Need to Write? Trick Your Brain First

One of the first tips you often hear from writers is: start by carving out time to write every day or several times a week. That is critical, but for me, I need to do something else first. I need an environment that tricks my body into unclenching. Every room in my home usually has someone in it, and they are often coming or going. Office space – forgive me as I laugh here – is financially out of reach. My budget is as lean as Michael Phelps in top condition. But after eight years of research, I decided in 2019 that my book was coming out in 2020 no matter what. That meant I had to get creative with my workspace.  I made little changes so I could think big.

This varies for everyone, but I suggest any budding writer start with some variation of these basic steps I live by:

  1. My cellphone goes off or on vibrate.
  2. I stake invisible signs in the floor around me that come with a real, and very stern reminder to family that I am off limits. No exceptions unless you are near death. Cross my invisible line and spoiling my peace has dire consequences (like I may interrupt you working or show embarrassing pictures of you when your friends are over.)
  3. Next, I need to remove everything that can somehow sneak into my peripheral. Bills, day-job work, knick-knacks and any kind of paperwork are put behind me. (Don’t even look at the pile you are creating, otherwise you will be as good for writing as a leash-less dog who spots a squirrel.
  4. Then I get a nice beverage to help me relax. (Ok yes, obvious choices are coffee or tea, though bourbon has been known to appear a time or two.)
  5. And finally, I use lavender oil or burn a candle. The lavender is only a drop on my ear or wrist. And the candles – anything like the kind at Bath and Body Works, which can become addictive. Either way, I find that subtle scent forces me to take relaxing deep breathes because I want more.

All in all, my workspace is not exactly the picturesque retreat on a lake I would prefer, but it redirects my mind to move away from the day’s craziness and steer toward my world of choice for the next several hours.

Then use this trick I picked up years ago as a reporter. I think of this every time I face that ever-intimidating empty screen. I envision that I am talking to a friend. Whatever I think goes on the screen. I know it’s not going to be perfect, but I find I naturally hone on the things a reader would want to know. From there, I choose one point and begin to elaborate. Before I know it, I begin writing sentences I will ultimately keep.

Finally, be realistic and believe in yourself. Writing is a journey. Movie scenes showing writers pulling unblemished pages off a typewriter and adding it to the stack of pages in their book is just that – cinema. I can think of a few hundred writers I have known through my life and the greats I have read about, and no one does that. Your first draft is only that – a draft. Start again tomorrow taking the best from today and move on. Embrace the process and make it work for you.

Never Give Up

There is no glamour that I have found in investigating, book writing nor even working with a successful literary agent. A lot of late night hours and working weekends. But if it’s what you love, it’s not really work.

Reading pieces like this just give me an extra boost. Keep fighting for what you believe in. You never know where the road may lead….