Your most beloved book got written because the author built the confidence to sit down and write it no matter what. The daily crush of life hit them just as hard as it’s hitting you right now. Ten important things your favorite author forgot to do got left undone (for a time). A hundred more distractions like cat videos and text messages sprang up on them too, as cat videos and texts are wont to do. It may have taken a week, a month, or multiple years, but your favorite author built the confidence to do it anyway.
Say it to yourself right now.
“Do it anyway.”
Do you feel too tired to write after six straight work days?
“Do it anyway.”
Are the bills looking at you with money-hungry eyes from atop the dresser?
“Do it anyway.” Pay them, of course, but jump at the chance to write first.
I didn’t start writing urban fantasy and science fiction until I was twenty-six years old. It’s been five years since I started, and the daily crush of life has only gotten heavier. Facing that huge list of work is difficult, and you know the work is going to pile up again. Life would grind to a halt if the work didn’t get done.
Looking at my writing in the exact same way was the first big change I made in life and it helped. The dream wouldn’t come true if I didn’t do the work. My characters wouldn’t go anywhere if I didn’t put fingers to keys. It was up to me to do it anyway and it still is.
You can’t write or build confidence if you’re distracted. Distractions are as hungry for your attention as your writing is. Every time you stop writing to play an online game or to catch up on a TV show, you’re distracted. Yes that cat you just scrolled past is adorable, but your heroine needs your hard work and attention more than that million-view cat.
Is that cat video going to help you write your next page? Nope, so take back control and write another page. Allow yourself to slowly build up stamina, to not be distracted for ten minutes. Twenty. An hour. Then the kitty can be the reward at the end instead of the mind candy that rots your brain. Developing confidence as a writer is a learning process that never stops even after years of writing, so keep telling yourself to do it anyway.
When you find yourself distracted mid-writing session, experiment with what might help you stay focused. Do you need to blast music while you write, or only open your word processor and nothing else? Hunt down what works and build that confidence and discipline by continuing to do what helps you most often. Did you go to the coffee shop two days in a row? Oh well, do it anyway if that’s what it takes for you to write well. Within reason, of course.
Your favorite author was busy, forgetful, and distracted while writing your favorite book. He or she did a full day’s work before writing that character you love so much. The book may feel seamless, but writers forget tasks in real life as much as they forget to string two scenes together. If you’re a writer, then you know this, and you’ll learn to avoid distraction piece by piece. Your characters are counting on you to write them as well as you can see them in your mind, so stride forth, keep building confidence, and do that glorious writing anyway.
Jabe Stafford is an urban fantasy blogger and writer of sci-fi & fantasy. His wanderings have taken him to the UW-Madison Writer’s Institute and the Write-By-The-Lake Retreat. He’s earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from UW-Madison, a Teaching Certification from Edgewood College, and a first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He writes with the Middleton Creative Writers, where his fellow authors hear stories about the demons he tried to arm wrestle. You can find those stories on his blog at www.jabestafford.com/blog.