6 Ways to Get Serious About Your Writing
You’ve set goals. You’ve planned your story. You’ve decided that this year is the year. You’re getting serious and legit. But, let’s be real—
You’ll get distracted from your writing goal by January’s end.
Thank you for the encouragement. -_-
You’re welcome! Everyone needs a reality check. While it may feel harsh (get used to it for the publishing process), it coerces you to face whether you’re going to really do this or not. Life gets in the way, of course. But, for real authors, writing isn’t treated like a hobby to be done when you get the time; serious authors make the time because being published means deadlines and expectations that you’re going to make it happen—life or not.
Now, I’m not one to talk or criticize others in this matter. In the past two years, I’ve been blessed with ample time to make it happen. I got halfway through my novel and two chapters away from finishing my novella. I did NaNoWriMo 2017 and joined writing communities—that I eventually lead by 2018. Yet, during my pregnancy and SAH status, I barely finished a few poems! While I always want to write, I haven’t taken it serious enough to really get in it. Hobby? Yes. Coping activity? Even more so. A priority in life? Not really. Something that could change my life? Potentially. And, it’s that potential that makes us want get legit. Here’s are some ideas to do that this year…
1. Set Reminders for Contests
Majority of writing contests feature the contestant work in magazines, which can have a lot of benefits, as I discuss here. Some offer university fellowships to research and complete your work if the manuscript/proposal has potential to be as awesome as you present it. Others offer opportunities to travel and read or discuss their writing at festivals and conferences.
But, even more importantly, writing contests offer money prizes! Cha-Ching! If none of the above entices you to want to write, at least small pieces, this year, then maybe being an author is not what you really want to do.
Or, we’re not about the competition or fees.
Yes. Why, yes. That is a possibility… Anyway, though. One thing I decided to do was go through lists of contests for which I would be eligible and entered their deadlines and requirements into my calendars—digital and journal. Even if I don’t participate in one, I’m reminded of all my opportunities.
So, you have no excuse.
Basically. I’m guilting myself.
2. Treat Writing Time Like a Diet
I don’t mean avoid it, fail it, or obsessively track it on one of those apps.
Sounds like a confession.
Maybe. While it never really works for me when I attempt to diet, it does work when I’m trying to stick to a budget. I’m sure you’ve heard of the “cheat days”. When you stick to your diet for so long, you allow yourself one treat to reward your dedication and success. It may seem counterintuitive to do the opposite of what you’re trying to do as a celebration, but, psychological conditioning is a powerful thing.
So, try it with your writing time. Set a goal—time, word count, deadline, whatever you think you can REASONABLY AND CONSISTENTLY complete—and allow yourself some kind of reward for sticking to it.
For example: for every 500 words you finish a week, get yourself a good, expensive coffee; then enjoy it at the cafe while reviewing your work. Or, finish a chapter every month. For doing so, set aside $10 in your publishing fund to move toward making your goal a reality.
Such a simple thing keeps you motivated. With life happening, unless we’re rewarded for doing something extra beyond our needs, we’re not gonna do it. Be real with yourself.
3. Share Deadlines to Keep You Accountable
Peer pressure. Despite being instilled with common sense, morals, and ethics, all of it can be overridden in a moment of social ostracism. And, it’s not just in your school years. Adults do it ALL THE TIME! Sadly enough.
A fellow writer in my writing community put her work up for pre-order months before she finished. Talk about bold! People are paying money now! That’s a lot of riots if she didn’t have it ready! It worked, though. The pressure of sharing her self-set deadline (self-published) left her with no choice but to get serious.
Could I do that? Naw, Fam. That’s asking for trouble with my attention span! However, I can do something similar when I advertise and gain a reader following for my work before I even finish writing it. Yeah, you can do that without being previously published, by the way.
Or, to be even more low-key, share it with your writing community, best friend, significant other, anyone who knows how important this is to you. Their pressure should hopefully be enough!
