7 Tricks to Write More with Less Willpower
You want to write more. Of course you do. It’s only natural. You’d like to finish that novel (or those three novels!). You’d like to write on your blog more than once a week. As you get deeper into writing, it seems like there’s always more to write.
The problem is after you’re done with work and the kids finally go to bed, writing is the last thing you want to do. You can’t even muster the willpower to read a book, let alone write one. So you turn on the TV, put your feet up, and promise yourself you’ll write tomorrow.
Do that enough times and you start to wonder, “Maybe this writing thing just isn’t for me. Maybe I’m not a writer after all.”
The Secret About Willpower
Wrong. You are a writer.
The problem isn’t that you’re not a writer. The problem is that you’re trying to argue yourself into writing.
Willpower is a powerful resource. You can do anything you decide to do. Our wills are amazing tools. The problem is, we often want conflicting things.
We want to relax. We want to be great writers.
We want to watch TV. We want to be well read.
We want to finish our novel. We want to start a new one.
How do you break through and decide to do what you actually want to do, which is to write?
Seven Secret Writer Tricks to Getting More Writing Done
Here are five ninja-like tricks to write more with less willpower.
1. Turn It Into a Habit
A few months ago I started a new blog. No, I’m not going to tell you what it is right now. I’m not going to tell you because I’m embarrassed about it. I’m embarrassed about it because I’ve posted on it three times. I aspired to write three times a week, but I didn’t have the willpower to follow through.
This blog, on the other hand, doesn’t require willpower. It’s a habit.
Strange truth: it’s easier to write on a blog everyday than three times a week.
When you write three times a week, you need willpower. When you write everyday, soon, it just becomes what you do.
At The Write Practice, we’re trying to help you turn writing into a habit. That’s why we encourage you to practice six days a week, right here on the blog. If you’re not working on a larger project right now, join us at the end of every post for a fun writing prompt to kickstart your habit.
2. Get a Writing Job
Writing is how I make money. If I don’t write, my wife will start getting really nervous that we’re going to live in poverty forever. I have to write. I don’t have time to debate my will.
If you don’t want to make writing your full time job, you can do this on a smaller scale. Meet the editor of a local newspaper or magazine for coffee. See if they have any jobs for a cheap freelancer. Or get a copy of Writer’s Market and get freelancing jobs from small magazines to national publications. On my first paid writing job, I reviewed CDs for a local weekly. If you have a boss telling you to write, you’ll do it.
3. Trick Your Subconscious Into Helping
Peter Shallard, a therapist for entrepreneurs, says you can force your subconscious into helping you with your work with a sneaky little technique.
He says, “We answer any question we ask ourselves.”
So if you want to work on your novel today, ask yourself, “How much fun can I have writing my novel?”
Or, “How quickly can I finish this blog post?”
Or, “How amazing will it feel immediately after writing this chapter?”
Your subconscious will start to solve the problem for you, allowing you to get more work done and have more fun doing it. Try it. It actually works.
4. Use a Timer
Many writers, like Donald Miller and Chuck Palahniuk, use egg timers to keep them focused while they write. It’s something of a judo mind-trick. If you’re tired after a long day, the prospect of writing for an unspecified period of time can be overwhelming. Instead, you can trick your willpower by telling it you’re only going to go write for fifteen short minutes.
After fifteen minutes, if you feel like stopping, then by all means do so. But you may be so into it, you want to keep writing.
At the Write Practice, we use E.ggtimer, a simple timer you can find online. Very helpful.
5. Make a Plan
Another judo mind-trick you can use is to make a plan. The will hates the unknown. So the prospect of writing about whatever you feel like can be intimidating.
Instead, get specific. You are not going to write about whatever you feel like. You are going to outline chapter three. Then, you are going to write a character sketch of a background character. Finally, you’re going to write 500 words of chapter two.
6. Make it Your Passion
This is actually the least helpful tip, and yet it’s the one most touted on writing blogs. The problem with passion is that it relies on your feelings. Feelings won’t write your book. In fact, they’ll often lead you astray, to television and “relaxation.”
A better way to think about passion, I think, is to think of it as your focus. If you are completely focused on your novel, if your novel is what you do and who you are, if your novel is your single-minded pursuit (to the detriment of all others), a little procrastination won’t hurt you. You’ll always be thinking about your novel, whether you are watching TV or playing tennis or reading a book.
I think about my novel all the time. I think about it even when I’m not working on it. My subconscious is churning out ideas all the time. It’s my focus. I don’t have to worry about procrastinating because even when I procrastinate, my subconscious is still working, collecting and creating ideas.
7. Say No!
You can’t do everything.
Maybe writing three blogs is too much. Maybe you should say no to that new idea for a novel. Maybe it’s time to take an email sabbatical.
What is the most important writing project you’re working on?
Focus on that and say no to everything else. Then, when it’s finished, you can pick up those other projects again.
Because how good will it feel immediately after you finish it?
How do you stay disciplined when you write? Any judo mind-tricks you’d like to add?
A man or woman has just quit a bad habit. Write about their experience wrestling with their willpower.
Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section below. And if you post, please give some feedback to a few other writers.