This is Number 2 in a new series of Quick Writing Tips: strategies and techniques that I’ve found helpful over the past few years and that I hope might be helpful to you too. There’s no rocket science here. Just some tried and tested ideas.
Hold it lightly (otherwise described as ‘keeping things in perspective’).
In writing – as in life – I find that it’s much too easy to get into a mindset where I’m pushing, pushing, pushing, driving a project forwards, beating myself up for what I have or haven’t got done.
This often makes writing – and life – feel like hard work. Everything feels exhausting and overwhelming. I forget why I wanted to do this anyway.
And so I try to hold things lightly, sneak up on them sideways, remind myself that this is just writing, that nothing much ever gets done when I try to force things.
I find it useful to have a couple of book projects on the go – so that I always have something simmering away for those times when I’m feeling a bit stuck. Somehow, alternating between two projects frees me up to approach things playfully.
I also try to set realistic goals for myself. My natural tendency is to overestimate the amount of writing I can get done in any one day – and then feel disappointed when I haven’t achieved it. Slowly, I’m learning to change this.
If I set out to write just one hundred words today, or perhaps one thousand on a day when I have some real time to myself, I usually always exceed my goal – and that makes me feel good. .
I find that being a bit kinder to myself in this way tends to encourage a lighter attitude.
Finishing a novel is, in many ways, a test of stamina – but, for me, it also has to feel pleasurable. It has to be challenging in a good way. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Free-writing, doodling in a journal, going for a walk or (if I’m really desperate) to the gym, doing some boring housework (is there any other kind?), playing with V, all these things help me to get out of frantic, driven mode and into a more relaxed, easy, playful mode.
After all, this isn’t life or death. It’s a book. It’s a poem. It’s a chapter… Right?
What do you do when things feel overwhelming? How do you keep things flowing and fun?