“Writing is a muscle that needs to be exercised!” I’m not sure who came up with that inspiring little tidbit, but they obviously didn’t take into account the number of canceled gym memberships out there. When you’re a perfectionist, the thought of writing on a daily basis can feel overwhelming.
Thoughts like “What if my writing sucks?” or “My desk is too messy” can derail even your most sincere efforts to create. The truth is, fellow perfection-seekers, some days you will suck at being a writer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be one anyway. Here are some tips on how to get started.
1: Decide That You Are a Writer
You don’t have to be published to call yourself a writer. You’re a writer every time you heed the little voice inside your head that urges you to pick up a pen. You’re a writer even if that voice speaks quietly, infrequently, or – as in my case – only after I’ve watched copious amounts of Netflix. Being a writer is not always glamorous. Some days you’ll feel that to write is akin to sticking a thousand hot needles in your eye. You’ll look at your notebook and think, Not today, you papery bitch! But that’s okay, because every time you feel the pain, only to wake up the next day and try again, you solidify your status as a writer.
2: Don’t Wait for Inspiration
The word “inspire” comes from the Latin, inspirare, meaning, “To breathe into.” It was originally used to describe the actions of a supernatural being who would essentially blow ideas into your mouth. (That’s just a bit creepy, no?) I’ve been writing for ten minutes, and I can happily say that no supernatural being has filled me with anything. It’s just me and my cat here, along with three half-eaten chocolate bars.
Don’t wait for some elusive entity to save you from the empty page. Start writing! Set aside ten minutes a day to write about any subject you choose. The key is to keep going, no matter what. If you feel that’s impossible – or you’re a glutton for punishment – try The Most Dangerous Writing App (https://www.themostdangerouswritingapp.com/). It’s a writing tool that encourages you to type at a steady pace, because if you don’t, all your work gets deleted!
3: Write on the Go
If you can’t commit to a formal writing routine, fit it in whenever possible. Carry a notebook, or write using your phone. I use the Microsoft Word App. It’s great because I can write from anywhere, and all my work saves to the cloud.
Writing on the go not only offers flexibility, but it can be a lot of fun. Fill sticky notes with poetry, or the first few lines of a story, then leave them in public places for other people to find. Start a secret writing club by inviting your reader to leave their own notes, or add a few lines to yours! Even if you never get to see the completed piece, it’s cool to think of connecting to other writers in this way.
4: Sweet Talk Your Inner Critic
Perhaps you’re thinking, All these ideas sound great in theory. They might even work if my inner critic would quiet down enough for me to use them. I think that for many of us, the biggest task we face as writers is learning how to challenge the belief that we’re not good enough.
Instead of fighting with your inner critic, treat it like a nervous child who doesn’t want to stand up in front of the class. My critic usually says, I’m scared! When I ask it what’s wrong. Sometimes it says that it’s tired, or that it feels disrespected and censored. Once you treat that part of your psyche with kindness, you might notice that it no longer needs to speak up as much.
5: Forgive Yourself and Start Again
Don’t punish yourself if you fail to adhere to your routine. Sure it’s good to practice your craft, but not at the expense of the joy writing brings. If sitting down every day feels like too much a chore, figure out a schedule that works for you and your creative flow.
Some days you’ll fail to be the writer you want to be. You’ll take a nap instead of picking up the pen, or spend 3 hours playing solitaire. You’ll make excuses about how you’re too busy, or how you don’t have anything to say. Let yourself have these days, but don’t let them define your writer’s soul. Not one of us is perfect. Like any long term relationship, the one you share with your creative self, benefits from both commitment and forgiveness.