Monday, June 19, 2017

10 Ways to Maintain Writing Momentum

The big question many writers ask is, how can I keep going when I struggle to find the time to write, when I can’t get published fast enough, when I aren’t getting the sales I expected, when the idea of finding success in my writing career seems out of reach or overwhelming? The simple answer is momentum.

Momentum is the strength or force gained by motion or a series of events. In the case of writing, the more we sit and focus on what we need to do, the easier it becomes. And it’s not just the ease we gain through the act of writing, but also the love of it.

By writing, we remember how much we love it.

The moment we pause, take an extended break, allow other factors to gain priority, the easier it becomes to set our writing aside, the quicker the excuses come back, the harder it is to return. When we continue to write, the momentum keeps us confident. It also keeps the flames of our dreams fanned. Hope continues to burn within us and the thoughts of finishing that manuscript, or marketing that book, become less overwhelming.

So how do we maintain momentum in our writing?

1. We make the time to write or market. For some writers that means scheduling the time, sacrificing television, getting up an hour earlier than the rest of the family. When someone says, “I don’t have time to write,” it’s more often than not an excuse. It’s allowing other life distractions to take priority. Of course, there will always be times you won’t be able to write due to sickness, injury, commitments to others, but even then, turning your thoughts and focus, even briefly, toward your writing can help maintain the momentum. Keep in mind, though, that thinking about writing will never be as effective as simply sitting down to write. If you are crazy busy, then find ways around it. Write down those ideas that pop into your head while standing in a queue. Snatch a minute or two to develop a character further. Use your waiting room time to look up possible images of your characters, or do some quick research related to your writing.

2. Protect that writing time. Train your family and friends and yourself that this particular time you’ve set aside is your time to write. Don’t let anything infringe on it, baring of course, an emergency.

3. Don’t think of writing as “just a hobby,” even if it is. Writing is precious to you. It matters. If you are like me, then it keeps you sane. Therefore give it a measure of priority, and always remember its worth.

4. Know exactly what you want from your writing. This will give you an indication of how much time you’ll need. Work out precise, measurable goals. Go beyond the vague pseudo-goal of, “I want to write a book.” What kind of book do you want to write? How long do you want to take writing it? Do you also want a career of writing? What does that look like? What does success mean to you? The answers will be different for everyone.

5. Be cautious of taking a break from writing. Even a little break can be harmful to the momentum you’ve built. If you take a break, any kind of break, even one as brief as checking Twitter, then it’s so much harder to get back into writing.

6. Find a writing space. Ideally it should be a space you use only for writing. When you sit there, it’s a signal for your brain to turn toward writing.

7. Avoid the blank page. The blank page can mock us. I can easily spend an hour staring at it. To fix this problem, some writers, when they finish for the day, will write the first couple of sentences of the next chapter or onto the next page. This maintains momentum because it helps kick off the next day’s writing session.

8. Allow yourself to write rubbish. Don’t stop just because that perfect phrase or word is eluding you. Make a quick note and keep writing.

9. Be wary of all distractions. One of the biggest distractions for writers is social media. We need it, but we shouldn’t let it take over our precious writing time. Give yourself a separate time for social media. Other types of distractions we face are writing related distractions. A great example is research. You might come across a segment in your manuscript where you need to look up how something might work. Make a note and move on. Do your research while watching television or some other time you haven’t designated specifically for writing.

10. Don’t edit until your draft is complete. If you edit as you go, you create a distraction for yourself and by the end of the draft you might’ve realized that you need to do a major rewrite and discard the segment you spent all that time on.

In summary, always be mindful of the importance of momentum in your writing. Make the time to write, avoid all the distractions and practice discipline. And keep writing.

What do you do to keep writing? How has maintaining momentum in your writing helped you?

Lynda R. Young


nashvillecats2 said...

Most enlightening reason on how to keep on writing.
Time is a big factor if one has a full time job, however like should you be retired then I have all the time in the day.
Thanks for a most interesting post.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

When I do my seminars, #4 is the first thing I cover. Basically, what are your writing goals - write them down so you'll know what you're trying to accomplish.

That is a really good list.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes, momentum is important. I love the idea of writing a few sentences of your next chapter before ending your writing session. The blank page gets me too.

Pat Hatt said...

Yep, more often than not the I don't have time thing, for most anything, is an excuse. Have to keep that momentum going if one wants to get it done. Although I admit to doing #10 sometimes. Whoops.

Yvonne Ventresca said...

Great advice, especially about using social media and taking breaks.

S.P. Bowers said...

For me the problem is making time, and not letting anything get in the way. Because each day is different I can't just set a generic time and expect it to work. I have to train myself that ANY time I have a few minutes, I sit at the computer, rather than make excuses.

Bish Denham said...

