10 decisions you can make about your writing right now

With all the writing advice in the world these days, as a writer there comes a point when you have to stop reading and start making decisions

There is so much advice available to writers. Website after website from perfectly pleasant person after perfectly pleasant person offering totally reasonable suggestions to help you write better, longer, faster.
All of which is splendid. I mean, I’m one of those people.

The problem is, at some point, as a writer you have to stop listening and start making decisions. You have to spring into action and, you know, actually do something.

Choices, choices

Decision making is a fundamental part of being a writer. Long time readers will know that I don’t believe in the muse. Instead, I think we’re continually making choices about the whats, whens and hows of our creative work.

But making decisions is difficult. If you’re not sure about something, or if you feel like you have too many options, it’s much easier to delay a decision or simply never get round to making one at all.

However, once you do finally make that call, you’ll feel a real weight removed from your shoulders. You’ll be inspired and raring to go.

So with that in mind, here are some decisions you can make about your writing right now. Not in half an hour and certainly not tomorrow or next week, but immediately. Pronto.

1 Choose a project

I always have various projects going on at once – my fiction, this site, other sites – and it can be overwhelming. So I make sure that I prioritise. I pick a project and I stick with it. Be decisive. Be clinical. Decide what you want to work on. Then devote the necessary time.

2 Set a deadline

It’s obvious, but if you don’t pin your writing project down, it could go on forever. Put a date in the diary and aim to finish by then. If you’re good at project management, set various milestones, like three chapters by April or 1000 words a week. Deadlines give you direction.

3 Choose a partner

Not many people complete a quality writing project without getting feedback from someone they know and trust. Decide who that person will be right away and you won’t need to worry about it down the line. You’ll also have made a real life commitment – something tangible that helps you to write with purpose.

4 Define a purpose

Don’t write for the sake of writing. Before each project, ask yourself what you want to get from the experience. What’s your motivation for writing this specific thing at this particular moment? Write down your answer and stick it above your screen. It will help you focus when the going gets tough.

5 Set a goal(s)

Once you know why you’re writing, it’s good to establish what you consider achievable goals. For example, is your goal to complete a novel or to go on and have it published? Goals can change and decisions can be reversed, but it’s always useful to know when you’re able to stop. You need to aim for contentment.

6 Pick your software

Blimey O’Reilly, there are so many writing packages out there at the moment. It’s so easy to blame your tools when you’re struggling to make a decision. I’ve switched and messed around with software so many times it’s slightly embarrassing. Just pick one now and stick with it until you’re done. All you need is a keyboard and a screen, I promise.

7 Find a convenient time to write

Annoyingly, I’ve always found it easier to write between 11 at night and two in the morning. When work (or lack of) allows, that’s when I choose to write. When I’m unable to work at that time, I choose a different timeframe instead. The key is in making that choice, as it helps you develop a routine. Pick a time and be disciplined.

8 Choose your reward

You might think that this decision is a little premature to be making at the start of a project. But the sooner you have something exciting to aim for, the more likely you are to start working. And by the way, your reward may be a night on the town once you finish your work or a biscuit for every 100 words that you write. It really doesn’t matter. Rewards are goals too, whatever form they take. They’re sometimes all that keeps us going.

9 Never give up

This is the greatest decision of all and you can take it at any time – but right now would be perfect. Once you fully commit to writing and being a writer, things get much easier. That horrible toing and froing – the emotional turmoil of deciding whether or not to continue – is something you never have to endure. Quitting is never an option. Make a deal with yourself now. You won’t regret it.

10 Write something

Every time you put pen to paper, fingers to keys, it’s a conscious decision. No one can force you to write. That you do is entirely your choice and something that you should be proud of. So keep making that decision. It’s a really, really good one.

