Are you an aspiring writer or a serious writer?
An aspiring writer spends a lot of time thinking about writing, reading about writing, talking about writing, but usually spends little time participating in the act of writing.
People who are more serious about the craft, well, they write often. For some writers, that means being disciplined enough to write every day. I don’t yet have that kind of discipline or time, and I don’t particularly believe that as a serious writer you have to write every day, but I do think you should write often. It’s the only way you’ll improve your skills.
I also think an important step to becoming a serious writer is to finish what you’re working on. It’s not always easy to finish a piece of writing. There are plenty of reasons that keep a writer from finishing – self-doubt, distractions, lack of ideas, and lack of interest are just a few that come to mind.
Here are some ideas to keep yourself focused on writing so you can transition from aspiring writer to serious writer.
1. Set Up A Writing Schedule. The first thing you’ll want to do is designate a specific amount of time to devote to writing each week, e.g., one or two hours a day every other day of the week. Pencil this in on your calendar. Once you’ve come up with a writing schedule that works for you, treat that time as though it’s your part-time job. Even though you may not be getting paid yet, you still want to act responsibly and take the “job” seriously. Don’t call in sick! This isn’t as easy as it sounds, but I’m working on it.
2. Do Only Writing-Related Activities During A Writing Session. This time is for writing, not surfing the internet, not going through the mail, or flipping through magazines. If during a particular writing session you find yourself drawing a blank, try brainstorming ideas. Make a list of topics you’re interested in. Then branch off and make a list of subtopics for each topic. You’re bound to come up with an idea or two for an article, blog post or even a short story. Keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down ideas that spring to mind throughout the day. You’ll be much more productive if you know ahead of time what you’re going to write about during a session.
3. Eliminate Distractions. Turn your phone off. Tell your loved ones not to bug you during a writing time, and try to be nice about it when you do tell them. If necessary, set up your work area in a room with a door for more privacy. If you find yourself spending your time surfing the internet instead of writing (uh, guilty), turn the computer off and do your writing with pen and paper. Once you get your first draft completed on paper, then move to the computer to do your rewrite.
4. Forget About the Quality of Your Work. This is a hard one for me, but don’t think about using proper grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure in your first draft. Just write. If you bog yourself down with being perfect on the first go around, you will never finish anything. However, you will accomplish beating yourself up, telling yourself you suck, and most likely you’ll just give up completely (uh, again, guilty). Go into each writing session knowing that what you will produce is going to be rewritten. Get your ideas down on paper first. Once that first draft is finished, then you can move on to the next step – polishing up your work.
These are some things I’ve been trying – not always succeeding at, but trying anyway. How about you? What do you do to stay focused on a writing project?