In my previous post, The Unicycle Of Prevarication, I explored how we indie authors often self-saboutage by “not being able to find the time” to write. This, despite the multitude of less pleasurable things we do find the time for, such as cleaning the moat or milking the peacocks.
Today, I intend to lay bare the One True Secret of how to find the time and motivation to write even when the odds seem stacked against you like handcarts against the barricades.
But first, I feel I need to issue a warning.
WARNING: You’re not going to like the answer.
You see, there genuinely is an answer to the eternal problem and it’s one that I’ve learned the hard way over the five years in which I’ve been occasionally toying with, and occasionally grafting at, my first novel. Are you ready to find out what it is? Excellent. But first, please put down any sharp objects you may be holding, as I don’t wish to find myself impaled.
Here goes then…
You have to force yourself.
I said you wouldn’t like it, didn’t I?
There’s no silver bullet, no magic solution, no flash of divine intervention which will suddenly change your attitude or deliver you an extra few hours in the day. There’s not even anything which will make forcing yourself to write any easier. You just have to do it if you want to.
At this point, I should make it absolutely clear that I don’t go in for motivational posters, “attitude is altitude” quotes or any other such guff. Heaven forbid, I’m British after all.
Nevertheless, it’s an absolute and undeniable truth that a large part of the reason (not always, I grant you, but in the majority of cases) that we don’t find time to write is because it takes an immense effort of will and we have to face up to uncomfortable truths in the process. If you’re wondering what those truths are, refer back to the previous post.
For me, the most appropriate analogy is going to the gym. When I’m actually at the gym I positively enjoy the exertion, discomfort and tolerable degree of pain. But boy oh boy, the reasons I can find to defer that visit are virtually innumerable. The thought of putting in the effort and suffering the resulting discomfort erects a gargantuan mental barrier. Only by reprimanding myself severely and forcing myself to remember that I enjoy both the exercise and the ensuing benefits can I work up the gusto to pass through the turnstiles.
Even better, once that first visit is out of the way, it rapidly becomes a routine that I find it hard to be satisfied without. I begin to get grumpy and twitchy when I don’t do some form of physical exercise for months on end. And believe me, I’m no superfit ultra-marathon runner. If I can make it up the stairs most days, I count that an achievement!
I also get grumpy and twitchy when I don’t write for extended periods. The ideas and thoughts and character traits and dialogue pile up behind each other in my brain, squishing together and hammering at the backs of my eyeballs to be released. Worse still is the feeling that I may never achieve the one dream I’ve harboured since childhood – holding a copy of my very own novel in my hands.
We all prevaricate. We all find reasons to delay. We all have easier, more relaxing things we’d rather do.
But we also all have a dream of being a writer, otherwise we would never have started on this path in the first place.
So, I say again: you have to force yourself.
Nothing I – or anyone else – can tell you can make you write. If it does, you’ll be writing reluctantly and under duress and you’ll hate it with a passion. You have to find the one thing you can use to scale that self-erected barricade and focus on that. Only then will you find the drive to put off some of the other chores instead and write.
In so doing, writing will either become the first thing you simply have to do regardless of how tough it may be or you’ll discover that you’re not that driven to it after all and you’d rather do something else. Either way is fine, unless you want to be a writer.
Oh, and if I ever do discover that there is actually a magic formula which works for everyone, I’ll be setting up a stall in Borough Market and making my fortune the easy way!
Now go and write my friends.