Writing Secrets: Making the intentions work for you

 In Tips for Writers

Each morning that I sit down to write I think I won’t be able to do it.

I know it’s pathetic. I’ve written five books, but when I contemplate a day’s writing, I panic.

When that happens, anything seems more appealing than staring at a blank screen. I’ve been drawn to do the most extraordinary things: like tidy out all the cupboards or wipe the kitchen drawers. I know, can you believe it?

Last week I was talking about setting intentions and this, I suppose, is a continuation of that theme.

There is a time when writing requires contemplation for ideas to coalesce. To write you need sometimes to daydream; to allow your thoughts to roam aimlessly.

But this is dangerous territory. When does “the need to allow my thoughts to coalesce” turn into “I’m procrastinating madly by gazing at the sea and having deep thoughts”.

Keep a notebook in your hand when you’re day dreaming and thinking big thoughts. Scribble them down. It keeps the thoughts deep, rather than allowing them to drift into inconsequentials. It focuses the mind.

Try to be honest about when you’re ready to start. If you know your characters backwards, have a good idea of what’s going to happen to them and which direction you’ll take them in, and if you know exactly what will happen in your first couple of scenes, then you’re ready.

Set your writing times for the week. Don’t wait for inspiration. You’ll be ninety-four and the inspiration will finally strike … but you wont’ be able to remember what it was for.

Can you realistically write from 4 to 6am every morning? Or can you squeeze three hours on Saturdays and four on Sundays? Whatever time you can manage is fine. Just ring-fence it. Don’t allow anything at all to intrude on it. Don’t ever allow yourself to think: oh hell, I didn’t finish doing my tax. I’ll use …

No, and don’t let anyone else encroach on it either. If you tell people you’ll be writing, they’ll think: Oh yay, she’s not working. I’ll surprise her by turning up for a coffee. Lie if necessary. Tell them you have this massive deadline and won’t be able to pay your rent unless you work Saturday morning.

Lying is such good practice, anyway. You can feel virtuous about it. It’s an excellent way of developing your imagination.

Jo-Anne Richards
Jo-Anne Richards is an internationally published novelist with a PhD in Creative Writing from Wits University. Her first novel, The Innocence of Roast Chicken, was originally published by Headline Review in the UK, and has recently been rereleased as one of the prestigious Picador Africa Classics collection. She ran the Honours programme in Journalism & Media Studies at Wits University for fifteen years.
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