Writers are like dieters. We’re always looking for that one simple trick (as the web ads say) that will make our goals super easy to achieve. “If I just eat 14 carrots a day, I’ll lose 20 pounds by tomorrow afternoon!” With writers it’s more like, “If I can get up at 5 a.m. each morning, somersault into my chair, and spin around three times I’ll be able to write 4000 words today!”
I go to a lot of book events and the second most popular question (the first is “How do I get an agent?”) is always this: “What’s your process?” Writers getting their start want to know the secret formula. Outline or no outline? Writing in the morning or evening? Word or Scrivener? Some writers are very specific about what they do. Some aren’t. It really all depends, but no one wants to hear that. We all just want (desperately!) to learn any little secret that will help make it easier! Like I said, just like dieters.
So while I don’t have any secret tricks (I wish I did!), I do have some things that I do to make it happen on the page.
I write when I’m tired. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it really works for me. When I’m tired, my mind is more relaxed and that helps with the creativity. There’s even research on this. When I need to power through some edits, that’s prime time during the day when I’m at my best work. But if I need to think of a better way to say something or if I need to dive a little deeper into my character’s emotions, nighttime is the right time. Can’t sleep? Perfect time to write! An the glowing satisfactions of getting words on a page is the best cure for insomnia ever.
Evernote. Always. I once heard Anne Lamont give a bit of advice to writers that I’ll never forget. She said if we don’t write down our ideas right away, God will give them to someone else. Regardless of your feelings on the divine, I think we can all relate to that horrible feeling of knowing you had a great idea, but can’t remember it. I have notebooks galore, but I’m absolutely dependent on Evernote. It’s always right there. I don’t have to dig through my purse for a pen. And it’s great at dinner parties when someone is telling you a story that there is no way you could ever make up and you desperately want to write it down. It looks like you’re checking your Facebook status which on the rudeness scale is better than writing down word-for-word the conversation around you.
Meandering afternoons. I say this because I had one of these this afternoon. I was working on a chapter and decorating my Christmas tree. I know, it really sounds like I was goofing off, but stay with me. So I write until I get stuck, but I keep the laptop right there on a table near by, open to where I left off. I decorate the tree for a while with some crazy action movie on TV that I’m not really paying attention to. But in the background, my brain is still on what I’m writing. The distraction of the tree and the TV let my brain get to what I need to get to and boom! The phrase I was struggling for or an idea for a new scene or something else I need comes to me. Sometimes you have to get there through the side door when the front door is locked.
So there are three tricks for you. And if all these fail, there are always the carrots.