I often wonder what the perfect set-up is to maximize my writing, my creativity, and my work. What is the ideal way to prevent writer’s block and allow yourself to finish a novel without ever having an urge to stop because of some unguided sense of failure? The answer varies. I know one of my readers, Kate (4amwriter), wakes up at 4 AM every morning to get a few hours of writing done before the day starts. It works for her, and to be honest, if I could wake up at 4 AM I think it would work for me. But I’ve chosen a different path, and I’d like to share what I’ve done to enable myself to write two 100k plus novels in one year.
When you don’t have a boss (excluding agent and publisher), and there is no one to tell you what to do, and when to do it, it is rather easy to get lazy, lose motivation, or get a sudden spurt of creativity that lasts for a few days only to have your well of imagination run dry. Thus the first thing I did was to get myself a schedule. Whenever I’m writing I do the following, every day of the week:
8 AM: Wake up and eat breakfast
9 – 10 AM: Go to the gym
10 – 12 PM: Shower and then read until it’s time to prepare and eat lunch.
Then it varies – but from 12 PM I write between four and eight hours a day. Whenever that’s done I like to go here, on this website, write a short poem, a report on my progress, and answer your comments. I’m usually done by 6 – 8 PM. Then I’m free until 11 PM. I usually spent the last few hours of the day playing video games (or reading some more depending on how much I enjoy the novel I am currently reading).
It works surprisingly well. The first problem many writers face when having dedicated hours to write is that they turn to the screen at 12 PM to work but can’t do it. Nothing comes to mind. Nothing. So they write a sentence and then erase it. They repeat this process about fifty times before they catch a last minute flight to Vegas and forget their worries until their account runs dry and they beg their agent for more cash and he or she tells them to keep writing (no, this would not happen, but you get the idea).
What you need to do in this case is just to write – even if it’s bad – just let it go. You’ll remove all the bad writing once you’re revising. Whenever I read a first draft I can usually tell when the writer has gone to sleep and starts off from the same page the following day. But it can be fixed, as long as you keep going and end up with a complete manuscript that you actually can revise!
The “bad” moments for me are when I get caught up in a TV-show or in a video game and want to keep watching/playing instead of writing. I tend to forget about my desires for procrastination, if I may call it that, once I get started.
There was one time, however, for a whole month during summer roughly two years ago when my creativity and will to write was unparalleled to anything I ever had before, or have had since. I’ll paint you the picture:
I had just moved to my second house in Birmingham. Some friends from Sweden would arrive a month later and I chose between going back to Sweden for that month or to remain, alone, without internet, in the house. I chose to remain in the house. All my friends were gone, it was summer break after all, so there was no one to disturb me, no one to request anything from me, no one to call me up in the middle of the day and ruin my perfect creative moment. All I had was my laptop, a tonne of ideas, an unfinished manuscript, a Playstation 3 with plenty of games, and a 1 TB hard drive with weeks of music and hundreds of movies and TV shows. Back then I had no specific schedule. If I wanted to write for an hour, I did so, if I wanted to play video games for eight hours, I did so, and if I wanted to watch three movies in a row eating an XL size pizza before writing for five hours, I did so.
To this day that month remains one of the best times of my life. I guess I just love myself that much. What made it so enjoyable, I guess, was the fact that I had no pressure to finish the script. I did it because it was fun, because I wanted to, and because I could.
I have since then considered to literally “go dark” whenever I’m in the process of finishing a manuscript but I currently only have one place of residence (though I am considering using the apartment opposite mine for work. It’s mainly used for my father when he comes to visit. I could arrange a study in there).
Anyhow – if you have a problem getting your manuscript together – either force yourself to follow a schedule and write, no matter what, or lock yourself away in a place where only your thoughts can reach you.
What about you, my dear readers? What advice can you give regarding writer’s block? How do you motivate yourself? What is your perfect environment for creative writing?
– F H Hakansson