Lots of times I sit down to write, but just can’t get into it. I don’t have the right frame of mind – and given that I get very little time to write I want to be able to make the most of the time I have. I’m surprised at how hard I find it sometimes: after all I want to write. If I wanted to eat ice-cream, I’m sure that I wouldn’t have the same difficulty!
Of course, writing is mostly a mental process, and the mind has lots of ways to stop us from doing what we want. (Or maybe that’s just me!) My problems with getting on with writing seem to have two sources:
The anxiety is all internal. Although I know that what I’m writing is just a first draft, and that no one is going to be seeing it, I have what I can only describe as performance anxiety, and I’ll do anything to avoid writing when I get into that state – which is where the distractions come in.
Distractions come in two sorts: internal or self-created ones (who’s emailed me today? Better just check my bank balance – etc.) and the real ones (Josh not wanting to go to sleep, the cat wanting attention, someone telephoning just as I’ve sat down).
Of course identifying the problems is only part of the battle. How do I overcome anxiety and the distractions that I create for myself? Obviously, will-power and self-discipline (as much as I hate to admit it) are the key things – but that’s not something that you can just ‘get’, it takes practice. I mean, I can’t go from having will-power with the consistency of jelly to tough and sinewy determination overnight. I need to build up to it.
My strategy is:
- Fool myself into not being anxious. I’ll have warm-up session where I just ‘mess around’ with ideas to get me in the mood – the idea is that once I’ve started writing I’m usually ok.
- Start small. If I really don’t feel like writing, I’ll just do it for 15 minutes to see how I get on (and set a timer so that I don’t clock-watch) and then carry on longer if I want to, or take a break.
- Avoid opportunities for distractions. So, no internet connection when I’m writing and a note pad to write down all the ‘urgent’ ideas that occur to me while I’m getting started so that I don’t feel obliged to follow them up immediately!
Will it work? I have no idea.