So, You Want to Write?

20 March 2017

Here's a post about some ideas, tips and maybe a little motivation on writing that I've had experience with. For starters I could use some motivation and consistency in writing myself so hopefully I can adhere to my own ideas.

When I started to write my first book all the ideas and stories were fresh in my mind and I was eager to get it all down in print. It was easy for me to type it all out and keep going until I had a good rough draft finished up. Words would flow out like water over a cliff as I drafted out the chapters with the main ideas and foundations I needed to go back on subsequent drafts to add more details.

Establish Consistency

Some of the things I did to help me through this process was to establish a schedule of sorts to keep myself accountable and on track. If I was able to be at home in the evenings I could dedicate an hour or two to writing. As long as I kept at it and stayed consistent I was able to form a habit. I've heard it said that if you can do something consistently for 45 to 60 days or so, that you can form a habit which makes it easier to keep doing what you need to do. This worked especially well for me when I wrote my book and for going to the gym each day in the very early morning.

Eliminate Distractions

Next on my unofficial list of things to do was to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Since I write on a computer it becomes far too easy to be distracted by other things. Social media like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other websites like to grab my attention and pull me away from my writing. So what I would do is close out all of my open programs that generate notifications. I would then put the program I was using to write into full screen mode to prevent me from seeing those other programs and wanting to click on them. Next I'd put my mobile devices into do not disturb or airplane mode to shut down those notifications too.

The next thing I have to deal with, and it's far more tricky and complicated, is to figure out a way to keep the cats at bay! One of my cats loves to be right by me, if not on me, at all times when I am home. If I happen to be on the computer it's not uncommon for him to be laying on my lap, or my hands between me and the computer. You can imagine that it's a bit difficult to type and concentrate with a cat in the way. I could lock myself away in another room away from them, but in my experience they still find a way to break my concentration by by pawing at the door, banging into it, meowing and generally being unruly until I come out or allow them in.

The only way I overcame this distraction was to allow him to get close to me for a while until he settled down, usually on my lap or on my wrists. I've actually become quite adept at typing with a cat lounging on my wrists.

Sometimes you can't always eliminate all distractions completely, but you do the best you can and push forward with your writing anyhow.

Take Notes

Another great tip that I learned way back in grade school actually was to take notes. It's a great idea to keep a pen and paper nearby at all times. You never know when a great idea for your book will strike you and you may not be at home or anywhere to put that idea down in your drafts. If you keep a notepad nearby you can quickly jot down the idea so you don't forget it later when you're ready to put some words down.

I learned this at a school assembly once where an author spoke to us and I remember he said that you might wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and if you don't write it down then, by the time morning comes and you get up, you may not remember what it was.

Write First, Edit Later

This is probably my biggest obstacle for getting work done quickly. I'm not OCD by any means, but I can be picky about some things. One of those things is having misspellings and grammatical errors in my text. It bugs me to see the little red squiggly line under some text as I'm going along and I just have to go back and fix it.

Really though it shouldn't be a big deal and I should just write and get my thoughts down on the the proverbial paper. When I am able to resist editing as I am writing I am able to get a lot done in a session and I don't lose track of what I need to put down.

It's more important to get the bulk of your writing down first and worry about editing it later. This way you don't forget what you wanted to write and you don't want to be distracted by the process of editing when you're supposed to be writing.

Set Small Goals

This one kind of tags onto establishing consistency. If you can establish a goal of a certain time each day, or each week, that you want to write that is a goal. For me it is usually in the evenings that I can establish a goal of writing. Try to aim for some small goal like the following:

You don't have to limit yourself to what I put above, but use those as a guide as you develop your own methods, habits and styles of writing.

But be sure that your goals are realistic for you. Nothing is worse than setting unrealistic goals and trying to keep to them. You may find that you burn yourself out or become discouraged when you can't live up to lofty goals.

Back It Up

If you're like me you probably use a computer to do your writing on. If that's the case it is wise to ensure you have a good backup solution for your computer. Computers crash and data is lost and it happens to everyone at some point. The last thing you want to happen is your computer crash and you lose that book you've been working on for months.

These days there is no reason not to have a back up of your computer and it's files. There are simple programs available to do this and usually all that you need is an external hard drive to back up to.

Also there are online services that will securely store your files on your computer and online for simple and easy access on nearly any device.

Some of this online services I can recommend are:

Those are the most popular services I can think of and I've used all of them through the years and each are good choices.

I also use an external hard drive with VEEAM Endpoint Backup Free software to protect my whole PC from data loss. I've used other Microsoft Windows-based backup solutions and was not happy with them, even the paid ones. But the VEEAM product has been rock solid and stable and best of all it's free.

For my Apple MacBook Pro I use the Apple Time Capsule which uses Apple's Time Machine software to backup the whole Mac.

If you use a computer, remember to save often! Power outages can happen even on nice weather days and you don't want to lose that hour of work you just put in because you forgot to save your work.

If you write on paper it is still important to protect your work. Consider a fire safe to store your notebooks when you're not working on them.

Download the pdf version with pictures here.