Aspiring writers often ask for advice. Much of what professional writers spew in response is objective. Don’t connect to the internet. Write every day. Don’t use exclamation points! My biggest tip is less subjective: protect your writing time. It doesn’t matter when your writing time is—it’s like your breathing time—you won’t accomplish much without it. It sounds obvious, but there are two factors that get in the way.
First, it’s hard! In Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum says life finds a way. I say life gets in the way. Always. That’s why I try to start my day early, before 5:00 a.m., when people are too tired to bother me. Even my dog doesn’t get up that early. Still, things come up (like writing blog posts), and it’s easy to rationalize getting out of rhythm. But just like getting back into shape is harder than staying in shape, getting back into a writing rhythm is harder than staying in a writing rhythm. So protect that time like a politician protects their base.
Second, your writing time is much more than time spent pushing keys on a keyboard. You need thinking time. You need to give ideas and solutions space to present themselves. When they do, they need time to simmer. Do whatever makes that happen for you. Take a walk or a shower or a nap or a little whiskey. Sit in a field or a movie theater or an all-night diner. When I’m blocked I fight it with a trip to the mall because I hate malls. Seeing all the slow-walking mindless consumption and being marketed at from all angles without even a sky for escape forces me inward. Like a potato bug. I’ll create any world to get away from that one, and when I’m creating, good things happen.
The catch is people don’t count sitting in a field or going to the mall as work. They’ll want to tag along or ask you to pick up a Cinnabon for them. Say no. That’s your time. Guard it as if your soul depends on it. Because it does.
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