Unfortunately, I am the kind of writer who is easily distracted. For a long time, I had difficulty churning out pages for my novel. This is especially so in the summer when there are no lecturers or deadlines pushing me to write. I wished I could do more but often found myself surfing the internet instead (oh the slippery slope of logging onto facebook), lazing on the couch in front of the TV and doing anything but.
I’ve read how some writers are so passionate about writing that all they want to do is to write all day or else they will DIE (okay, so I paraphrased that, but you get what I mean). Granted that there were nights when I’d been kept awake because there were so many ideas running through my mind, and there had been several times when I got so excited that I jumped out from my bed and wrote. But those instances do not happen all the time, and certainly not every night, and I’d question myself if not having the urge to write all day long was a sign of a lack of passion.
But I realized that that is not true. Writing actually requires a lot of discipline and perseverance, not just unbridled passion. Khaled Hosseini once said at an interview, “You have to write whether or not you feel like it.” Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” That’s quite a comical way of putting it but I agree.
So recently, I established a routine that proved really helpful. I have tried several different suggestions from other writers before, such as spending your first two hours in the morning writing, but they didn’t work too well on me (since I am not really a morning person). So I was glad to discover these three simple approaches.
Firstly, I make sure I read.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King.
Sounds simple? You’d be surprise how many people don’t read. Even for me, I have to make a conscious effort to reach for the book instead of the TV remote on a daily basis. The more I read, the more I was able to learn from other authors and translate that into writing.
Secondly, I try to write a thousand words a day. I first got this idea from listening to Lisa See at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. When I tried this last semester, I couldn’t sustain it for long because I tend to write beyond a thousand words when working on short stories, especially with a deadline looming for class. But in the summer, this helped me a lot. I managed to complete 3 to 4 pages a day most of the time. It doesn’t feel too much or too little and most of all, it trains my “stamina” to write on a daily basis. Some days I write more than a thousand, some days less. I try to do it as early in the day as possible because I find my concentration and attention span to be the best at that time.
Thirdly, I laid off submissions to literary journals and magazines temporarily. I realized that spending too much time mulling over submissions and tracking down journals zapped my time and energy away from not just writing my novel but improving my craft. No doubt I will continue to send stories to journals, but for now, I feel like I need to take some time off to just learn and hone my writing.
So yup, these are my three approaches toward writing this summer and I found them to be highly effective. What kind of writer are you and how do you maintain your stamina for writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.