Make Writing a Priority

If not now, when will you begin writing on a regular basis? Of course our lives get in the way of taking time to write. Our schedules don’t seem to slow down even after our kids move out or when we retire and take more vacation time. Our schedule of sporting events, school meetings and award ceremonies are replaced with duties for clubs we join, work meetings and social events. Vacations and retirement turns into a time to catch up on our “to do” list: remodeling a bathroom, putting a fresh coat of paint on the living room wall, fixing a car or catching up on bills.

There always seems to be a task or a reason that takes priority over writing.

Don't Put Writing On The Back Burner Any Longer

It’s not easy to break the habit of putting writing on the back burner, but here is some advice that worked for a few published authors. Try different tips and discover which one works for you. And for everyone who likes to see success right away: be patient! Small steps are key to breaking a bad habit.

writing priority

Tip 1: Schedule a time to write

Schedule just ten minutes per day to write. Ask yourself: “When am I most alert and creative?” For those morning people easy to rise at the sound of the alarm clock, wake up ten minutes earlier and write. Or, do you just need a cup of coffee to get your mind moving? Instead of reading the paper as you sip your morning Joe, schedule ten minutes to write. If you are itching to write as you get ready for bed, pick up a pen and paper before flipping on the television.

Even if you don’t write anything down during those ten minutes, you are still beginning to incorporate a daily habit of setting aside time specifically for writing. If you can’t make it the full ten minutes and want to quit early, promise yourself “one more sentence”. You can come back to it tomorrow refreshed and either tweak it, build from it, or toss it. Do this every single time you are tempted to quit early. Once you get in the routine of writing, you’ll find ten minutes will sometimes stretch into fifteen or even evolve into multiple ten minute blocks throughout the day.

writing priority

Tip 2: If you fly by the seat of your pants, carry a small notepad with you

If you prefer not to stick to a routine and daily planners make you cringe, carry a pocket-sized notepad with you at all times. You never know when a creative idea might strike you. So, if you’re standing in line at the grocery store, and an interesting customer inspires a new character or plot for your book, whip out the notepad and jot it down!

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Tip 3: Don’t get stuck on an unusable idea

You’ve spent months, maybe years, focusing on a story, but you’ve hit a dead end and have been there for too long. Get past the frustration and don’t write an ending just for the sake of finishing! You know in your gut if an idea isn’t turning out the way you had hoped.

Maybe all you need is to take some time away from your current writing, so take two weeks and don’t touch the pages. Focus on a new story, tend to your garden or organize your garage. Come back to the story with a refreshed mind and tackle it.

Or maybe you need to go back two or four chapters and delete the content. Have the ideas take a different twist than your original plan.

Or maybe your idea must be abandoned completely. We sometimes hang on to what is comfortable and what we are familiar with for far too long. As difficult as it may be, toss the pages and pull out a clean sheet. You won’t waste time forcing a story out; you can begin anew and let the words flow. Don’t look at it as wasted writing because it’s not. Sometimes it takes a bit more time and practice to find the subject we were truly meant to write.

writing priority

Tip 4: Set deadlines. Many, many deadlines.

Set many deadlines, not just one date that looms in the far off distance. One deadline is difficult to keep; you need to set other deadlines to work your way to that big date when you submit your manuscript for publication. Set a goal, for example by January 22, you will have Chapter 5 and 6 done.

Sometimes it takes a little pressure to get us motivated to finish something. Write your deadlines down in your calendar and place your schedule where you can refer to it frequently, such as on your desk, refrigerator or in your briefcase. If you are a procrastinator, give a copy of your deadlines to someone such as your spouse, best friend, child, co-worker, parent, or publishing consultant to keep you accountable for your weekly, monthly or even daily progress. Didn’t meet a deadline? Step back and be honest as to why you missed the deadline. Was it too unrealistic? Recalculate the effort necessary to accomplish your deadline in the amount of time you set. Did you simply ignore the deadline? Find another person with a little more tough love who will motivate you more than your original outside force. Just can’t get inspired? Take a couple of weeks off from writing and see Tip #3

And don’t forget to reward yourself for going above and beyond your deadline requirements! Wrote an extra chapter? Wrote your author’s bio and turned in your manuscript for editing? Treat yourself - visit an old friend to talk about your accomplishment, stop by the ice cream store and don’t count calories, pick up that new book from the library you’ve been dying to read. Small rewards to yourself can help you keep up the motivation and give you a reason to continue to reach beyond your original goals.

Schedules will be interrupted due to inevitable surprises that tend to pop up when we least expect it. If this happens, revise your goals that still provide you with the determined mentality that you need to keep writing in order to achieve your deadline. Anything with less pressure will be too easy to dismiss, and you will fall into your old routine of not writing.

Once your book is well on its way to publication, join the WestBow Press Facebook page and post how you were able to overcome your bad habit of putting off your publishing dreams. You could very well be the inspiration for a fellow writer who is stuck.

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