to a podcast while taking a brisk walk during the kids’ afternoon Quiet Time. Hire a babysitter, send the family out of the house, or go out yourself–just block that time off. Put it on the calendar, even. In pen. It makes it all the more real and official.

What about you? How do you deal with procrastination?

rebuilding habits

This past week I fell off the writing bandwagon, and fell hard. After weeks of steady progress on my WIP, I took a planned vacation off, then got sick, then got caught up in all the details of life, then just didn’t plain want to write. Writing was not the only habit to fall by the wayside–so did exercise, piano practice, and several personal goals. Not to mention planning, prepping and cooking nutritious meals (we won’t discuss the frozen pizza we had for dinner two nights in a row *shudder*).

But this post is not about wallowing in guilt by the side of the road. It’s about climbing back onto the wagon, moving on from the disruption caused by last week and returning to those good routines. On Saturday I banged out over 600-plus painless words on Kai’s book, then followed that up with 700-plus words on Sunday. I got back into exercise with an hour of stretching (though admittedly I wouldn’t have if David hadn’t been holding my pudding hostage). Home-cooked meals and veggies are back on the menu. My fingers still remember how to play Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.

I’m rebuilding those good habits, with the help of some practical articles, a supportive community of writers, and this cute and inspiring button by WriterBelle:

What good habits are you trying to build? What routines are you trying to establish? How’s it going for you?

happy monday

I make so many mistakes, slack off, or get tired and barely scrape by, that I’m always glad for a second chance. Yesterday, as I was journaling about my fatigued zombie-like state of last week and my lack of a productive weekend, I was struck by how many new beginnings I get. A new day, a new week, a new month, a new season.

Most of us don’t look forward to Mondays, but this week I see Monday with new eyes. It’s another chance. Another chance to start the week off strong, on the right foot. To get a  flying start on math and spelling and reading. To make inroads into the history of the ancient Greeks. To brainstorm new scenes for Kai’s book, to make my world more robust and detailed. To finally get back on my cleaning schedule.

To start creating good habits to carry me through the times I’m tired, down or harassed by how much I have to do.

Happy Monday!

encouragement for the aspiring writer

Emerging from Post-Revision Haze to provide you with this public-service, link-heavy post for unpublished writers:

Celebrate your rejections. Really. Because getting rejections means that you’re completing stories and sending them out. Congratulations. If you’re getting rejections, you’re doing the job of a professional writer.

Still not convinced? Got the rejection blues? Tired of always being aspiring? DGLM’s Michael Bourret on enjoying the pre-published stage. And here’s a light-hearted look at the perks of being unpublished. Having seen books get savaged by Amazon reviewers, there are many days that I am grateful to be on this side of the Great Publishing Divide.

Here’s (upcoming) YA author Jodi Meadows on not giving up.

If you’re not interested in waiting for the Publishing Fairy to sprinkle you with gold dust, you can bypass all the gatekeepers, and go indie. There’s even a blog carnival for indie writers (via JA Marlow)!

Seth Godin on  hope and the magic lottery. I love this bit (which I think writers looking to build their fan base will appreciate):

If your business or your music or your art or your project is truly worth your energy and your passion, then don’t sell it short by putting its future into a lottery ticket.

Here’s another way to think about it: delight the audience you already have, amaze the customers you can already reach, dazzle the small investors who already trust you enough to listen to you. Take the permission you have and work your way up. Leaps look good in the movies, but in fact, success is mostly about finding a path and walking it one step at a time.

(Speaking of Seth Godin, here he is again talking about moving on from traditional publishing.)

i am writer, hear me roar!

It is HOT in here. Muggy hot. Stuffy hot from drawn shades and closed windows. Outside, it’s my-steering-wheel-is-going-to-burn-my-hands and the-pavement’s-going-to-melt and the-metal-is-going-to-take-off-my-skin HOT.

Yes, folks, we’re having a heat wave of temps in the mid-90s up here in Vermont.

I’ll wait while all you Florida and Arizona and other southern state people stop laughing.

Remember, we have no central air conditioning (thank God I insisted we install ceiling fans in every bedroom!). Our house is designed to trap heat (we can thank our Vermont winters for that). Our kids have been going about with flushed cheeks and heat-induced hair-trigger sensitivity. The Baron’s curls have been plastered to his head with sweat all day. I’m seriously considering cutting them off, poor child!

And still I revised. Got a whole new scene written, despite my laptop overheating and dying right in the middle. I feel victorious, the writer who triumphed over the weather, who did her writerly thing under less than optimum conditions, instead of filling up the bathtub with ice cubes and lying in it and insisting that no human body come within ten feet of her.

My friend Jo also got creative over the last day or two so she, too, could write.

Have you ever had to take drastic measures in order to write? Written a novel in 30-minute increments on a library computer? Scribbled flash fiction on a burp cloth while nursing twins? Let us know.  :)