Dear Sherry: Should Know How, but Don’t

“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction. If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance.

law-of-motion

Dear Sherry,

I took some time away from writing after finishing a novel, and now I can’t get back on track. I have to get back to writing — I have a contractual deadline — and I keep telling myself I’ll get back to it, but I find that, at the end of each and every day, I’ve frittered the whole day away and have done exactly nothing writing-wise. This has been going on for weeks now. What should I do?

Should Know How, but Don’t.

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Dear Should Know,

It doesn’t take much to tell ourselves we’ll get to the writing in a bit, especially if we have a full day for writing. First we sleep in a little, and it isn’t even noon, there is plenty of time to write, so we go on Facebook and Netflix and email. It’s still early afternoon, plenty of time to write, so we do some housework, go for a walk, run some errands. And sure, now it’s after supper, but there are still, what, five hours before bedtime? Plenty of time to write, so we spend time with family. And then, wait, there are three hours now until bed time and we decide it isn’t enough to get into the story we’re writing, so we’ll do better tomorrow, and then the cycle starts all over.

The longer we allow this cycle to continue, the harder it is to stop it and return to our writing. To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton: we will stay at rest, frittering away our days, until we become our own force for change. To become that force for change, we have to actively interrupt the momentum of lethargy. As you catch yourself entering your second hour on Facebook or third episode in a row of your new favorite TV show, ask yourself, “Is this what I want? Is this going to get me what I want?”

When we are consciously aware that we are wasting time, we have the ability, and the responsibility, to take action. We can no longer excuse our frittering because we are aware that it is harming us and our progress. By being aware, and consciously asking ourselves to justify what we are doing, asking ourselves if it will help us meet our goals or not, we begin to change our thoughts from “I’ll do it later,” to “Let’s do it now, and how far can I get today?” In time, those thoughts will become normal, and writing will become a habit. And getting off the couch to put words on the page and write will become easier.

Start slow. Write for thirty minutes the first day, or 500 words. Do that for several days in a row. Soon you will find yourself writing for longer periods of time and writing more words  because your momentum has shifted. Use time on Facebook, checking e-mail, or watching your favorite TV shows as a reward for having written, rather than something you do before you write.

There will be days, most days, where you don’t feel like writing, when you’d rather fritter away the day. When that happens, ask yourself, “Is this what I want?” If the answer is, “No, I want to have another book published,” then get back to the writing.

Creatively yours, SherrySherry Peters

 

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Have a question for Sherry? Send her an e-mail at coachsherry@sherrypeters.com.

3 Comments

  • Lane Robins September 16, 2016 at 9:02 am

    One thing I’ve done as a last resort that works is to tell myself I have to write 100 words per hour throughout the course of the day. A mini goal that’s easy to hit even on a day of distractions that adds up pretty well when you consider most days run about 8 business hours and about 4-6 discretionary hours. I also usually hit more than a hundred words at a time.

    Reply
    • Sherry Peters September 16, 2016 at 9:46 am

      I LOVE that, Lane! That’s a fantastic way of dealing with it.

      Reply
  • Jayne Barnard September 16, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    One I learned during a NaNoWriMo many years ago was to allow myself an episode of my current favourite tv series after my word count was done. And some chocolate.

    I don’t have a daily word count outside NaNo – rather the day’s job is a single scene, or a piece of action, or a particular segment that’s needed to advance the work. Some days, if the scene is going to be a hard one for me emotionally, I spend all day mentally preparing myself and then dive in for as long as I can stand it, and don’t beat myself up if it’s not as many words as I’d hoped to accomplish. Not starting at all because I dread that scene would be far worse than starting but giving myself permission to stop partway through.

    Reply

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