Good habits — like jotting down notes in full sentences and keeping them organized — can boost your productivity.
Bad habits — like rewriting along the way or not having a primary work in progress that gets done first — can block you from reaching your writing goals. But it may be that a lack of enthusiasm creates the most problems for writers, eating up time and killing viable projects.
This is not to say that you need to be inspired every time you sit down to write. As long as you have an objective, the words will come and the project will continue to move forward. Very few professional writers depend on constant input from their muses to get their works done.
It also doesn’t mean that individual activities won’t be tedious. I hate proofreading. I barely tolerate reading the whole work out loud. For other writers, blank pages, plotting, and description (all of which I love) can create anxiety, distress, or boredom.
It seems to be universal that somewhere between the half and three-quarters point, a big project (like a novel or a script) will bog down. (One thing I do to counter this is write down 20 compelling reasons why I must finish the project. These are arguments to my future self and must be completed before an estimated 10% of the story is written.)
With those provisos in mind, it is up to you to choose projects that engage you. Ideally, your passion should be intrinsic — not driven by market forces, “great ideas” that aren’t for you, or someone else’s enthusiasm. If the project can’t keep its hooks in you for a sustained period of time, don’t bother with it.
Fall in love with your story.
Be enthusiastic about exploring it and nurturing its well-being. Choose it above all others and be faithful to it. Avoid distractions and give it regular attention.
You are pursuing the project. If things are going well, you become so obsessed that the inevitable discouragements, periods of tedium, detours into research, difficult tasks, repairs, and doubts become challenges instead of blocks.
This is not to say that projects that pay the bills should be avoided. I once was asked to do a mind-numbing project. When the client agreed to pay five times my going rate, I managed to get enthusiastic enough to bring it to a happy conclusion.
But I would never work on a speculative project — except as an exercise or education — if my heart wasn’t in it. Writing demands too much for me to work on projects that don’t matter to me.
Working on projects that, over time, sustain your enthusiasm makes their completion easier, even if you are caught up in bad habits and haven’t focused on developing some helpful practices. Passion conquers frustration.
Peter will be presenting How to Write Fast at SavvyAuthors starting on April 2.
Crank up the efficiency and get that novel, short story, article, or script DONE. Through exercises, evaluations, discussions, tips, and technologies, you can learn to write more productively. Discover how to break through blocks, get ideas, develop plots, draft, and polish in less time without losing quality.
Peter Andrews is a full-time, independent writer who has written speeches, articles, radio shows, plays, books, and short stories. He teaches for the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, Westchester Community College, and the Westchester Center for the Arts. His weekly posts to http://howtowritefast.blogspot.com/ attract 8,000 views each month.