Sometimes writing is easy and the words just flow out onto the page. And sometimes . . . it’s not. Sometimes you have to push through when it seems like you’ve been working on the same paragraph for days and it’s just not getting better. It’s hard, it’s brutal, and you sometimes drop your laptop in the garbage and (temporarily) give up.
If you’re like me, you can’t ever leave your laptop in the garbage for long and you haul it out and keep trying. Over the years, I’ve found a few things that help me to keep trying and to keep pushing through the hard times. I don’t always do all of these and sometimes I have to fiddle with them to see what works for me the way my life is at the moment.
1. Write every day.
This advice probably isn’t new to anyone, but getting into a daily habit of putting words on the page—even if it’s only a paragraph!—make it so much easier to stay in the habit of writing even when you might not be as enamored with your manuscript as you’d like.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always allow for writing every day. When my kids were little, I found that if I missed a day (usually Monday because, well, Monday), I’d get discouraged and start missing other days. I had to be more flexible. So instead of trying to write every day and reaching a certain word count, I:
2. Set a weekly work count.
Most of the time, a weekly word count works much better for me than a daily word count. I don’t feel guilty when I miss a day because I know I can make it up later. Brandon Sanderson once said that he’d rather have a big chunk of time every other day to write than small chunks on a daily basis. Some writers do really well with small blocks of time, but others don’t. I tend to be someone who needs longer stretches of time. I take a while to adjust from real life to my story world, but once I’m there, I want to stay for longer than a couple minutes. But that’s just me. Every writer is different and needs to find the best way for them to write.
3. Be accountable to someone else.
Earlier this year I finished the first draft of a story I’d been trying to write for a long time. I’m usually a pretty fast drafter, but this one felt like slogging through waist-deep mud to get through it. My sister (probably tired of listening to me whine about it), told me to start emailing her every day what my word count was for that day. If I didn’t email her, she’d write to ask me about it.
And it worked. Having someone to report to helped so much, and it worked both ways (she also emailed me to let me know how her manuscript was going).
4. Find someone to encourage you.
One of the best ways to get through a rough writing patch is to have someone cheering for you, someone who loves your story, reads it as you go, and wants to see where it’s going, whether that’s a critique partner, a spouse, a friend, or whomever.
Unfortunately, as awesome as this is when it happens, it can sometimes have the opposite effect. Sometimes your critique group just won’t click with your story. Sometimes your friend really wants you to add a zombie-hunting, vampire-staking alien robot to your Regency romance and, well, it just doesn’t fit with the vision you have for your story.
It’s hard to keep going when someone you trust doesn’t like what you’ve written, but rewriting to try to fit someone else’s vision never works. Trust me on that.
5. Turn off the internet.
Seriously. Just try it.
6. Focus on what you love about your story.
We live in a pretty critical world and it’s so easy to focus on what’s wrong. It’s much harder to focus on what you like. (Just think how easy it is to list five things you don’t like about your appearance. Now list five things you love. How did you do?) As hard as it is, make a list of what you love about your story, the things that fascinate you, the reasons you started writing it in the first place, and then refer back to it often.
Now, go get your laptop back out of the garbage and get back to writing. Best of luck to you!
Jenilyn Collings loves to read and write things that are humorous or romantic (preferably both). She has worked as a dental researcher, a florist, a martial arts instructor, and a tracker at an alternative high school (she’ll leave it to your imagination what that entailed), but she’s now focused on writing and child wrangling. A long time resident of the Mountain West, she recently moved to New England with her family where she is gaining an appreciation for umbrellas, fall colors, and turning lanes while driving.