Hi everyone, welcome back to my Write With Me series on the Writer’s Corner! For this post, I’m going to be focusing on the scariest (at least for me) stage in the writing process: The writing stage!
One of the things I have heard the most is that you cannot wait until you're inspired or motivated to do something, and the same goes for writing. If you wait until you’re inspired to write, then you might not reach those writing goals you set for yourself. What you really need, in order to write consistently, is discipline. You can start out by doing something small like getting yourself to write for at least thirty minutes every day. Heck, if you wanted to, you can do just a sentence or two a day. As long as you get yourself to write, it doesn’t matter.
The first step to writing is getting yourself sat down and focused on writing. But what happens when you can’t stay focused?
How to Remain Focused
One of my main issues when it comes to writing is actually staying focused. I can get myself sat down, fingers ready to type in front of a computer screen, but when I actually get to it, I’m distracted. Out of the corner of my eye, my phone lights up with a notification with a message from one of my friends or my mom. Do I answer now or later? Or, I go to open YouTube to find some relaxing tunes to play in the background and a new video from one of my favorite content creators pops up on my home page. Maybe I can use that as background noise. Instead, I find myself watching the video instead of what I should be doing: writing.
There are so many distractions out there in the world, so it’s important to keep in mind that when you want to write you remove those distractions. Your phone? Put it on “Do Not Disturb” and maybe even let people know what you’re doing beforehand so they know you’re busy.
If you love listening to music, then go ahead and listen to some music. I usually prefer to listen to songs that are purely instrumental because I find that listening to words while trying to write never works out for me. There have been way too many times where I find myself typing a word I just heard in a song rather than the word I was thinking of. The only time lyrics don’t distract me is when I find the songs to suit the chapter or story I’m working on. Making a dedicated writing playlist beforehand also helps a lot as it keeps you from having to search for the next song after one finishes. There are a ton of writing playlists out there on Spotify or YouTube, and some people go as far as to create writing playlists for certain moods or scenes that you can be working on. For example, if you’re writing a scene where two of your characters are confessing their feelings for one another, then maybe you’d want to listen to a playlist like this.
Did you know that some writing software also have tools to help you stay focused? One of these tools is a setting that makes it so that the writing software is fullscreen, eliminating things like your toolbars or menus to prevent you from clicking on another application. If you use Scrivener, this mode is called Composition Mode and if you use Microsoft Word, this is called Focus Mode.
Scrivener’s Composition Mode
Microsoft Word’s Focus Mode
There are also apps that restrict you from using other apps for a certain amount of time. For example, Forest is a cute little app that lets you plant virtual trees as long as you remain off of your phone for the amount of time that you input into the app.
Write First, Edit After
Have you ever found yourself constantly hitting backspace or erasing while writing? Have you ever spent ten minutes on one sentence because you’re unable to find that perfect word? Or, maybe the sentence isn’t just flowing smoothly? Well, I certainly have.
Thank you Mei-Mei for reminding me of this scene from Spongebob because it’s totally what I do.
This is mostly fueled by my wanting my writing to be perfect the first time around. I’m still struggling with kicking these kinds of thoughts out of my mind, but I am definitely getting there.
If you’re like me, it’s important to remind yourself that there is a reason why editors and the editing stage exist. Nothing is going to be absolutely perfect from the get-go, so just dump everything that is in your mind onto the page. Then, you can fix it or change some things after. And if you ever get stuck, just put a placeholder! If you look at any of my drafts, you’ll always see placeholders like: [ insert cool description here ].
I mostly do this to just keep the flow of writing going. I’d rather write what I know for sure rather than stay stuck in one place for too long. If this means you end up writing some things out of order, then that’s totally okay! You can always connect them later on.
What About Writer’s Block?
The good ol’ writer’s block. The bane of every writer’s existence.
There is not just one solution for writer’s block. I think it really depends on the writer when it comes to what works and what does not, but here are some tips to help you find what works best for you.
Take a break. It’s a possibility that you have been spending a little too much time on one project and that’s why you’re getting hit with writer’s block. Take a step back and give yourself some much deserved rest.
Try making a change in the scene you’re writing about. I don’t remember where I’ve heard this from, but one piece of advice I’ve heard is if a scene just doesn’t seem to be working, then try changing something like the weather. Changing one small detail can open the door for other ideas.
Write without writing. You’re probably looking at that sentence with a bit of confusion. How does someone write without writing? This is something my workshop instructor brought up in one of my classes, and it really got me thinking about how I could do that. The way I interpreted it is that writers take a lot of their inspiration from other things, whether it be from real-life situations or things we’ve seen in movies or books. So, one way to write without writing would be to consume other media that can help get your creative juices flowing. Other ways to write without writing could be making a playlist for your story (honestly, it’s really fun), daydreaming, and drawing.
If I’m being honest with you guys, I struggled so much writing this blog post. No words were coming to mind and my brain was refusing to focus (my thoughts kept wandering to my WIP). But, I ended up sitting down and following a lot of the advice I mentioned above, and before I knew it, I had made a lot of progress. I also had the help of my awesome editors (thank you Hadiya and Mei-Mei) who helped me further flesh out the ideas in this blog post and gave me some wonderful suggestions to add. So, if there’s one last piece of advice I could give, it’s to ask your peers for suggestions and I’m sure something can bloom from those! Although writing seems like an activity you have to do alone, it does not have to be.
Now, to turn it back to you guys, the audience. Do you have anything you have to do to prepare yourself to write? How do you remove distractions from your workspace?
About the Author:
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Loraine Garcia is currently a Blog Editor and Writer for The Love Yourself Foundation. She is also studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She spends a lot of her time either crying over books, writing, or playing video games.