Since I started keeping tabs of my daily #amwriting in Scrivener, I’m pleased to say I’ve written 20,000 words in the last two weeks! Making yourself sit down for a few minutes every day and write SOMETHING has its benefits! ✨— Christina ✍🏻 (@chuffwrites) September 26, 2018
So, I’ve been having a time writing this year. Or, these past two years. There’s something about waking up in the morning, rolling over, opening Twitter, and seeing with every subsequent scroll of your thumb the Raging Dumpster Fire your country has become that kills your creative drive. Also, I’m in a weird position where I’m drowning in edits for Book 1 of my fantasy series, but I also have all of these fun, attractive, distracting ideas for stand-alone novels bouncing about my brain that I often get hit with a kind of creative paralysis.
What is Creative Paralysis?
creative paralysis: a sister to writer’s block, when you just have so much you want to write, you somehow manage to end up … not writing anything at all.
Basically, I was pin-balling between so many projects, I just could never seem to sit down to work that substantially on any. And I never felt like I was making any kind of substantial progress in anything.
So. A new system has been implemented!
I started a Scrivener project called “Daily Writing”, and for every day that I do sit down at my computer to write, I start a new document with that day’s date. Like so:
See, down at the bottom of the screen, where it says “7 words”? With Scrivener’s word count feature, I’m able to keep track of how many words I write in a day — Right now, I’m shooting for 1,000 words a day.
I do something else, though, too. And this has been the most helpful thing for me.
I write in chunks.
What that means is, I lay out my daily document something like this:
What I do is, I write down the titles of every project I’m currently working on, and I try to write something for each. Even if it’s just a sentence. Or a paragraph. Or the outline to one scene. I’ll even divide the number of projects by 1,000, and say to myself “Okay, all you have to do is write 250 words (about a page!) for this one story.”
What’s really helpful is that, once you actually get that keyboard moving, you’ll often find yourself writing far more than just that sentence or paragraph or page. One of the reasons I was able to hit 20k in two weeks through this method was that I often ended up writing 1,000 words for each project in my daily document. That’s not a requirement, though! As long as you write something for each project and hit your word count goal for the day, you should consider yourself a success!
Now, you may be asking:
What if I only have one project that I’m working on?
Ha! I’m way ahead of you.
See, these chunky chunks can be versatile. The whole point is to break through your creative paralysis and get yourself to write down something, right? Well, if you’ve got a project you know you should be working on, but you can’t quite get your fingers to start, ya know, typing, try breaking your document into specific scenes or moments:
In this chunky sequence, you force yourself to write something, anything, for each scene you’ve selected. If you write about 250 words for four or five scenes, you’ve written 1,000 words today and about 5 pages! That’s not bad, is it?
What if I’m still stuck? What if I can’t think of anything to write for my chunks?
Good question! Legitimate question! Here are some possible starting points:
- Sensory imagery! Think about the sights, smells, textures, tastes, and sounds relevant to this story, scene, or moment and start describing them. Especially consider describing them through your POV character’s eyes.
- Character! Try describing one of those bumbling rascals populating your novel. Pick a character that’s in this scene and type a few words about them. What are they wearing, what are they thinking, what are they doing in this scene?
- Setting! When in doubt, start by describing where this moment in the story is taking place. Once you get an idea of where you are firmly fixed in your head, it’ll be easier to move forward with what’s going on.
- Dialogue! Play around with possible dialogue! Often, I’ll start a scene by writing all the dialogue down without any tags, just to hear the scene in my head. Then I’ll go through and clarify who’s speaking, what they’re doing, what’s going on, all that other stuff.
Do you prefer writing by hand?
You can totally chunk up your notebook page, too. Sometimes, I prefer doing it this way, because the limited space of the piece of paper both alleviates the pressure of having to write too much for each project, and also gives you a delicious sense of limitation. 9 times out of 10, when I give myself only 4 or 5 lines to write a moment for a particular project, I’ll end up pouring over onto the next page (or several!) The human brain likes a challenge, it likes puzzles and variety, and finding little ways to make our writing more exciting will totally make our brains happy.
Now, I’m not saying this is the way you should write your entire novel. There will come a point in every project where you need to focus solely on that project, I’m sure. But this is for those of us still testing the waters of several different WIPS. For those of us struck silly with creative paralysis who just need to take a deep breath, break the task into manageable chunks, and do something productive.
The point of this exercise is to get yourself in a chair, get your fingers on your keyboard, and write something down. The idea is that, once you start writing, more ideas will come, those wheels will be greased, and you’ll find yourself not only meeting your goals, but exploding through those goals in bursts of fireworks and glitter.
Happy Writing, everyone. 🙂