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Books and a coffee cup

Six ways to keep writing – even when you don’t have the time!

These days, book marketing is taking up the bulk of my time. We Are Mars is off to a great start and I consider the launch of my first novel a huge success personally, as well as being a success for my fledgling career as an author. It’s been a busy few weeks, booking signings, taking delivery of inventory, interacting on social media, writing blog posts here and there and everywhere, sending off copies of books to my pre-order clients. Yes! The life of an indie author is a crazy pendulum swing from the quiet days of focused writing through the hubbub around launch parties and press releases. How do I carry on writing? There are six easy ways to keep going creatively when you’re into a heavy marketing phase. I use one, or all of these methods on any given day.

  1. Don’t sweat it! – If you don’t find time to write every day, you need to remind yourself that writing is not a burden, but a pleasure. It is to be experienced and come to with joy and anticipation, not dread and guilt. So, I’ll say, STOP. Stop with the guilt. Stop with the ‘Should-have’s’ and ‘Must-do’s’. Embrace your time away from writing as a well-earned diversion that will, not only enhance your writing when you get back to it, but speed it along as you set to it again with fresh enthusiasm.
  2. Plan to switch off the distractions – It’s not always easy to ignore the glowing icons on our screens that tell us that there’s a message waiting for us. Our minds perceive every new notification as urgent. Those notifications really aren’t that urgent, or the world would stop turning when we sleep! If you must pull yourself away from your clamouring online conversations, simply let everyone know that you’re stepping out for a while and to have a nice day. Giving yourself permission to remove the distraction of a busy life is the biggest favour you can offer yourself and one you absolutely must insist on taking at least once a week to recharge. If a whole day is too long to be away from it all, then break it into two-hours-on, two-hours-off segments. That way, you don’t miss too much of what everyone else is up to and you can get some quality work time in.
  3. Go with the flow – It’s not always easy to find the right words for what you are trying to say. Sometimes, my brain is in a fog and I struggle to articulate a scene or character the way I think it should be. In this instance, I say what I need to say in the simplest possible way to get the thought process out of my head and onto the screen or paper. It may not be pretty, but that can always come later. Don’t sit there – especially on a first draft – trying to find the perfect way to express a thought while the minutes and hours tick by. The longer you sit there trying to be a perfectionist for, the harder it gets to achieve anything. So, go for the win by going with the flow.
  4. Research – Believe it or not, this may seem obvious to you, but a lot of writers think they have to know EVERYTHING there is to know about their subject, their plot, their characters, their setting and so forth BEFORE they start writing their story. This seems like an awful lot to ask our brains to absorb for any work of significant length. What I normally do is I plot out the general idea and asterisk all the topics I’m a bit vague on, then do a few hours of research before I begin writing the part of the story that refers to the items in question. It means my workflow is more fluid and isn’t overwhelmed by masses of useless data that I may, or may not call on again – especially if the trajectory of my writing takes me away from the topic items I may have, initially, thought I would use.
  5. Take notes, lots of notes – Even if I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing and what helps me to keep track of ideas, topic interests, plot and character development and story arcs is keeping lots of notes. Thoughts, feelings, ideas and reminders – either written, or dictated to voice memos on my phone – help me to keep moving forward with my work. I can sit in the car, waiting for my son to come out of school at pick-up time, and be working on plot development. It’s a more efficient use of my time and is valuable to the process of building out the story. I’m not always going to be at my keyboard, writing, so I need to be open and receptive to the ideas and thoughts as they come. I also keep a small notebook to jot down notes in when I’m away from my desk. So many things in everyday life can trigger the writing process, so being able to scribble down even the most mundane of those tiny inspirations is a great way to find the breakthrough we’ve been looking for.
  6. Embrace randomness – Sometimes stories come to us in a very non-linear fashion. Instead of fighting this, we should embrace it. Ideas that seem random can, actually, make sense later on, or spawn other ideas that coalesce into a moment of brilliance. This can only happen if we don’t fight the randomness of the creative process. Oddities will come to you and you won’t know how they fit in at that moment, but don’t dismiss them, make a note of them and what made you think of them, then move along. Randomness only works if we don’t dwell on it, trying to unravel its secrets. Try not to control randomness, and it will deliver some strikingly original content, ideas or character vignettes. Better, yet, it may even help you break through the marketing wall and become a recognised household name.

This is not an exhaustive list of aids or advice on how to keep your writing moving forward. It’s a set of loose rules that, when applied, can help immensely in a process that can so often be stymied by interruptions, busy schedules, overwhelming tasks and daily  distractions. I hope you find what I’ve included here to be helpful and applicable to your writing journey. If you have anything you’d like to add that works well for you, please share it in the comments. Who knows, one idea may spark another, and another, and another…..

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