You’re writing your story, maybe you’re a few days in or perhaps a few weeks, and suddenly you feel the compulsion to do the dishes. Or the laundry. Or tidy up that closet. And if, like me, you aren’t overly fond of housework or tedious chores, it may occur to you that it’s rather odd that you now feel compelled to do something you dislike rather than do the thing you’ve loved since you were a kid.
Not that writing can’t be a frustrating endeavour, but why would you actually want to do that menial job you usually find any excuse to avoid doing? Why not go do something fun? Or nothing at all? Seems a bit strange, no?
There is in fact a pretty simple reason why, and once you understand it, it can actually make it easier to get your head back in the game.
Your outer writer, the one who thinks things through and knows what needs to be done, want to get on with it—bum in seat, fingers on keyboard, brain in gear. Even if you aren’t feeling inspired and you only get a few words down, your outer writer knows that that will still help you get to the finish line.
Your inner writer, however, has other ideas. Your inner writer can be a moody so and so, and some days really can’t be bothered writing that same story you’ve been writing forever. Rewrites too? Will it never end?
When inner writer and outer writer are on the same page everything’s tickety-boo. Full steam ahead. When they’re at odds, there tends to be only one winner.
The thing you realise pretty quickly once you start writing a story, especially a novel, is that it’s going to take some time. There’s no way round it. Even if you worked around the clock it would still take several weeks at least, more likely months. And the thing about doing a difficult task is that the pay-off, the good feeling, comes at the end. You finally finish and no matter how much you hated ironing those shirts, something wells up inside of you: a sense of accomplishment.
You get that feeling from finishing a book too, it just takes a lot longer. And people tend to get impatient. But you can give yourself a shot of those good vibes by making the bed or vacuuming the hallway. Doesn’t matter how much you dislike doing it, the one thing you know for sure is that you can get it done right now. Beginning to end, all in one go. Desk untidy, ten minutes later, desk tidy. And here comes that good feeling, even if it’s only for a few seconds.
We all know some things are worth waiting for. Often the longer you have to wait the greater the pleasure when you do finally complete. We know this, but we don’t necessarily always appreciate it. When the finish line is far, far away we crave a little of that sugar sooner rather than later.
So we go do something that provides a small sense of accomplishment. Not a partial achievement, not a step along the road. Completed. Finished. Done.
You don’t get that feeling from watching telly or making a sandwich. It has to be a proper job. Like dusting the coving. As trivial as it might seem, those menial jobs are giving you a shot of well being.
You can use this knowledge to your advantage. Next time you find yourself in front of the blank page or blank screen—you know exactly what scene you need to write but those books on that shelf look like they really need rearranging into alphabetical order—take a breath, close your eyes and ask yourself how you’re going to feel once you get to the end of your story.
Don’t try to force an answer, just pose the question, and then see what emerges.
You might find yourself thinking back to the last thing you wrote, or it might be from when you folded all the towels and piled them up in the closet from largest to smallest, doesn’t really matter, the feeling is pretty much the same.
If you draw a blank, go and do that job that’s nagging on the back of your mind, and after you’ve washed all the dishes in the sink and put them away leaving a nice, clean, tidy kitchen, just stop and look around. Sit with the feeling of satisfaction for a few moments so you can use it as a frame of reference.
Now when you ask yourself how you will feel when you finish your book, that feeling (from whichever method), will not only return to your memory, it will permeate your entire body and give you a lift. You don’t have to do anything with it, just let it remind you what the goal here is.
Now go back to the blank page. Chances are you will be reinvigorated and ready to write. I can’t guarantee it of course. There are no guarantees in this game, but hopefully you will find this technique of some help.
If you found this post useful please give it a retweet. Cheers.