by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky
Man, I’m on a writing roll at the moment. This blog was getting a little dusty and then **BAM**, I’ve written 3 posts in less than a month. I’ve also been reveling in some great writing sessions on the third and last installment of my Divided Elements series, and just feeling overall really positive about my writing mojo. And, just this week, I figured out why.
If you’re an author who is, or has been, active in online writing circles, or a newcomer to the whole writing thing and looking for help and inspiration on the web, then you will have come across such writing advice gems as:
Completing a first draft puts you ahead of 97% of other writers
The only way to complete your first draft is to stop talking about it and just write it
(And for those of you who are thinking ‘I’ve never come across either of those’, may I suggest that the previous paragraphs were a self-fulfilling prophecy…)
Now, most advice about ‘just write it’ consists of sitting down in a chair, making contact with your writing implement of choice, and just punching out words or bleeding thoughts on to a page.
Which is all a little trite, yeah?
I’ve never bought into that whole ‘motivational poster’/’boot camp’ style of advice. And yet, there’s some truth to it; a truth I only caught on to this week.
As most of you know, during the Covid-19 lockdown days, I indulged in a lot of screen time – kids TV shows, school curriculum broadcasts, Netflix binges, YouTube videos, online classes – all of it. And, happily, two such viewing sessions collided in a cosmic explosion of serendipity and enlightenment – a Brandon Sanderson class on writing SFF and a Science Max: Experiments at Large episode.
Sanderson says he needs, at minimum, a solid block of four hours uninterrupted writing time to be productive. The first hour is just to get him in the zone, to reach a state of ‘flow’ he can ride for the next three hours until it peters out or he is forced to (reluctantly) re-engage with the real world.
Phil from Science Max quotes Newton’s First Law of Motion – objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion, unless acted upon by another force.
Put them both together and then mix them with that trite writing advice and you get my flash of enlightenment:
If you want to complete your first draft, you have to sit down in a chair (or stand at your desk, or start walking on your treadmill, or whatever it is you do when you start writing), make contact with your writing implement of choice, and just punch out words or bleed thoughts onto a page for a solid block of uninterrupted time that gets you past your creative inertia and gives you mileage from your new momentum.
Objects at rest will stay at rest unless an outside force acts on them. You are that outside force. You have to be that one silver ball in a Newton’s cradle that pulls away from all the other silver balls just lazing around and then knocks them into a positive feedback loop of motion.
I’ve figured out that my minimum block of writing time is three hours. The first hour is just to warm up my brain – to overcome my initial resistance, switch my brain off from whatever I was thinking about or engaging with before I started writing, get the story narrative gears grinding, and get past all of the self-doubt (‘this story sucks’, ‘you’re not good enough to write this story’, ‘this chapter is going nowhere’, ‘this prose is so blehhhh’). And around the one hour mark – **BAM** the magic happens. 50 words in the first hour turns into 1200 words in the next 90 minutes. I rarely make it past three hours, because I either get distracted by a cool idea and get lost down the rabbit hole of researching and internet surfing, or my real life pulls me back into its orbit. But three hours (ideally with a fresh, rested brain), is my sweet spot for catching the flow wave and riding it for all it’s worth.
And it’s the same thing with my blog – write two posts within a few weeks of each other, and the inertia shifts to momentum, the brain more easily returns to the thought patterns and inspiration and discipline that’s needed for a third post to more effortlessly materialise.
So, next time you’re struggling with writer’s block or missing your mojo or just unable to put words to paper – just start writing. And keep writing until you hit your flow.
What about you? Have you found your typical threshold where creative inertia breaks and you start to find yourself in a state of writing flow? Let me know in the comments!
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