On Faking It and Other Writer’s Mind Games

Luna says, Hey, if I can get all the marrow out, you can get a few words written.

Luna says, I’m mesmerizing you with my eyeball. You shall write … No? OK, can I have another bone?

Every October a group of us get together to write creepy stories. Every year, it’s a blast. However, this year I wasn’t in the mood. I’d just found out that Luna the One-Eyed Wonder Dog has aggressive oral cancer, and my morale was low. Very. very. low.

I didn’t want to go, but I’d already paid to participate. When I arrived at the retreat, I promptly told everyone that I wasn’t going to write anything and that was that. I’d be the first writer in the 20+ year history of this retreat to not write something. I was OK with that.

Despite a nuclear-fueled level of resistance, I ended up completing a flash fiction piece that, surprisingly, I liked. How the heck did I do that?

I faked it. And I’m oh so good at that. Check it out:

1. I’m not really writing. See what I’m doing here? This is called venting. This is me doing this ….

This totally blows I have nothing to write, nothing at all that could I write anyhow. This is so stupid. crap crap crap goddammit. I don’t have a story to tell, I don’t even want to be here. I hate this! Blahhhhh … crapcrapdoublecrapadoozy crap crap crap …

(where “crap” = the F-word)

…until suddenly I’m not venting anymore and writing coherent sentences instead.

2. I’m only reading the scenes I wrote yesterday.

Doesn’t matter how often I pull this one on myself, it works every time. Because it’s fun to read what we’ve already written, right? And then the reading naturally segues into adding a few more words, ESPECIALLY if the day before you purposefully stopped in the middle of a sentence. This is a genius trick. Try it. You’ll see.

3. I’m drinking wine and relaxing. Oh, my manuscript is displayed on the monitor? Pfft, beside the point.

This is especially good when you’re in a bar, because you’re not only drinking wine, you’re also people watching. Eventually your brain will empty out. Empty brain is good because then you might find yourself writing a few words without fully realizing it.

4. Hey, Facebook peeps, who really cares if I write? Seriously, you tell me, because I ain’t doing it anymore.

You pull a stunt like this and you’ll have everyone rallying behind you. See if doesn’t get you enthused or bully-whipped or something into setting a few words down.

5. I’ll write for five minutes and call it quits for the day.

Yep, the five-minutes trick. Some days you may only write for the five minutes, true, but it’s more than you would have otherwise, right? Most of the time, you’ll find yourself writing for longer. The secret is that you really need to be OK with only writing for five minutes.

I can’t tell you how often faking myself out has helped me through rough writing times. It’s not like it always works. Sometimes drinking wine in a bar is just drinking wine in a bar. However, more often than not my little trickeries succeed where browbeating myself would surely have failed.

What mind games do you play with yourself to get your writing — or any task — done?

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Lisa Alber is the author of KILMOON, A COUNTY CLARE MYSTERY (March 2014). Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging at Lisa Alber's Words at Play round out her distractions. Visit her at www.lisaalber.com.

16 thoughts on “On Faking It and Other Writer’s Mind Games

      • Have you tried NaNoWriMo for just getting the hang of putting the words out without messing with them? That’s what I did. Speech to text is very helpful. I talk to my computer 500 words at a time. I’ll get a lot written that way.

        My most important rule is not to bargain with writing. I write in 500 word segments for drafts. From my second go-through on, I time myself.

        I write alone. I write in my writing space at home. If I write on the paratransit van, while waiting in line, or at Starbucks—that’s extra. And it’s usually notes, creating lists, or restructuring. No bargains. Coffee, tea, or a coke—no alcohol until my writing day is over.

        • Reine, welcome! I did NaNoWriMo a few years ago, actually. And it was good for just writing. I didn’t finish the project, unfortunately — maybe I’ll go back to it in the future. But I had fun letting ‘er rip!

          Bargaining. Yes. Sometimes the only way I can get the writing IS if I bargain with myself. 🙂 It’s those little tricks that help me overcome my tendency to procrastinate.

  1. I trick myself by journaling longhand. I sit somewhere comfy and decide to just write about how things are going (good, bad, ugly, whatever). Because it’s in my *personal journal* what I write can’t be considered “work”. It’s stream-of-consiousness! It’s ranting! Or anxious obsessing! It’s certainly not intended for anyone else to read. Even as I’m doing it, I know I’m tricking myself. But it doesn’t matter, because soon my rant has turned into focused trouble-shooting about character development, or a particularly sticky scene. If I write as if I’m talking to myself or a trusted writing partner, in no time at all the names of my characters will appear and pretty soon they’ll start talking back to me and I’m dropping my journal and running for my computer.

    I’m such a sucker.

    • I love it, Julia! Isn’t it funny that it doesn’t matter that we know we’re tricking ourselves? I find that hilarious, but, hey, it still works!

      I’m a big fan of journals. I’ll take one to a coffeehouse and pretend like I’m writing about my sucky day, complete with writer’s block and nothing but dust bunnies for ideas. 🙂

  2. I have done both Susan and Julie’s trick! Just this week I started journaling. I also do my 15 minutes of Bible read in the morn. I find giving my angst to God is a HUGE help. Plus, he already wrote something that lots of people read, so he must know what he’s doing. (I can’t wait to see how the book ends!) At night I read great fiction because sometimes it’s just not about ME. I am currently reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and, um, I might be kind of hot for a tall red headed Scottishman. They are making it into a movie now so I sometimes pop over to Gabladon’s Twitter feed and get lost in the fantasy of seeing a book get made. Combined with red wine I’ve got hot Scotts, good fiction, and writing funk? Gone.

    • Hi Andrea! Oh man, the Outlander series is so addictive. I didn’t know it was being made into a movie — or movie franchise? Excellent! (Wonder who’s going to play the hottie Scotts?)

      Letting go of angst is huge. It’s great that you have a spiritual practice that brings you joy and peace. We all need more of that in our lives.

  3. I make my seven year old daughter come check on me, pound on the door, yell from the other room. Make noise in general so that I know my time is very limited. I must get this down now! The children are breathing down my neck for food, or clean clothes, or a bath, or something equally important. While this is partially in jest, I do appreciate my writing time even more on days like today when we are all ice trapped in the house and my role of writer is much less pressing than my role of caregiver.

    • Using your kids! That’s brilliant. I can see how having kidling demands can propel you into productivity with the writing.

      Just popped over to your site. COMFORT OF FENCES sounds excellent!

  4. Do you think the drinking wine in the bar thing would work as drinking wine on the couch? Then we are clearly meant to be friends.

    • Oh yeah, Lori, the couch is most excellent. Bundled up and leaning back on the pillows, laptop on your lap, vino within hand’s reach? Big time. We are friends, no doubt about that!

  5. Google Sam Heughan. He is playing Jamie. Let me just say that clip sums it up. I think he is absolutely a perfect choice. (The first guy gets shoved out of the clip in a second, so wait for Heughan.)

    I only know about the movie because a mom at my kid’s school went to Scotland as her hubby was a producer. It was totally weird it happened to be for Outlander. I am not a celebrity gusher at all. But for some reason, the character of Jamie resonated with me. Galbadon’s a great writer.

  6. I love all of these, but #5 is my favorite, because it’s so true that when you set out to write for just 5 minutes, you usually end up writing for longer.

    I’m glad that the retreat worked out better than expected. Hope Luna is doing well! I just love seeing pictures of her. She looks like the sweetest dog ever, and her face melts me every time.

    • I’m so glad I went to the retreat. It was a good lesson too — that I CAN write even when I’m so sure I don’t want to. Little Luna is good so far. Snoring up a storm behind me right this second. 🙂

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