Over the last year I’ve taken my writing much more seriously. First I worked on the process, drilling down into what motivates me to create, trying to narrow down the things that get me into a good flow state, and separating out the things that pull me out. I read more. I listened to more podcasts. I communicated with other writers more. I did a lot of things but the process improvements are what have really stuck.
The best piece of advice I got was “just fucking write.” That sounds ludicrously stupid I know. After all, if you’re having a hard time writing, how the hell can you just do it?
Turns out it’s the anxiety and the pressure that’s the problem for me. If you are trying to create perfect prose every time you sit down at the computer you will only type out what you think is perfect. You will lose precious time and creative energy stressing about just the right turn of phrase when you should just be getting your ideas on the page as rapidly as possible.
There are many methods to help with this kind of thing and I tried several to figure out what would work. I tried to have a more efficient computer. I tried typing on portable options like my iPad. What ended up working consistently though was about the lowest tech and cheapest approach I could find.
It turned out that handwriting IN PEN in a composition book was the best way to get stuff out of my head and onto the page at a good clip. With pen there’s no chance to edit, well no easy chance, and you are forced to move on instead of getting stuck trying to make things perfect. I ended up generating and finishing stories at a rapid pace because I was writing every day without anxiety or worry. My notebook also lacked distractions like Facebook or video games.
The trouble of course was digitizing my handwriting later. I can’t afford to do much in terms of scanning, voice recognition, or otherwise letting a computer do the work. I had to manually enter the text I’d written. That forced me to face the horror of my handwriting especially if I’d put off digitizing for a few days and what I’d written wasn’t super fresh in my mind.
This is the writing process. This is what’s let me get to the point of actually submitting work to various markets. This is, hopefully, the path that will get me finishing my novel.
Luckily editing is comparatively easy for me once it’s in the computer and I can do it without needing to be in a flow state. Now I must figure out how to push through the fatigue and keep that state going even when I want to stop and do something else.