Shows like Jane the Virgin always make it out to seem as though writing is the most magical and enchanting experience of your life. There is literally an episode in Season 2, Episode 10, where the younger version of Jane is seen typing away on her laptop. In the bus. When inspiration strikes.
However, if there is one lesson that you learn very early on into writing. Its that you cannot always rely on inspiration to strike on a regular basis. For you to be able to get into the zone and start-off on that book that you’ve been putting-off for months.
But you know what you can rely on? Routine. As well as key habits that eventually form a routine.
As a rookie writer with multiple passion projects who has day job in tech, (that doesn’t involve inner soul introspection or the type of imagination required to create content). I have to schedule my creativity around my mornings and evenings.
So to ensure that my passion project will allow me to glow TF up like J. K. Rowling and end up on the New York Times Best Seller or even your local hipster coffee shop, really. I experimented with different approaches and noted that the following methods worked best when pursuing your creative endeavorers.
- Create a personalized pre-writing ritual
Our brain has the ability to associate specific triggers with specific activities. For example if you listen to Eye of the Tiger by Survivor on repeat prior to hitting the gym in the morning (habitually), you’ll end up with an ass like Nicki Minaj and your brain will associate that ritual of listening to Eye of the Tiger with ‘it’s time to hit the gym time.’ Okay, the first part is a lie, we all know the only thing that’ll get you an ass as fat as Nicki is a really expensive plastic surgeon in Los Angeles.
However the second part is true. When you set a pre-writing ritual of any sort, even if it’s something as small as having a cup of black coffee (to match the darkness of your soul) prior to sitting down in front of your laptop to write. Overtime your brain will recognise this trigger and help you get into your creative element.
2. Give writing sprints a go
If you’re anything like me and struggle to focus on anything (apart from babies acting like drunk adults on YouTube), for more than 15 minutes. Boy, do I have some news for you.
Do dem writing sprints.
For my non-athletic readers (don’t worry I don’t like to run much either, I just like to walk around in expensive Lululemon gear) conducting writing sprints changed my life. A writing sprint basically consists of you focusing on nothing but your writing for a span of 10, 15, 20 and 25 minutes. With 3-5 minute breaks in the middle to feed your goldfish or take a bathroom break.
By doing this you’re able to focus on nothing but your writing task for short intense time periods and since your brain knows that there is a defined end time for the task at hand. It allows you to focus on nothing but your writing during those short allocated time periods as well as complimenting your ridiculous requirement to check social media every couple of minutes for a new meme.
3. Give yourself permission to be a garbage writer
As writers or perfectionists we often place a lot of pressure on ourselves to produce quality output. The harsh reality is that a lot of the time not everything you produce will be of high quality.
Some of the sticky-note ideas may not necessarily translate into life altering articles and that’s okay. It is okay to produce mediocre out. But only if you give yourself permission to.
By showing up everyday at the same time because you’ve put together a schedule that forces you to deliver. You end up taking the pressure off yourself which inevitably allows you to produce HD content and even on days when you don’t. You’ll still be able to fall asleep at night like a newborn because you know that tomorrow at exactly 8:30am, you’ll be sipping you ridiculously expensive Starbucks macchiato and typing away on your overpriced MacBook because you have a scheduled routine in place.
4. Take note of the extraordinary in the ordinary
Author Andrew Cowan behind the book Common Ground kept an observation journal of some sort with him at all times. He had a different observation journal for: the weather, street life, his workplace and his home life (where he documented the whirlwind of emotions and events experienced during his wife’s pregnancy). Take a closer look at the above list and you’ll notice that nothing from it is far from the ordinary. Like Cowan, we also experience different seasons every couple of month, like Cowan we also come across quirky coworkers who dress funny and like Cowan we also walk around our neighborhood everyday to catch a bus or train to get us to work.
However what amazed me, was how well Cowan captured those musings and observations in his journals, which later became the backbone for his novel Common Ground. Due to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram we are often led to believe that we can find true inspiration is when we get lost in the streets of Prague, Czech Republic, as we stuff our faces with exotic foods which have names that we can’t pronounce. While that may be true (to an extent), it is also the easiest way to get traveller’s diarrhea and end up getting chased by the local police because you accidentally caught an illegal cab back to your hostel.
Through the habit of maintaining observation journal for everyday events you are able to exercise your creativity on a regular basis. As it allows and (more importantly) encourages you to find the right words, to capture a simple sighting and turn it into something more. Something New York Times Best Seller worthy.