So here’s the deal. You’re a writer, right? And none of this “I’m an aspiring writer” or “I want to be a writer” nonsense. If you write, you’re a writer.
In any case, if you’re a writer, you’re going to need some tools. I don’t pretend to be famous, but I have been writing for a long time now. I've wrote for a newspaper for 4 years, have several blog posts here on Medium, one over here, and about 200,000 words of fiction in my computer looking for a home.
I realized, though, when one of my friends asked me to help with his writing, I had a lot of trouble actually breaking down the process. Writing has long been a nearly unconscious effort.
Still, there are a few things I've pulled out of the twisted metal that is my brain and salvaged. Here are my best tips for writing on demand:
1. When in doubt, dump it out.
Several years ago, I was having a lot of trouble writing anything at all. I’m not really one to believe in writer’s block, but at this point, I was really struggling.
One of my advisers handed me a piece of paper and a pencil and said
“Look, just write. Write every single thing that comes to mind. Don’t even finish complete sentences if you think of something else. Just write.”
It was the single most freeing creative experience of my life. Part of being a writer is giving yourself permission to churn out disgusting, hideous, on-the-nose, non-talented, basic, childish, foul strings of words to get to the good stuff.
Here are some online tools to get you started:
- 750 Words (my personal favorite)
- Daily Page (gives a prompt to get you going)
- Day One (an excellent journaling app)
- NaNoWordSprints (Awesome twitter community)
2. Write wherever and whenever
The most obnoxious cop-out writers use for not writing is “I’m not in my environment.” (I’m looking at you George R. R. Martin).
In this world, there is literally no excuse for not being able to write. I don’t care if you don’t have a fancy tablet. Do you have a phone? Does it have letters on it? There you go. Yes it’s slower, but the muse honors the working stiff. Bang out 100 words of misspelled, autocorrected nonsense with your fat thumbs if you have to. Make it happen.
If you are someone with a plethora of devices (like most of us spoiled Americans), you've got to be using some sort of service to keep your words everywhere.
Here are the ones I use, from most favorite to least.
- Evernote (Tag your ramblings and then come back to them later)
- Google Drive (iPad app has changed my life)
- Medium (They have mobile writing now!)
- Dropbox (Been less impressed with this lately, but Word integration has me hopeful…)
3. Get in the habit of writing
Quite simply, sometimes you just have to get used to writing. If I don’t write for a couple of days in a row, I get antsy. Write every day for a month, a week, or a year — however long it take you to build a habit.
Once you’ve reached the point where it’s harder for you to not write than it is to write, you’ve fought the first half of the battle… or maybe just the first quarter ☺
- Camp NaNoWriMo (Ease in to the monthy sprints, or try…)
- NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in one month. Brutal, but I recommend this to everyone who wants to write. Fiction or non)
- My 500 Words (Jeff is incredible)
- 365 Days of Writing Prompts
4. Have an appropriate soundtrack
This sounds a little flaky, but how many times have you heard a song or melody which immediately took you back to a specific moment in your life?
You can use soundtracks as a mental trigger to get in writing mode. If you can master the psychology of associating a particular track with writing, getting the work done is almost like running downhill.
Here are 5 to get you started:
- My Personal Set on SoundCloud (curated, not anything I’ve created)
- One Mix to Rule Them All
- Mozart — Requiem in D Minor
- Relaxing Records — Concentration
- Ghosts — Chillstep Mix
P.S. Don’t change up tracks a lot. Use the same one every time. The next step after “this is annoying” is “this is background music.” Push through the temptation to change it up every time.
5. Don’t lose time looking for images
(But don’t just use Google either!)
Over the years I’ve worked with way too many photographers who are seeing their images appear on other websites. Seeing as that’s their livelihood, it’s not much fun for them.
You need good photos to go with your writing, but I don’t want you to sink a ton of time into finding them. Nor do I want you to rob photographers of work. At the risk of my Medium headers looking a lot less original, here’s a list of 4 open sources I use all the time:
And as a Bonus…
Reedsy has put together it’s own delicious collection of tools to whip writer’s block.
What did I leave off the list? What tools do you use for getting past writer’s block? Leave a response and let’s build this resource!