Writing, like any other skill, improves with repetition. To help me practice regularly, I use a trick that Jerry Seinfeld proposes. The picture above is a calendar that I got on The Writer’s Store web site. It’s a free download. Unlike a standard calendar, this one has no months. It just has days numbered from 1 – 365, so that you can start on any day and see the length of your chain at a glance. The idea is not to break the chain. For every day that you do some writing, you get to put a red “X” on your calendar.
Now, this is not a magic wand that will take away your procrastination. You still need discipline. However, if you have a personality like mine, it will be quite effective. I keep this near my bed with my special red Sharpie that I only use on the calendar. I cannot go to sleep if I haven’t marked an “X”. As you can see, it has worked well. Today I will mark box 205. I’ve had a few days where I didn’t get any writing done until late, but just seeing the calendar made me get to work before midnight so I qualified.
For those of you who might want to try this, here are some things to keep in mind. First, any kind of writing or work that moves a project forward counts. It can be research, character bios, outlines, even just brainstorming ideas. Even if the session doesn’t yield anything especially useful, it counts. You did the work. It will eventually lead you to the good stuff. Second, make sure you put in a substantial amount of time. Don’t mark an “X” if you knock off 2 or 3 lines in five minutes. However, don’t burn out either. If you’ve spent the last 4 or 5 days doing 4 hour sessions, there’s nothing wrong with doing just a half hour or so. Any type of creative writing counts as well. For example, I am a screenwriter, so most of what I do is in developing film scripts. But I do count other things such as writing promotional material for my film’s Facebook page and web site. Even this blog counts. Some of you write in a multitude of forms, short stories, poetry, novels. All of those count. You can work on more than one project if you are able. Just make sure not a day goes by that you don’t write.
What will eventually happen is that writing becomes an integral part of your lifestyle, just like diet and exercise when you successfully lose weight. It becomes easier, not easy, good writing always takes effort, but it does become second nature. You also learn to trust yourself during this times when nothing productive comes out. You’ll know it’s there and will come out soon. I recommend you at least try the red “X” trick. It may make a huge difference.