4. Set Reminders to Harass You to Write
Personally, I love lists. I actually made hundreds of random lists on this site called Listography, that also makes books. Sticky notes, scrap paper, journals, everything I do from professional and personal life is compiled into lists tracked in many places. So, you can only imagine how I felt when I got my first smartphone and discovered the reminder app. I can create different lists all in one place, and even set alarms to remind me to do it on different schedules. In love!
Until…that little red dot on the edge of the icon kept popping up. That’s when I discovered I also have this thing about notifications. I need them to go away. If I unlock my phone, and there are notifications in any app, I’ll make it go away, even if I just open and close it again without actually paying attention to why it’s notifying me. Well, the reminders aren’t that easy.
The only way to make them go away is to actually check it off or delete it. Well, if I delete it, I won’t remember to reset it; and, if I check it off, it renders the rest of my list efforts obsolete. (I’m even too ethical with myself!) so, there it stays…watching me…taunting me…reminding me of my failure. That, alone, makes me want to be productive, let alone that I should be doing these things anyway (which is why I made the reminders in the first place!)
You can try the same. Even if you do lists, set alarms or timers. Every two hours, have the reminders/alarms go off and drive you crazy until you actually do it and can honestly turn them off. Annoying, yes. Effective? It’s been working for me. *shrugs*
5. Sign Up for Groups and Email Lists
If you haven’t noticed from other posts, I’m all about (effective) writing communities. When I returned to creative writing last year, I had time, inspiration, and doubts. The last time I write a story was for an assignment in college and that was 5 years prior. A lot had changed in my life since then and my writing style had, too. Let alone the writing competition had changed when you want to be professional. I had to get serious about the game and players.
Yeah, I could research all day, and did. I followed writing blogs and joined email writing lists. Some of them helped, some didn’t. But, being able to talk to others who knew the struggle, who could help me and I help them, was more valuable. I joined so many communities between Facebook and Google+, and learned so much about lazy, desperate, and asshole people! However, I also formed relationships with other writers of the same genres, philosophies, interests, experiences, and passion for writing. I’m still in contact with these writers in our community (the only one I stayed in and later started to run). We have, not only “professional” relationships, but personal ones, too. We support one another in our lifestyles and inspirations, obstacles and successes.
It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes in your writing life.
If you haven’t deduced it from my testimony yet, the moral of the story is joining synchronous and asynchronous groups and communities can really keep you on it. Being around like-minded people can make all the difference. Just make sure you know which will work best for you and your goals.
6. Plan a Personal or Group Retreat
This one. Oh, yes. This one is everyone’s dream. Attending a writing retreat would probably be awesome. However, if you’re anything like me, you’re too broke to pull something like that off. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do one in essence.
So, consider this: doing this like a staycation.
Now, hear me out! I know I’m asking you to spend money to isolate yourself and ignore your life. But—
Yeah, not going to happen.
Wait! But— But…it probably the best option for you to really get your head in the game. You get out of the house, you get writing time, you get a break from stressors, and if you do a group one, you can collaborate and get inspired. Yeah, it costs a little money, but it can be so manageable if you handle it right. Like,
- Pick a date ahead of time. Sometimes, that won’t greatly interfere with work and family life.
- Research places to stay. Pick somewhere reasonably priced but decent inside, as you’ll spend most of your time in the room or close to it.
- Pick a place with a microwave and fridge in the room so you can bring your own food and save money there.
- Create a budget so you can start saving ahead of time. Let your loved ones know, not only so you can arrange care for pets and kids or take time off, but also so they’ll leave you alone!
- Bring nothing else but your writing stuff. No work stuff, no other projects, no books to read or movies to watch. You are there to write and write only.
Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.
The goal is to get away and focus on your writing–to get serious. No distractions, no worries, no excuses. If this doesn’t work, I’m not sure anything else can.
How do you plan to get serious about writing? What are some strategies that you use to get focused and get your writing groove going?
Let us know in the comments below, and on social media, of course. Plus, if you’re looking for a writing email list or good writing community, you can always try out mine!