Have you ever wanted to write, but every time you sat down you somehow found an excuse to do something else? It’s like mentally you thirst to spill your writer blood onto a blank paper, a vast stretch of white space without limitations except for those which you yourself create. You want to let the words flow from your fingers and fill the emptiness, to construct a world of your own where you have the power of both creation and destruction.
But you just can’t. It’s as if some barrier obstructs your creativity, blocks the window to the world that you want to teleport to. You sit in your seat staring at that blank whiteness. You long to add some life to the nothingness, but suddenly you realize that you haven’t checked up on that post you did on your blog/social media profile in a while. It must have gotten some attention by now, right? Why not peek over at it, then come back to writing afterward?
Actually, you could use some coffee. That’s supposed to fuel the creative mind, right?
And the dog should be taken out…
You’ll think more clearly if you clean up a bit…
Drawing your characters is helpful. That’s part of writing, getting to know them…
Maybe taking a walk will help clear your mind…
STOP. GETTING. DISTRACTED.
I’m not a perfect writer. Heck, you’re probably a better writer than I am. And like anyone else, I’m prone to falling into the evil, greedy hands of that monster we call procrastination.
This is but one of the obstacles that get in the way of our journeys as writers. There isn’t a cure, but there are things you can do to ameliorate its cruel influence on your mind.
Here’s what I want you to do if you have this problem.
First of all, remember this: Sitting down and typing (or writing on paper, if that’s what you prefer) is not the first step of the writing process.
What is it?
It’s the idea, of course.
I’ve made countless mistakes during my life as a writer so far, but the one that’s really gotten me is writing about things that I don’t care about. Don’t write a story just because you think the finished product would look good on a shelf. Don’t write it because you like the idea or think it has potential. Write it because you love it. Write it because you think about it even when you aren’t writing. Because you can’t imagine committing yourself to another project.
Book ideas are like relationships. If you really love one, you won’t go so easily onto the next idea.
Be prepared to dedicate yourself to the idea. If it’s not good, you won’t stick with it. And if you do, and you don’t like it, then what’s the point? As we all know, writing a book isn’t as easy as reading one. Keep that in mind when you decide on a project to focus on.
Some people work better when they know the story beginning to end before they write. I was one of those writers up until a week or two ago. I told myself that I wouldn’t be able to keep with it unless I had a plan. I would get out some character forms, plot charts, and whatever else I thought I needed.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that the planning wasn’t doing me any good. My writing was stiff. While I worked on my books, I thought of it as more of a to-do list that I was working through than an adventure that I was sending readers on. I was trying to get through scenes so I could get the book done. My sentences were dull and obvious, and no sane person would read past the first paragraph.
Writing isn’t about getting out the story as fast as you can and publishing it- even though some people, as we’ve seen with Stephen King, do well with that. It’s about allowing the reader to sink into a world far away from the one where they currently reside. It’s about giving them the ability to feel, even for a moment, as if they truly aren’t themselves. It’s about sending them away to distant lands and providing them with the means to go on epic adventures and experience amazing things while sitting inside holding a book.
As Anton Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
That’s one of my favorite quotes. Don’t push the words out just because you want to move onto the next scene. The reader is reading it for all of the scenes. If one is so boring that you don’t even want to write it, how do you think the reader will feel? I’ve put down countless books for this very reason.
A few months ago I wrote something along the lines of ‘The warm, golden sun broke the crest of the ocean, revealing the light of early morning,’ and my Dad suggested that instead I say, ‘The golden sun broke the crest of the ocean, lifting the shroud of darkness and giving way to the warm, orange skies of dawn.’ Sometimes you can write a powerful line that would’ve otherwise been a mere space-filler, just by using your imagination and your (hopefully) broad writer vocabulary.
Now, you’re probably wondering why this post is titled ‘Close The Doors.’ Don’t worry, I’m about to get to that. In fact, here we are, standing on the doorstep of your mental writing room. Perhaps you don’t actually have much of a writing space. Maybe, like Stephen King did with his first book, you write in a cramped laundry room. Maybe you write at your downstairs computer while your family clamors around you, not bothering to lower their voices while you can pursue your extraordinary dreams.
But don’t worry. You’re a writer, which means that imagination is your specialty.
Wait- You are a writer, aren’t you?
Good. Then let’s continue.
Envision your perfect writing space. Perhaps it’s a bungalow with an open-floor design and countless balconies on a tropical island. Or maybe it’s the top floor of a skyscraper, and you’ve set up your desk beside a window so you can look out at the bustling city below.
Okay, so you’re in your mental writing palace (or bungalow, or skyscraper). Now here’s the most important thing to do before you start writing:
Close the door.
This took me fourteen years of writing to learn (okay, more like thirteen, but my Mom did start teaching me to read when I was two and I learned to write when I was three). It is so vital to the process of writing a book.
To be clear, ‘closing the door’ means that you’re writing the first draft for yourself.
“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story-” Terry Pratchett
It means that you don’t read it to anyone else (not even that amazing scene that you know they’ll love) until you’ve written the whole book and, hopefully, edited it (say that last part five times fast). If you don’t follow this rule, one of two things are likely to happen:
- The person who reads it isn’t as enthusiastic as you had hoped and you’re left feeling discouraged.
- They are enthusiastic, and suddenly you’re writing the book for them. You write things that you think they’d like, wonder if certain parts are too boring for them, and suddenly you aren’t thinking about the most important part: WRITING THE DARN BOOK.
I admit it, I always read people my writing. And you know what happens? Re-read the previous list if you aren’t sure. I only just started closing the door, and even now it sometimes gets left open.
Write your book and let it surprise you. Just sit down and write.
Do it. I dare you.
The cat videos can wait. Take a seat, and don’t leave that seat until you have to. Write, write, write. Let the acceleration build. Get excited. Don’t stop and let the fire that builds as you start the journey burn out. Don’t think about people’s reactions, don’t think about publishing. Focus on step one, the most important part of all:
Write the story.
“Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on-” Louis L’Amour