If you really want to, you will – Michelle Cox
By Michelle Cox
Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to become a better writer or to finish your manuscript? Then no more excuses as to why the words aren’t flowing onto the page. Here’s a handy, three-step guide to help you get serious!♥
1. Take A Walk Each Night
This may not seem to have anything to do with writing, but it can! Use this time – music free (sorry!) – to ponder your project as you walk. There may or may not be any scientific proof behind this, but there seems to exist a link between the physical act of walking and thought progression, a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of thing, perfect for plot and character development. There is a reason Charles Dickens could frequently be found walking the streets of London in the wee hours of the night! I used to think it was because he was searching of character ideas among London’s more sordid, but it is now evident that it served another purpose as well.
My greatest ideas have come to me while speed-walking through my neighborhood (No beautiful forest or quaint village required. Any old boring suburban neighborhood will do, as you will soon – hopefully! – be transported into your story, anyway.) If you must have some form of electronic security blanket with you, bring along a little hand-held voice recorder to get your ideas down. No phones allowed – too tempting. Not only will this nightly practice begin to jog (no pun intended) your ideas, but you’ll be ready for the next step in the process.
2. Get Up Early to Write in Peace and Quiet
Having walked the night before and plotted out the next chapter, you are now in the perfect position to begin getting it all down. Some authors set word or page quotas; I myself prefer time quotas. Pick the method that works best for you and decide how much you’re going to write each day and stick to it. No social media allowed until you’ve hit your quota! Though it might be difficult at first, getting up early every day before the rest of the household will soon become a welcome habit. It is essential to write first thing in the morning because your brain is at its most rested and clearest. Nothing has yet claimed your attention, and there is a real power in this.
When your quota is finished, be done with writing for the day. Don’t try to squeeze some in late at night with a glass of wine or on the bleachers during your kids’ basketball game. Your brain is simply too tired then and too distracted, and anything you write will most likely have to get pitched anyway. By the way, all of the above applies to editing as well.
3. Write Every Single Day
As difficult as this might sound, it’s actually obtainable with a little bit of practice. The challenge here lies in holidays and vacations, which, sadly, are not excluded from the daily regime lest you try to make a “holiday” out of any random day, like “National Pancake Day!” let’s say. Best not to go down that road. However, if you have kids young enough to run into your room before five am to gleefully announce that Santa or the Easter Bunny has come and gone, a small exception might have to be made. Getting up at four am on such eager mornings and successfully making coffee without waking anyone up is a skill few possess.
Vacations, however, are a different story. Though it may seem obsessive, its actually quite satisfying to write on vacation, as it may be the only time each day that is spent on you alone (assuming you’re traveling with kids, that is), before you have to begin the frenzied site-seeing, the sticky sunblock application by the pool or the slogging through the amusement park.
Writing on vacation does, however, seem to run in direct opposition to step 2 above. The large amounts of alcohol usually consumed after getting back from said stressful amusement park makes it a particular challenge to get up early, and the fact that you’re probably all sharing a room precludes the peace and quiet factor.
Assuming for a moment that you can still somehow manage the getting up early part, the bulk of the challenge now lies in obtaining the peace and quiet quotient, which will most probably have to be found outside the hotel room. This may prove more difficult than expected because, as you may or may not have noticed lately, most public spaces in a hotel (or anywhere in the United States, actually) are neither quiet nor devoid of other people. And even if you are lucky enough to find a deserted lobby, there will undoubtedly be a TV on somewhere or music piped in because as a nation we seem to have a horror of silence.
Finding this quiet place, then, requires a certain level of imagination and detective work (both of which will also help your writing). I am partial to cold hotel stairwells or darkened ballrooms myself. Longer stays will require a bit of panache to stay one step ahead of the staff who will eventually begin to notice your subversive wanderings and become more than mildly suspicious, usually resulting in a call to security. (This is an actual hazard – it has happened to me on more than one occasion!) So, be on your toes!
The results of your dogged dedication, however, are worth it. Later on in the kiddie pool you can breathe a sigh of satisfaction knowing that you at least got a few words down before security found you.
You either want to be a writer or you don’t, and if you really want to, you will.
Michelle Cox has a BA in English literature from Mundelein College, Chicago. While her heart might lie in the eighteenth century with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy or in the crooked streets of Little Dorrit’s London, she tends to write of a slightly more recent age, a time closer to the World Wars, when all was not yet lost and the last roses of summer were first coming into bloom. Cox lives with her husband and three children in the Chicago suburbs. A Girl Like You is her first novel.