It doesn’t matter what kind of work you do: especially if the project is a long one, there often comes a time when you lose momentum. Momentum, of course, is that forward-motion or energy that powers us through our activities toward completion.
Writers, perhaps more than many others, need this propulsion to keep the work flowing. One of the reasons for this is that writers work largely alone. When there is no boss (or editorial deadline) prodding you onward, sometimes writing becomes more tedious than it has to be. All you need is a few approaches to keeping that forward motion. Here are the ones we find useful.
- Write something – anything – every day. When you are not in the middle of a large project, this kind of writing allows you to explore new ideas or just to practice. When you are in the midst of a project and cannot seem to keep going, writing a blog piece or a journal entry gives you breathing space but keeps you writing which is the point.
- Set yourself some deadlines. As Patricia Parsons says in Permission to Write: How to Write a Book and Other Myths from the Real World of Writing and Publishing, “A deadline changes everything…it moves you past the planning stage and drops you headfirst into the implementation phase…” There will be times when editors set deadlines for you but more frequently before you even get to the editor phase, you need to set some for yourself. And be sure to write these self-imposed deadlines down to revisit as you move through the project.
- Ditch your “to-do” list in favour of an “I-did-it” list. This is your opportunity to keep track of what you’ve accomplished rather than always focusing on that laundry list of unfinished activities. You might consider this as one of your regular entries in one of those journals we discussed last time.
- Keep a record of an “idea-of-the-day.” This is another chance for you to exercise those journals you’re keeping. Make it a point to jot down at least one new idea every day. This ensures that you continually scan your environment for ideas and one or more of those ideas is likely to give you a push along to completion of a writing project.
- End each writing session with a mini-plan of where to begin the next session. This is especially useful in long-form writing. If, for example, you finish a session at the end of a chapter (which seems like a good way to think about your project), don’t stop there. Put in that page break and the name and/or the number of the next chapter. The write a lead sentence and three or four bullets of what might/should go into the next chapter. That gets you started when you begin your next session. And momentum can only kick in if you can get started.
Embracing some of these approaches can help you to maintain that forward motion but there are also traps that can slow you down.
Word counts can be traps. How many words you write in a day is not the marker of momentum. You can write 350 words a day or 3500 words a day. Either way, if you do it every day, you are maintaining momentum and the project will eventually get finished. (If you need to see some evidence of the wide variation in daily word count, read “The Daily Word Counts of 19 Famous Writers” for an eye-opener.)
Finally, if you want to maintain some momentum in your writing, step away from all those online writing groups where wannabe writers compare themselves to other wannabe writers. It’s a major time-suck and bears no resemblance to reality when it comes to your writing.
In the end, if you are truly passionate about your writing, despite the minor obstacles or slowdowns which you will inevitably face, you will find a way to get it done. Happy writing!