What do you do to focus and start your writing day?

Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Stormsong07, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. Cephus

    Cephus Active Member

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    Whether they have a job or not doesn't matter. This is a writing forum. The question asked in this thread is "what do you do to focus and start your writing day". What someone does in their day job, if they have one, is irrelevant to the reason people are supposedly here on this forum. This is for writers. It is for helping writers. It is not to provide emotional comfort to people who wish they could write but really don't have the interest in putting in the hard work to do it. It doesn't really matter if people want to be a professional, published writer or not. That has nothing to do with the actual craft of writing. It doeesn't matter if you're Stephen King who puts down 2000 words a day, every day, 365 days a year, or someone who can squeeze in a half hour of writing once or twice a week. That doesn't change the fact that writing is a hard activity to engage in. You don't get to be a writer if you don't actually write anything. It seems a little silly to me to watch people go "I'm not a professional writer, therefore I don't have to actually do anything to be considered a writer, I just want to pretend." Sure, okay, if that floats your boat, but nobody else has to play along. And telling people they are writers who don't write isn't doing them any favors. It doesn't help anyone. It doesn't help them to be better writers, it's just lying to them. Nothing I've said is at all wrong. It might not make people feel good, but feeling good doesn't get anyone anywhere. If people want to be better writers, this is the advice there is. Knuckle down, dedicate yourself, motivate yourself and put your butt in that chair and put words on the page. That's what being a writer is. The more often you do that, the more consistently you do that, the better you'll get at it. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy way out. Nobody else is going to force you to do it. Writing is, by its very nature, an individualistic, lonely exercise. You either want to do it or you don't. It is a job like any other, even if you don't get paid for it. You don't get days off because you don't feel like it or you're not inspired. You can't just tell your boss "I'm just not feeling it today" and expect to remain employed. But in this case, your boss is you. You have to hold yourself accountable for doing the job and if you can't, or you refuse to, then you're not really doing the job, are you? If people want to just mess around at writing, fine. It's their life, they can do what they want. But if they're serious about it, there is no substitute for dedication. Telling yourself otherwise is a lie. It just is.
     
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  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Strawman, hon.
     
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  3. Rzero

    Rzero Active Member

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    We know!
    Again, who are you talking to? No one said any of that. Wait, are we being trolled? Damn it, we're being trolled, aren't we?
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
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  4. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    One of the things I do to focus on writing at the beginning of my day is remind myself that it's actually something I really, really want to do. As people have mentioned, writing is hard: it can be hard to get yourself to do something hard. But you know what? It's something we want to do; something we ALL want to do--and that's a powerful motivator. I don't want to get to the end of my life and not have created my own little personal fantasy world, with all its flaws, and all its shiny, pretty, polished parts. I don't want to sit down when I'm older and say "I wish I'd created these characters."

    I want to be able to tell my future kids stories that no kid has ever heard before! I want my grandkids to ask "What are all those neat maps on the wall?"!

    I want to write, and when there are easier things to do, sometimes that's what I have to remind myself. There are hundreds, thousands, of distractions just waiting to gobble up my free time if I slip into unconscious routine for even a moment. I can't say how many hours I've lost to useless, boring YouTube videos or silly mundane tasks like dusting my desk (which, while important to do on occasion, becomes a lazy chore if done when you ought to be writing). I can't tell you how often "I ought to do this first" creeps into my head.

    But if I wake up, sit in my bed, and honestly, gently remind myself that I really, truly want to finish a chapter, or a page, or a sentence, that's sometimes all it takes to get a little work done!
     
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  5. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    'tis true, dear Moose, you've seen more than most. (And OT, but thank you for spiffing up the joint.)

    Here's the thing, though...Asking, as the OP did, "What do you do to focus and start your writing day?" in no way indicates the OP isn't willing to buckle down and work their butt off. The OP was asking for specific methodologies to help focus. When someone asks for methodologies, it's an indication that they're trying to change something for the better. Berating the OP about not working hard enough isn't helpful, because they've posted asking for methodologies that can help them focus so they can work harder.

    If they're not willing to put in the work after being given suggestions on what to do, that's a whole 'nother thing. But let's not assume someone who asks for tips on how to focus has a poor work ethic. (I don't think you're doing that, by the way, Moose, but there was a more than an unpleasant whiff of that elsewhere in this thread.)

    ETA:
    Good call.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2019
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  6. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I've published lots, and I work at a fairly demanding job, and one of the things that's been really important to me, in terms of maintaining any sort of balance in my life, is to give myself permission to treat writing as a hobby. I make money from writing, but I make MORE money from my day job. My day job gets precedence. If I've got a rough day, week, or month at my day job (or in my personal life) I don't stress about writing. The writing will always be there, waiting for me to get back to it.

    In terms of how to start working?

    I try to feed my imagination on a regular basis - reading, watching TV shows, giving myself time to daydream... whatever. And I try to think about my writing even when I'm not at the computer, so at least some of my daydreaming is about my characters, and I can figure out roughly what they'd do before I even sit down to type. For a while, I had a rule that I could only have a glass of wine when I was writing (or at social events, but not just home alone) but that was more about monitoring my alcohol intake than it was about encouraging a writing ritual. I generally read over the last scene or the last chapter before I start writing anything new... that's about all.

