Friday, January 23, 2009

Guest Post: How to Write More a Day

How to Write More a Day
By Tim Beyers
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Most writers I know want to write more. It's a hand-to-mouth problem: No words, no food - and yet they still don't write as much as they'd like. I'm the same way.

Our excuses vary. For some, the problem is motivation. For others, it's time. Still others suffer from a terminal addiction to the Web and its distractions. (Raises hand.) The good news? It's possible to cope with each of these problems and still produce 1,500 to 2,000 good words per day. Here are five tips for boosting your output.

1. KEEP SCORE. Freelance writers are, by nature, competitive. We have to be; we're competing for space: in magazines, in newspapers, in the "up-and-coming writers" submissions pile at New York's top literary agencies, and in the digital pages of notable websites like this one. Writers who don't sell their work become janitors, or barflys, or maybe janitors who moonlight as barflys. Either way, quenching your thirst for competition can help you to write more. Set a daily word count goal and track your progress in a cheap journal - mine is a 5 1/2 by 3 1/2 Mead notebook. You'll find yourself waking up wanting to win the day.

2. CREATE A WRITING GROUP. Competing with yourself is good. Competing with others is better. Challenge your writing friends to word count contests and make it real by occasionally checking each other's work. Your "wins" will be more meaningful and, from time-to-time, you'll get valuable advice for improving the hastily written drivel you just put to paper.

3. USE TOOLS THAT MAKE YOU SMILE. Most writing work is typed and double-spaced on white bond paper and ... Blah, blah, blah. Who says we have to write our first drafts at our desks, on a computer? Too much exposure to the radiated glow of a 17-inch monitor can make us look creepy - like a skier who forgot to apply sunscreen to his face after slipping on his goggles. Only with us writers, there are no stories of hanging out in lodge by the fireplace with the beautiful girl who needed help getting down the mountain. Maybe that's okay for you. I prefer being married to the beautiful girl. I also prefer the comfort of a yellow pad and a no. 2 pencil to the afterglow of my Mac for my first drafts. (No joke; check my profile for the poem "The Tree Saved Me" - it's all you need to know about my love for the mighty Dixon Ticonderoga.)

4. IGNORE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. If writing is as important to you as it is to me - a hand-to-mouth business - then you must give yourself permission to ignore stuff that impedes your word count. Ignoring children, spouses, and editors doesn't count. Everything else is fair game. Need a quick idea? Try cutting TV out of your life for all but one hour a day.

5. HAVE A SYSTEM OF REWARDS. In nearly 40 years on the planet I've come to accept two things: God exists, and, for as complicated as we try to make our lives, human beings have simple motivations. We like getting stuff, rewards that say, "Hey, look! I'm cool!" Use this to your advantage as a writer by hiring a rewards administrator. This is the person whose job it is to make you feel good when you're on a winning streak. Ideally, your rewards administrator will (a) cost you nothing and (b) have a stake in your success as a writer. See your better half reading the paper over there? Meet your new rewards administrator. Together, you'll come up with a portfolio of cheap goodies that will be yours if you win. Meet your word count goal for a week straight? That'll be a hand massage please. A whole month, you say? Here's your favorite dinner; enjoy.

Writing is a mind job - literally. Too often, our heads get in the way of laying words as a mason lays brick. But that's what we writers have to do in order to keep the checks coming. Help yourself by keeping score, starting a writing group, using tools that make you smile, ignoring as much non-writing work as you can, and by establishing a cheap, reliable system of rewards.

Now get to writing; that hand massage is just 2,000 words away.

1 comment:

Alyssa Ast said...

Wow, Great advice! Thanks. I can always use more tips as I am just starting out in the freelance world. Thanks again. Very helpful.