I think it is fair to say that the majority, if not all writers are, in their simplest interior, creatures of habit. We write how we like, what we like, where we like and when we like. Why? Well, we’re not divas…at least, I don’t think we are – we just need to ensure that we have the perfect work-place conditions in order to get our creative (productive) juices flowing. The long and short of it is; we need to be inspired.
Don’t get me wrong, we certainly can’t force inspiration – try as hard as we might – and sometimes (often) we fall into Procrastination’s warm grip. However, we do try our best to come prepared for situations like these, and more often than not we manage to use our sheer determination, pens, notebooks, traditions and techniques to fight our way out of that grip, trailing messy splodges of ink behind us. Still, we’re far from perfect.
All writers are different, meaning that each and every one of us fights our way out of Procrastination’s cosy grip in entirely different, yet no less successful ways. Unless of course, you don’t fight at all. Sometimes our resisting methods are deliberate and conscious, such as sticking ourselves in front of a motivational quote while we write, and sometimes it is a subconscious action, like humming or tapping our foot to our own creative beat, just to keep words steadily pouring onto the page.
I am, of course, no different. There are things I do and places I go which I believe keep me at bay from Procrastination and help with my writing process. I have no doubt that there are also things I do without being aware of it – apparently I’m a lip bitter and a hummer – but regardless, it all helps.
I am going to share with you 5 of my conscious habits, traditions and techniques which help me write, and may even help you too. From one creature of habit to another.
I am almost 100% sure that I am not the only creative person on this planet who ventures out into the great outdoors to find inspiration. Summer or winter, spring or autumn, I will always find something to spur on my creative thoughts. It’s not just what I see but in fact all of my sense that has an effect on me; the smell of freshly cut grass and air, the sound of crickets in a nearby bush, the feel of a biting, winter breeze on my face, even the taste of pollen on my tongue all add up to this complex mixture of purity and completeness. And that is where the imagination takes hold and pulls you through the vast valleys of possibilities.
I have a number of favourite outdoor places near where I live, and I go to them in order to just feel free and completely relaxed. This enables me to write. Spend time focusing on your surroundings; really look at the colours, shapes, the ways things move in the wind. Even if in that moment you don’t immediately write and instead just focus all your energy on enjoying yourself, I can guarantee you that you will feel a very strong need to write.
2. The Early Bird Catches the Worm
For all writers, the time in which they are most likely to be productive is entirely personal. My hours of productivity are in the early hours of the morning, as the sun is rising and people are getting ready for work. It has taken years of learning and understanding the needs of my body clock, but I know that if I’m not up, dressed, fed and watered with a pen in my hand by 8am, then I can rest assure that absolute bare minimum is getting done that day. I am not build for late nights; come 10pm I’m completely frazzled, so you can forget seeing me intently tapping away on my laptop with a sixth energy drink in my hand at 2 in the morning, because I’ll be tucked up in bed, dreaming of the early morning bird songs.
Perhaps there’s some form of poetic symbolism in my early morning productivity? Or maybe it’s psychological? All I know is that the freshness of a new day encourages you to set out your resolutions and start again – like New Year’s Day, only with less of a hangover. There’s something very raw and human about the idea of new beginnings; it energises me and makes me want to get things done.
Probably not my healthiest habit, but you know; early + coffee = semi-functional human being. Also, because I always write in the morning with a coffee by my side, it makes sense that I have come to associate that bitter/ heavy scent with personal, creative productivity. That’s not to say that I can’t write without it, but it is a definite comfort.
But that’s not the only reason why coffee helps me write; when the bare-white walls in my kitchen get too boring, and the noise of the seagulls get too annoying, I take the chance to refill my creativity by venturing off to my local coffee shop. Writing can be a very anti-social art as it relies heavily on you, sitting in front of your computer screen, desperately trying to get shizz done. This makes it really difficult to create real, living, breathing characters because the only human being to hand is yourself, which means that you are going to have some really dull, flat characters on your hands. And trust me…you don’t want that.
So buy your tea, hot chocolate, coffee or whatever beverage you see fit and just…listen. Speech patterns, mannerisms, facial expressions, paralinguistic features – take notes on all of it because they are all human character traits and will help build and add life to your characters.
Then again, you don’t have to go to a coffee shop just to listen to the people around you. Maybe you’re just there for pleasure, sipping on your mocha, taking some much needed ‘me time’. Maybe you place your half-full mug back down onto the table and notice a pattern in the woodwork. A cluster of lines and cracks suddenly morphs into the side portrait of a mountain. You stare at that mountain, mocha now forgotten, and you think to yourself, maybe there’s something important on the peak of the mountain, something precious, something magical which all of human kind need…you let your mind wander more, you pull out your trusty pen and notebook, allowing the pen, which appears to have a mind of its own, glide over the page. And hey-presto! You have yourself a little story on your hands. Of course, it’s not often like this, but we can dream, right?
It is a widely accepted fact that in order to be a successful writer you have to read. A lot. I read every day – both fiction and non-fiction for both academic and non-academic purposes. And I take something out of all of it. It inspires me to write, it helps grow my vocabulary, refine my grammar and it gives me a pretty strong idea of how good writers use character and plot to make me want to keep reading.
The genre in which I write is YA, so as a result, I predominantly read YA. The more that you read of your genre, the more you begin to understand precisely what you need to do in order to make your characters and plot both enjoyable and believable. This does not mean you should be copying your favourite authors – that my friend will get you nowhere, it just means that you should learn from them. After all, they weren’t published for nothing.
Let’s start with a scenario. I’m sitting at my kitchen table where I normally write, the minutes are ticking by, my muscles are getting sore from all the sitting and I’m desperately trying to dredge up the emotions to compose a very intense scene. But I just…can’t. It’s times like this that I very calmly reach for my Bluetooth speaker, and let the fate of my scene lie in the hands of whatever playlist I pick.
No matter what type of music you like or listen to on a daily basis, there is always at least one song which will put you in the correct mind-set and make you feel the right emotion in order to write. For me, playlists are lifesavers, and I have a selection of self-selected songs in which I will always listen to when I write. It’s that association thing again; when I hear the songs, I always think of my novel.
Rock/pop music is great to listen to if you need to write something that is energetic and upbeat, like a fight scene, but, providing that you pick the right songs, it can help you write something heartfelt or painful. Music is such a versatile art form (like most art forms really) and has true emotion and feeling intertwined in both its lyrics and acoustics, so don’t be afraid to utilise it when writing.
Obviously there is much more to my writing habits, traditions and techniques than these 5, but I hope that it gives you an idea of how simple it is to make your writing process easier and more personal to you, whilst (mostly) avoiding procrastination.
Copyright: Laura Davis © 2o16, all rights reserved.