    I think it's good to experiment with stuff, and to figure out what you're really excited about in the story you want to tell. If you can keep that exciting element in mind, I think it helps motivation for sure.
     
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  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    On the point I can only offer what I do which is habit based - I check my mail, various forums and facebook groups first, make a cup of tea, put springsteen on the stereo, and then I reread what I wrote in the last session on that wip (because I am writing fiction and non fiction at the same time its not necessarily the last thing I wrote) decide where i'm going to write to … usually another chapter or scene ending, and then I write solidly until I reach that point regardless of whether its 500 or 2000 words. If I'm still in the mood to write more I pick another end point and go again.

    If I encounter a day when i'm really not feeling it - generally because of external factors like being tired or ill, I generally read one of my existing wips and do some light editing instead

    so I don't absolutely subscribe to the you must write everyday or die methodology but I try to do something writing related if i'm not actually writing in that session

    And on that note I am away to make tea, listen to the Boss and write a battle between legionaries and goblins
     
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  8. Harmonices

    Harmonices Member

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    If I'm finding it hard to get going, I've got mental fatigue or I've got no motivation, I literally just start tapping out words, blah blah blah. Any words, and then the thing slowly starts taking shape. It probably won't be where I intended to be (like it could be from a character's perspective that I've not spent time with before, or some far flung point in the story, or a location I may have referred to but not explored).

    Or I might start by invoking the name of a character doing something relatively simple that begs a question, like 'Bob slammed the door.' Which begs the question, why did Bob slam the door? Where was that door? Was there anyone else with Bob? What happened after Bob slammed the door?

    I've also started having a big mug of herbal tea, like peppermint or something nicely steamy and fragrant, and then get I myself settled, close my eyes and imagine my main character, or the character I want to work with that session, and I say 'Hey [name], show me your world, show me something that I should include in your story.' and I let them take me there. It usually starts off a bit fuzzy, but eventually I may see things or details I hadn't 'spotted' before. I'm doing a fantasy story about dragons atm, so the flying around in my head can be nice.
     
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  9. Jillian Oliver

    Jillian Oliver Member

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    At times I have issues similar to yours. I think I hesitate to confront a story I'm working on because I grow insecure and believe I'm not equipped to improve it. As silly as this may sound, drinking caffeine can help increase my motivation and alcohol (just one drink) might help as well. More important, however, is spending lots of time alone writing notes about the story instead writing the story itself. This way, I feel like I can work out whatever is stopping me from carrying on.
     
  10. Rzero

    Rzero Active Member

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    @Stormsong07, I feel kind of bad about participating in the conversation that hijacked your thread (Rule 26 of the Internet: Any topic can be easily turned into something totally unrelated.), so I spent some time trying to think of something that hadn't already been covered. I failed, because everything I remember ever having tried has already been said, so I looked around for someone else's advice. This one was kind of neat. I might try this myself:

    "Try reading for a few minutes before you begin writing. Immerse yourself in a fictional world. Stimulate your imagination with the written word."

    I don't know if this one is any good. It could be horrible even, but it's interesting. It might work for someone. Who knows? I would at least add to that though. It's obviously a bad idea to get into anything you can't put down, so I might try reading flash fiction or a very short story, and even then, only things I find inspiring or appropriate to the mood I'm trying to set. The longer I sit with this idea though, the more I'm sure it would be a bad plan for me personally. Meh. It's worth a shot.
     
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  11. Left

    Left New Member

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    I don't write daily although I probably should. I only write when creativity strikes me. I do practice quite a bit in my head throughout the day but most people wouldn't count that. I need my brain to be stimulated for a while before I jump into writing. I feel like the evening is when I do my best work. Total isolation is preferrable. I'm talking no phone, no internet, no noise. Good luck to you.
     
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  12. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    Finding time to write for me has been tough. I've been transitioning from a traveling job to a job at home. Now, during the transitioning, that has meant working two jobs for most of that time. My work schedule is usually between 50-70 hours a week. And, I do have a family. Plus, my work schedule changes.
    So, when I get the chance, I sit down at the laptop, crank up the metal, and write. Planning has been a huge help. I have bullet-point plots, an outline, and various aids to keep me on track.
    Like @BayView suggested, I don't get stressed out when I make little or no progress because I know I am making progress. Writing is fun. I enjoy it. And its always worth the effort for those writing sessions where the words just flow, and the story appears on the page.
    Godspeed!
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My high-level strategy is about reward. Any reward, as long as you experience it as a reward. Not necessarily every day, but often enough.

    Based on experience of burnout at work, I am persuaded that putting substantial effort into something that reliably lacks an inherent reward is a path to burnout. And when you're burned out, when your brain decides that you will not be engaging in an activity, it's extraordinarily hard to persuade your brain otherwise.