And that’s it. What are you waiting for? Get cracking!


kevin_vorstermans@hotmail.com 16 March 2011 Reply

Once again, great tips! I’ve already applied quite a lot of them.

iain@writeforyourlife.net 16 March 2011 Reply

Thanks – glad you found something practical in there!

ronda.eyben@shaw.ca 16 March 2011 Reply

Thank you Iain! I love this one and actualyl printed it out and will post it to the wall! 🙂

iain@writeforyourlife.net 21 March 2011 Reply

Wow – an endorsement indeed! So glad you found it useful.

january@eclipse.co.uk 17 March 2011 Reply

Hello Iain, thanks for your siteas you often have a stern, welcome-to-the-real-world (and amusing) vibe going on in Write for Your Life, I thought I would add an ‘Or Else’ to your number 9’s Never Give Up.
I have tried giving up (essentially lack of confidence) – twice abandoning a novel and going a year at a time without writing a word, and once I burned 500 pages covered in rewrites. In the end I went back to an old computer, resurrected early files and started again.
My message to those of us wavering or struggling is: giving up doesn’t work, all it does is waste precious time, so you might as well carry on.

I find the idea useful, but then again, I don’t love biscuits.

iain@writeforyourlife.net 21 March 2011 Reply

That’s a good point actually. A lot of people feel compelled to write in one way or another and can’t seem to drag themselves away from their work, no matter how hard they try. I reckon that’s probably a good indication that you’re ready for the fight and prepared to persevere. And if there’s one thing a writer needs, it’s perserverence – but it’s worth it in the end!

scribocin@gmail.com 19 March 2011 Reply

It’s the decisionmaking process, which is sooooo difficult. Like you, I’ve a few project underway, so after several months of jumping from one thing to another without really being dedicated to any, I’ve decided to allocate projects to days of the week. And so on Mondays, Wednsdays and Fridays I should write A, on Tuesdays and Thursdays B, on Saturdays my novel and on Sundays….But I can’t stick to it 🙁 I’m doing a bloground on a Saturday, why actually I should be writing my novel.
Any advice how to stick with it? 😉

iain@writeforyourlife.net 21 March 2011 Reply

If you can’t do something on a specific day, don’t worry about it. Or if projects are continually colliding, you might have to drop a project or two, at least for a while. I’m about to do that now (stay tuned) because I need to start focusing on my second novel.
When you’ve got various commitments, especially real-life important ones (I’m also about to get married) you really have to learn to prioritise. It’s not easy at all, but it sounds like you’re halfway there and actually, I really like your days of the week solution. I might give it a try myself!

faerie_kitten@hotmail.co.uj 20 March 2011 Reply

See, I like writing for the sake of writing. I have loads of random documents on my comptuer that will never go anywhere, but I wrote them because it was in my head and I just wanted to write it. They’re daft little things that help me unwind if I need to before tackling the things that I actually want to go somewhere.Same as I only do rewards during November for NaNoWriMo, but at that point I;m aiming to write more than ever before and draft out two or three projects in a month, so rewards are good. My problem with rewards is that unless it’s the edible kind, I never get change to have them 🙁
Loved the article though! Most of them I already decided on, and I’m really picky about my deadlines. I set everything up on deadlines and then stick to them as best as possible, otherwise life just gets in the way.

iain@writeforyourlife.net 21 March 2011 Reply

Deadlines are awesome – I always work better when I’m flat out against it. And it’s true, some writers do just enjoy writing for the sake of it, and fair play to you too. I always seem to write with a purpose, and I do think it’s good to give your writing focus and an end goal. But by no means is that the same for everyone. Like all advice out there in the blogosphere, you have to take the bits that apply to you and ingore the rest!
Thanks for the kind feedback!

Anonymous 23 March 2011 Reply

Great tips. Surely point 11 is missing though. Publish It – either as a blog, a comment, a tweet, an ebook. There are more authors who have written and not published than written and published.

iain@writeforyourlife.net 23 March 2011 Reply

Thanks! I’m with you on a point 11, but I think there are many writers who might disagree. It’s a tough one and probably depends on what you want to get out of any given piece of work. Wonder what others think?

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