My problem is rarely in the writing of the first draft. I love that part. I get slowed way down when it comes time to revise and edit. I struggle so... make all kinds of excuses to do something else... Somehow I need to reprogram my brain to love revising.

Juneta key said...

Great advice, enjoyed reading.
' Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Sandee said...

Very well said, and modified this could apply to many things in ones life. Love this.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

cleemckenzie said...

The hardest one for me is to protect my writing time. I try to explain why I can't do things, but some of my friends still are hurt by my neglect.

Mark said...

I love the comment about allowing oneself to write rubbish...totally true:) I also agree that it's crucial to know why you write and what your specific goals/expectations are.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

"Don't edit until the draft is complete." is something I learned early on. Up until then, I never seemed to get anywhere. Having a dedicated work space is another big one for me. Great list.

Fundy Blue said...

Excellent post, Lynda! The hardest thing for me is protecting that writing time. I have to get stricter!!!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Lots of great advice here, Lynda. Thanks!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Yvonne, I currently have all the time in the day and what I learned is that the more time you have, the more you squander it. Unless you are super disciplined, then having a full time job is actually better for a writer.

Diane, I'm surprised how many people don't actually know what they want from their writing.

Natalie, that blank page is a horrible tease.

Pat, I have to admit to #10 as well. I do it when I'm avoiding the next session of a story.

Yvonne, thanks. Hope it helps.

Sara, I used to tell myself that I couldn't write unless I had a full hour free. Silly me.

Bish, I'm the opposite. Which is weird. I think your problem is more common. But the same rules apply for either way.

Juneta, thanks

Sandee, true!

Lee, it can be difficult, but if you are honest and treat your writing like a job then friends will eventually understand.

Mark, both are so so important.

Susan, the 'don't edit' one is one I have to keep reminding myself about because I do love editing.

Fundy, Becoming stricter is well worth it.

Patricia, thanks.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I haven't written since April 11, the day before I fell and broke my femur. I miss it, but with the house selling there is no time. August can't come soon enough. Great post, Lynda. I'm bookmarking it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lynda - I know when I said last year I wasn't going to be around for a few months ... and thus not posting ... I felt completely at odds with myself. So I just keep writing ... and the momentum keeps me going. Now I need to focus on getting some work into a publishable format ... it's in my head - cheers Hilary

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Lynda,

Momentum is definitely going to keep us going. It is hard though. Distractions come easily especially these days with so much stress in life and in the world. But you hit on something very important. Writing, for most of us, keeps us sane. Perhaps that is why I have been so stressed lately because I haven't written much in quite some time.

I will try some of your suggestions and hope they keep me writing... THANKS!

Terri Tiffany said...

Good old number 9. My worst enemy. Thank you for some good reminders! I have been struggling through my edits finding myself all sorts of distracted.

H. R. Sinclair said...

I tried the write the beginning of the next sentence trick to get me going the next day…but the next day I had no idea where I was going.

Joey Lynn Resciniti said...

It's tough now that my daughter is home from school. I started asking her for uninterrupted time each afternoon. She is famous for telling me stories while I'm working. She's 12 and her solution to being shunned from my "office" was to go to her room and start working on her own novel. So I'm thinking it's worked out well!

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A good post on how to keep it going while you are writing. It is the human tendency that not all the time that we can produce quality write-ups. But with the "momentum to write" and to succeed in life, I guess we can make our writing better.

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Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Joylene, sometimes life happens in an unavoidable way that makes it impossible to write. Hopefully you'll be able to write again soon.

Hilary, Yes, that's exactly right. Yours is the perfect example of the benefits of keeping up the momentum.

Michael, stress makes it easy to be distracted. I am absolutely thrilled my article helped.

Terri, distractions are also my worst enemy.

Holly, yeah, I'll admit I've done that too.

Joey, ha! That's awesome!

Australia, As someone else put it, these tips can be applied to all aspects in our life, which in turn makes us better writers too.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I think I would be a lot less distracted if I was writing with a typewriter instead of a computer; then I wouldn't be able to access the Internet (of course, then I'd just pick up my phone). That's why I often write longhand first in coffee shops; I don't bring my laptop with me and I keep my phone in my purse.

Denise Covey said...

Great points, Lyn. Ah, watching Netflix can be a time waster, but after dinner time, I'm good for nothing else, LOL.

Karen Lange said...

These are wonderful tips, Lynda. Thanks for encouraging us! :)

Anonymous said...

Great suggestions. I'd like a designated spot to write, but my apartment is so small that there isn't room for one. =(

Michelle Wallace said...

I'm working on the 'special writing area'... one of these days it will materialize.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Workaholic, that's the same reason I write longhand as well.

Denise, I'm with you there... Sometimes it's necessary to switch off from everything.

Karen, Thanks

Patricia, Sometimes we can't have everything and we need to just work with what we have.

Michelle, ha. I hope it materializes soon for you.