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.
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!