The work function of writing

I don’t know about you, but I have a very high work function when the time comes to write; I’m like a happy little electron snug in my energy well of goofing off and it takes a significant boot in the butt to raise my energy enough to push my fingers around the keyboard. Over time, I’ve worked out a few tricks to lower the amount of effort necessary, though I have to admit there’s still that hump to get over. Every day.

I won’t claim to do all these things consistently, but when I do, they help keep the cycle going from day to day. I hope they provide a framework to help you figure out what works for you.

  • Pay attention to how you feel. For a week, track how you feel when you start and how you feel when you’re done writing for the day. No matter how much I resist beginning to write, I almost always feel better after I’ve written. If I don’t feel better, I consider whether there’s something in my process I need to change. Knowing that I do feel better after writing encourages me to start again the next day.
  • Think about how you will start, not how you will end. When you’re writing, there’s no way to know for sure how much you’ll get done in a given time. (And if you do know, you’re evil.) If you sit down thinking you’re going to finish that exciting chapter, you’re setting yourself up for failure when you can barely write one paragraph you’re happy with. Better to be happy with that one paragraph and start again the next day.
  • Stop when the time is up. I set myself a quota of an hour a day. Sometimes I go over for a little while, but it’s better to break off when you’re eager to keep writing, than to wear yourself out by writing every single word that comes to mind. That way, you’ll remember that excitement when you start again the next day.
  • Know what you will write next. And make it something easy. Supposedly Hemingway would “leave water in the well” by stopping in the middle of a sentence. When he came back, he would have something that was easy to write, and keep going from there. I can’t bear to stop mid-sentence; I’m always afraid that I’ll forget what I was going to write next. Instead, I make a note of what I will write next. And that makes it easier to start again the next day.

Can you tell I’m trying to convince myself to start writing today?
Tomorrow: The garden is springing.