Some of us find words flowing easily and readily; others need the extra push of a deadline to complete a scene. By creating pressure and raising the stakes of your writing, you can cross the finish line! Today, writer Erin Townsend shares her tips for putting the heat on your writing:
Some people thrive under pressure, using the panic of the eleventh hour to propel themselves through their writing. This doesn’t always work as intended; if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to watch December 1 get closer and convince yourself you’ll make up for lost time later on. Sometimes, finding ways to manufacture that kind of last-minute pressure in your everyday writing helps keep your word count on track. Inventing your own stakes can be essential in keeping your writing routine in line; but how do you create that pressure in the first place?
1. Enlist Others
Call over or visit a friend. They can read, work on their own project, or marathon Netflix shows on their laptop with earbuds in. You can even Skype with far-away friends; in either case, they can keep you in line when you get distracted. If you can’t get together in person, tell a friend or family member the word count you intend to reach by the end of the day. Yell your goal into the void of Facebook. Getting other people involved fosters a sense of obligation—use it to your advantage.
2. Make the “Write” Environment
Instead of writing in isolation, branch out to a cafe, or better yet, a library. Chances are, you’ll be surrounded by a bunch of people furiously typing on their MacBooks, looking studious and productive. Even if they’re just scrolling through Facebook, the atmosphere of quiet concentration can push you buckle down on your own work.
3. Use Technology
The most dangerous writing app will delete your words if you stop writing for too long. You can set a time limit or word goal—good for sprints and writing through a block. And don’t forget about browser extensions! Try a website blocker to restrict everything for an hour on your lunch break or before bed, and write as much as you can before your access comes back. You can even set up restrictions ahead of time, leaving less of a chance for you to weasel out of your own plans.
4. Invent Time Restraints
Hit up a cafe an hour before it closes, and use that pressure to get as much work done as you can before they kick you out. Bring your laptop somewhere without a charger, like the library, a park, or even a different room in your apartment, and write against the clock (remember to save your work!). Make a conditional agreement to attend an event or social gathering, with the caveat that you’ll write a page or two before you go. Even if you don’t hit your goal, the illusion of a time constraint gives you motivation to concentrate.
5. Add Challenges to Routine Activities
Cooking something for 45 minutes? Challenge yourself to write a certain number of words in that time. On hold with Comcast again? Write for three hours until you reach a live person. Pop your tea into the microwave and try a 200 or 300-word sprint. If you’re ordering food, bang out a few pages before the delivery driver calls. Throw in a load of laundry and write until it’s done—bonus points if you’re writing in an actual laundromat. Open-ended, personal challenges often result in more work than you think they will, and can be more interesting than trudging up to a word count.
Erin Townsend writes from New Haven, Connecticut, where she co-organizes a writing and audience feedback series entitled Local Lit @ Lotta. Her work has received the Jennie Hackman Award for Short Fiction and has been published in the Long River Review. Currently she is working on her first short story collection. In her spare time, when she isn’t traveling around with her partner, Erin reads books about space and drinks weird beer.