“To write, you have to get your butt in the chair.”
You’ll find variations of this advice floating all around the internet and in countless writing craft books. Unfortunately, it’s often easier said than done. And once you add in things like anxiety, life, kids, social media, another dose of life, etc, it can seem impossible.
Okay, so maybe it was impossible for me, but the point is, I get it. I know all too well what it’s like to know you need to write when the need is crippling.
I’m not going to turn my site into a series of how-to-write posts; there are many others who do that far better than I could ever dream. But I am going to try to poke my head in a couple times a month to talk about what’s worked for me in hopes that it might also work for someone else.
2017 was a rough year, to put it mildly. The year before, we’d moved cross-country for a job opportunity that fell through before my husband could fly back home to help us load the truck. We were quite literally at a fork in the road and chose an adventure. By the start of 2017, I think both of us questioned our sanity a time or two, but there was no denying that there were silver linings.
Much of the year, he was trying to find work, which meant the survival or demise of our family rested solely on my shoulders. In case you haven’t already learned this lesson, muses don’t typically like that sort of pressure. At least mine didn’t.
As a result, the muse packed her shit and hit the road. Gone. And she stayed gone until the beginning of 2018, when I was able to coax her back by heeding the advice one friend didn’t know he was giving me at the time.
See, I thought I needed to write these huge chunks of words every day in order to be a serious writer. Criticized myself for not spending more time with my butt in the chair, because that’s what writers are supposed to do. So, after talking to him, I gave myself permission to “fail,” at least by the standards I’d set.
I threw out my at-the-time unattainable daily word count goal and cut it back to five hundred words per day. That was nothing compared to what I’d been trying to force myself to write, but it was a hell of a lot more than I’d been writing in the months before. And something strange happened. In February 2018, I wrote over 50,000 words. So far in March, I’ve written about 40,000 words.
All of this because I took the pressure off myself and decided something was better than nothing. I downloaded an app on my iPhone called Streaks and set one daily task for myself: write 500 words. I didn’t track my daily counts beyond 500, because it wasn’t important to me at that point.
I downloaded Brain.fm to act as a timer and provide background noise. I was ready for that to not work, but it was suggested by another writer (I wish I could remember who so I could thank them) and I was desperate.
And recently, I built my confidence back up to the point I started using the Pacemaker Planner site to track my projects.
If you’re struggling to figure out how to get your butt in the chair, try letting go of your self-imposed unrealistic expectations. Just for today, give yourself permission to write what you think is a ridiculously small number of words. If five hundred is too many, go for one hundred. Once that hundred is done, move on to the next. And then the next.
It’s much easier to build momentum when you’re not trying to push yourself up the hill.
If you have any tips for overcoming writer’s block, leave a comment below!