    And when I say "brain" here, I'm not talking about the executive part, the part that plans and has complex thoughts and has ambitions and is comfortable with delayed gratification. I'm talking about the part that wants rewards. In the fight between the superego ("I want to be an author and I'm prepared to put in the hard work.") and the id ("Candy! Kitties! Praise!") I'm talking about the id--at least as I understand the id.

    Find the reward that lets you put in the work. It doesn't have to be a world-class reward. It doesn't have to be a reward outside your own head.
    • If buying yourself a bag of Twizzlers for every thousand words makes you happy to sit down and write, yay!
    • If sitting and typing at Starbucks makes you feel happily like an Urban Author, yay!
    • If writing at least one big fight scene or sex scene or food fight or multi-character argument every week gives you joy, whether you use those scenes or not, yay!
    • If hand-writing with an expensive fountain pen in an expensive Leuchtturm notebook makes you feel happy, yay!
    • If you only allow yourself to drink Coke while writing, so your brain associates that happy caffeine and sugar rush with writing, yay!
    Reward. Keep the brain happy and it's much more likely to let you write. Make the brain miserable, drain the willpower bank to the last drop day after day after day, and the brain is likely to wake up one day and say, "This writing thing? It's not working for me. I'm not going to let you do it any more."

    It doesn't matter how loud you scream that you want to write. The part of the brain that provides motivation is going to say, "Nope. You wanna challenge me? I was pulling your species' strings before you HAD language. You're gonna lose."

    You don't want that part of your brain saying things like that. You don't want to argue with it at all. You want it saying, "OOH! Chocolate and Joan Jett! Yeah, write, whatever."

    My rewards are:
    • Writing angsty highly flavored scenes (by my standard of angst and flavor) that follow my mood of the moment. This is modeled after a lifetime daydream habit.
    • Polishing those scenes.
    • Frantically chasing people for feedback on those scenes.
    I enjoy all three activities. I enjoy them so much that I can maintain focus on writing while the TV is on--and that was important; I realized that if I take TV away from my brain and blame writing, my brain is going to hold a grudge against writing that will be hard to overcome.

    One down side is the fact that I'm probably going to write a quarter-million polished words for a 100K novel, but the novel is continuing to progress, so, who cares? Reward--which keeps me writing--is far more important than efficiency, which is likely to drain my will power and bring my brain out to have a sharp word with me.

    The nature of my rewards tells me things about what writing style would work for me:
    • I can't write in order, because I need to follow my mood of the moment.
    • For similar reasons, it will be hard for me to outline. It's not inconceivable that I might someday be able to plan a book, as long as I can write the scenes that follow the mood of the moment. But it doesn't seem all that likely.
    • I need to always have at least one person giving me feedback. If I lose all those people, I need to get a butterfly net and find some more.
    • I will always "waste time" polishing text that I may never use. Because editiong/polishing is one of my greatest sources of enjoyment.
    So what might make writing more rewarding for you?
     
  14. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Although Bay is much more prolific than me, I approach writing much the same way. I went and looked at my progress journal recently, and was kind of shocked to see that my last update was at the end of October. There's a myriad of reasons I've been on unofficial hiatus, some probably more legit than others, but at the end of the day I take care of myself, my family and my day job, with writing coming in at a distant fourth place.

    I can't write when I'm miserable, angry or stressed, and I spent a lot 0f 2018 feeling that way. I don't believe it takes anything away from what I've accomplished (had a novel, novella and short story published in the past 3 years with another novel that will be published in 2019, and I'me currently working on the sequel to my first novel), or makes me a lesser writer than someone who bangs out a thousand words a day.
     
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  15. Manuforti

    Manuforti Active Member

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    This to everything and for everything, in every context.
     
  16. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I realized that I left out a very important piece of my writing 'start up'. Notepad. Often time, I'm kind of blurry eyed when beginning a session. I look at what I've written. I have no clue as to what to write next, and I don't want to 'ruin' it.
    That where Notepad comes in. For whatever reason, it doesn't intimidate me at all. So, I pop open a window and start typing away. Sometimes, if I'm exploring different ideas or working out a description or a piece of action, I work from several windows.
    At some point, the gears begin turning and I have something to cut and paste over to Word.
     
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  17. SoulGalaxyWolf

    SoulGalaxyWolf Active Member

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    Well, when I'm getting into a story I tend to go off to imagination land and put my own characters in the story. I guess in that case I would make small fan-fictions, but I could try relating to the novel I want to write. I agree with the problem of not being able to put a book down, but I tend to do it often when my mind is working what I would do in the situation, or what I would want to include, etc. Short stories or flash fictions is a good idea. I'll try it sometime too. :D
     
  18. Manuforti

    Manuforti Active Member

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    I know a book is an astonishing book when I have to put it down once a chapter and just process. Daniel khanemon(?) Thinking fast and slow did that to me.

    Also China Mielville Last Days of New Paris. About the art of the Surrealists coming to life to battle the Nazis.

    You just go away with the borders of your mind kicked in and a greater appreciation of what is allowable (anything)
     

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