With Labor Day come and gone, it's time for that collective annual sigh -- our silent acknowledgement of the pending To Do's we willfully waylaid during the lazy, hazy days of summer.
For many authors, that means rebooting the writing habit we put aside in favor of beach outings and barbeques.
While that thought may initially cause angst, I find, both for myself and the many authors I've worked with over the years, that it's the anticipation of writing, not writing itself, that produces anxiety.
Once we're engrossed in the craft of writing, time melts away, basic needs like hunger barely register, and we're transported to a magical place where words flow through us.
The key to achieving that timeless, focused state, I've learned, is making your writing time sacred. To help you re-immerse yourself in your own writing, I wanted to share some of the helpful tips I've gotten over the years from bestselling authors and top editors.
Get comfortable. If your dining chairs are the least comfortable ones in the house, you're not going to want to sit in them for very long, which means the dining room is not the place to write. Find a spot that feels good to you, whether it's the comfy chair at your local Starbucks or your home office.
Okay, not that comfortable. Beware of the bed and that cozy chair where you love to nap. You want to feel relaxed and creative -- not sleepy.
Turn it off. All of it. Between smart phones, e-readers and iPads -- not to mention Facebook, shiny new magazines, and television -- distractions abound. Shut down your mobile devices and remove any tempting diversions from your midst. One New York Times bestselling author I know writes on a computer in her basement that has no Internet connection.
Make it a family affair. When you're home, your kids and spouse are likely to consider you fair game. Let them know you'll be writing for the next hour or two, and ask them not to disturb you. One author friend of mine wraps a bright yellow scarf around her office doorknob. Her family knows that means mom is writing, and is not to be disturbed unless the house really is burning down.
Pinpoint your perfect time. If you're a morning person, don't wait until after dinner to start writing. I personally avoid writing in late afternoons, when my energy is lowest. Deepak Chopra reserves the early morning hours, between 4am and 9am, for writing, meditating and exercising. Consider your best time of day, and try to establish your writing habit then.
Let it flow. When my sister, bestselling author Debbie Ford, was starting her first book, Peter Guzzardi, an editor at Random House, told her to write ten pages per day -- without editing a single word of it. Just write, he told her. Follow Guzzardi's advice, and try not to judge what comes out on the page. Just keep going. With practice, you'll learn to let the words flow through you. Some authors describe it as an out-of-body experience that allows them to do their best writing.
Befriend your fear. The act of writing, particularly writing unedited, can be scary. Most writers, bestselling authors included, feel this fear at times. The best way I know to overcome it is to accept it -- and then get back to writing.Better yet, follow Julia Cameron's advice in The Artist's Way and write about your fear -- or whatever is on your mind -- in what she calls "morning pages." Morning pages are three pages of handwritten stream of consciousness -- about the doctor's appointment you need to schedule, the nagging comment your boss made, the fact that you're worried your book is awful.
"These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing...", Cameron explains. "Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included."
Once your day-to-day concerns are released onto the page, your mind is free, ready to connect on a creative level.
Dangle your own "carrot". You're more likely to stick to your writing habit if there's a prize waiting for you. Whether it's your favorite dessert, a night out with your spouse, or a long, hot bath, promise to give yourself that gift when you've completed your next chapter, or another pre-determined milestone.
Keep in mind, it may take time to find your perfect formula -- the right place, time of day, and rituals -- to get your writing back on track. If that's the case, don't despair. Know that, as writers, we all struggle to adhere to our writing habit at times. And that's okay -- provided we get back to writing. Starting today.
Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books. www.EverythingYouShouldKnow.com