3 Tricks to Keep Writing (Even When You’d Rather Be Looking at Taylor Kitsch Pix)

Writing is hard. I mean, not as hard as say, doing a tour of duty in Afghanistan or nannying for Octomom or working a 12-hour shift on Black Friday. OK, so writing isn’t really hard. It’s just typing words. Like I’m doing now. And I don’t have to worry about hidden land mines or two middle-aged women fighting over a Barbie doll. (Seriously. Seriously? Seriously.)

Relatively speaking, writing is easy. (Good writing is not so easy, but that’s a different post for a different day.) The thing that’s challenging about writing (for me, anyway) is making yourself actually sit down and do it, day after day. If I don’t write, then I don’t have to face all my angsty self-doubting thoughts about how bad I am and how I can’t get anything right and how I should probably work at Wal-mart selling Barbies/refereeing fighting matches over plastic dolls. So I usually do everything I can to not write — like check Facebook approximately 4209583691820850 times, binge on TV shows like Friday Night Lights, look up pictures of Taylor Kitsch without his shirt on, etc.

This is not a gif. It's a gift. They just accidentally left out the "t".
This is not a gif. It’s a gift. They just accidentally left out the “t”.

It’s called procrastination (no, not that picture above. That picture is called “God’s special gift to women everywhere.”) And I’m reeeeeeeeally good at it. But then I remember that if I don’t write, then we won’t be able to afford diapers and tequila and our Netflix subscription where I watch Friday Night Lights (you know, the necessities of life) and I have to figure out how to overcome this procrastination skill that I’ve been perfecting ever since high school.

Here are three tricks that work for me on most days.

Open the Word document. I know that this should seem fairly self-evident. If you’re writing a novel, you need to open the document to commence writing. But I’m very good at putting off opening the doc. I do all of the aforementioned things first. So on a day when I want to beat my procrastination tendencies, as soon as I open my computer, I click on the document. When it’s open on my desktop, I have a much harder time ignoring it. I start scanning the last few lines I’ve read and the next thing you know I’m writing (and contemplating filling out Wal-mart applications. The two go hand in hand.)

Write notes. If I’m really stuck on a scene or just find myself staring at a blank page for longer than an hour (yes, that has happened before), I start jotting notes at the end of my document on different scenes/dialogue/ things that I know/think should be happening later in the book. It might not be stuff I ever actually use, but it helps jar my thoughts, helps me stop beating myself up mentally for my writer’s block and it makes me feel that the day hasn’t been a total waste of time.

Always stop at a place where you know what’s going to happen next. This is a tip from Ernest Hemingway, but one that I rely on often. If I finish a scene and it’s close to the end of the workday, I always try to start the next scene/chapter, etc — even if it’s just one sentence — and try to mentally flesh out what it’s going to be about. That way, the next day, when I open the document, I’m not starting from scratch; I’m already in the middle of a thought or action that needs to be continued.

What are some of the tricks you use to get yourself writing— and keep writing — day after day? Would love to hear about them!

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Colleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, Jan. 2015), a love story. A former editor for Marie Claire and Women's Health & Fitness, she's now an Atlanta-based freelance writer. Find out more at colleenoakley.com.

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This article has 4 Comments

  1. Thank you for the gif(t), Colleen — so kind of you to offer a distraction when I’m up early and supposed to be writing 🙂 Also, I do your #3 strategy as well — never end without a clue about where I’m headed next…otherwise I’m stuck in front of an empty page for WAY too long.

  2. This was too funny! Thank you for the laugh! I was contemplating career choices last night after a great writing day (once the high wore off) that my novel would likely never see the light of day. I’m also glad I’m not the only one that loved Friday Night Lights thanks to Tim Riggins! Great start to my writing day with that little video clip in mind.

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