Strategies to keep your story hot and productive
There’s nothing worse than Lazy Writer’s Syndrome. There are no symptoms in its early stages. It only becomes apparent when we look up from our busy lives and realize we haven’t been writing for—oh, ten days, ten weeks--ten months.
We have an ongoing accountability system in my critique group. Those of us who choose to participate report in once a week with their new words written. Originally, we aimed for the word count equivalent of 20 pages.
Any incentive program needs to be flexible to succeed, and ours has. When vacations, illnesses, family emergencies and the like occur, we adjust our weekly goals—or we just keep doing the best we can and turn in a wimpy report with pride because the overall goal is to keep writing new. It’s been an effective program for me.
Our reports vary from “Sent a query and wrote 300 new words” to amazing reports of over 10,000 new words. It depends on what life is presenting to us.
At times when I’m not writing new material, it’s seldom due to writer’s block. Rather, it’s because I’ve let the story get cold. When the story’s cold, the characters don’t drop in and talk to me. For those of you who think that sounds bizarre, it could also be expressed as moments when plot solutions come to you out of the blue—when showering, walking, or during the alpha state when sleeping.
If the story’s not “hot” – fresh and on my mind, as in when I’m writing new material – those character voices and plot inspirations never visit.
If I’ve allowed the story to get cold, I’m shut out. As Jeff Probst says on Survivor to the losers of the Immunity Challenge, “Head on back to camp. I’ve got nothing for you.” That’s when I languish in an “empty creative mind” state, which makes it paralyzingly difficult to fill the writer’s chair.
Here, then, are my strategies for recovering from Lazy Writer’s Syndrome.
- Maintain a calendar for one week.
- Record your activities in quarter-hour segments for that week
- Review and prioritize. Abandon all "perfect" goals -- neat house, varied cuisine, excessive volunteer work, new hobbies that can be explored another season/year.
- Maintain a calendar and enter small writing goals daily. "1 hour writing, "2 hrs writing" etc. I achieve much more success when I draw a little square box in front of my goals. This satisfies the “gold star” child in me because it gives me an opportunity to put a check in that box. I know, it’s silly. But it works!
- Only after #4, schedule other stuff that needs to be done. (This “rocks and sand” concept is from First Things First by Stephen Covey—highly recommended reading. It changed my life. It can change yours, too.)
- Consider meditation. When you come home from work, go to your special place and decompress with meditation.
- If you’re spent from a demanding day, consider a power nap. For me, I only need 15-20 minutes and I'm "almost" as rejuvenated as I am in the morning.
- Be kind to yourself. It takes planning and fortitude--and a healthy dose of tenacity.
- Finally, team up with a fellow writer or group of writers and agree to post your progress once a week. Once a week gives you the freedom to have a couple of lackluster days but still turn in a respectable week's end report. Call it BICFOK (Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keys) or create your own name for it.
You can defeat Lazy Writer’s Syndrome! Good luck, and if you have some tips to add, I’d love to hear your thoughts!