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Five Ways to Stay in Touch With Your WIP During Busy Times

Daydream! About your WIP, I mean. Not about taking a nap. (Ok. As well as daydreaming about taking a nap.) Think of all the characters you love and all the scenes calling to you, waiting to find their way into words. The beauty of daydreaming is that it keeps things alive and glowing, and you can do it while travelling to see far flung family members, while cleaning, while drifting off to sleep, while navigating the supermarket. And you don't have to have your computer switched on or even nearby, nor do you have to be fully awake and capable of constructing actual sentences. But at the same time, you're still playing make believe, still thinking your way through all the chains of imaginary events to come, still celebrating the potential in your story. It might not have any noticeable effect on your wordcount, but daydreaming totally counts. Always.

Collect shiny things. It's the next step on from daydreaming. Sometimes if I don’t have time or energy to do actual writing, I'll find shiny things and write them down, things I'm looking forward to expanding later on, small ideas, pieces of description, snatches of dialogue. Or I'll find shiny things I've already written down and read over them. There are other ways to collect shiny things too, like making a board of inspiring pictures on pinterest, or a playlist of all the songs you associate most strongly with your novel, or gathering a bunch of poems and quotations which take you straight into the heart of your main character – anything that evokes all the aspects of your project that fascinate you and obsess you. Anything that keeps the writing muscle inside your head moving, even if it isn't doing actual writing right now.

Lower your targets. If your goal is a thousand words a day but life is getting in the way, aim at five hundred instead. If you aim at a hundred words a day, try fifty. As soon as I halve my target, two things happen. One is that the angry perfectionist who lives in my brain gets even angrier than usual, the one who wants me to produce large numbers of flawless words every day because this will supposedly stop the world from ending or something. But the other thing that happens when I halve my target is that I immediately feel relieved, like I've just set down a heavy load I've been carrying for days, and suddenly, the whole prospect of writing just seems so much easier. If I get ridiculously busy, I might halve my target again. Or completely get rid of it. If my goal is “just write some words, any words,” then that's doable, dammit, even with a preschooler asleep on top of me and half an hour left before I need to start dinner. Alternately, you could keep your daily target the same, but cut down the number of days when you have to meet it. Instead of writing five hundred words every day this week, what if you wrote five hundred words every second day, and left things to rest on the others?

Be kind to yourself about the words you do manage to write. If you're working outside your normal writing routine, there's a chance it will be harder to get into the flow, and things might feel slow and stilted and generally as good as you want them to be. But the aim is to stay afloat, not to win the Olympic freestyle. If you manage to write words at a time when the rest of your life is making it really, really hard to write words, then that in itself is a win. During busy times, you need to devote the writing space in your head to thinking about everything you love about your project. If you waste that space on getting grumpy at yourself for not living up to your (probably maybe slightly unrealistic) expectations, then you're getting in your own way. Stop that.

Enjoy your holidays. No, really. Writers are so good at guilt. When we have projects hanging over us waiting to be written, it's easy for them to turn into lurking, shadowy monsters made of unfinished business and despair, waiting to leap out and eyeball us when we walk around corners, breathing noisily down our necks, and reminding us, loudly and constantly, of all the writing we should be doing right now. But writers deserve to have fun times as much as everyone else. Look forward to all those words you haven’t written yet and all those scenes still to come, but don’t beat yourself up over them. In the meantime, breathe. Because you can't fuel all those joyously productive writing times without letting yourself have joyously unproductive times too, the ones when you surround ourselves in the best possible company, and do all the best possible things. Your project will wait, I promise you. Go live.

Image : Christmas #25 by Kevin Dooley (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Leila Austin

Leila lives in Middle Earth, also known as New Zealand, and writes YA fantasy.

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Item Reviewed: Five Ways to Stay in Touch With Your WIP During Busy Times Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Leila Austin