In order to write in a productive, balanced way – that is, to develop a practice where your writing projects are comfortably chipped away at, rather than completed in desperate, exhausting sprints – you need a sustainable writing commitment.
As you figure out what that commitment will look like for you, three questions worth considering are: What happens to your energy while you write, what is your energy like after you write, and what is your energy like when you consider your next writing session?
Will knew someone who avoided writing because they said once into their writing, their mood got so bad it wasn’t fair for people around them. Another friend even took the expensive route of hiring a flat to write in during her sabbatical, so her family wouldn’t have to suffer her moods. There are less extreme measures, to be sure.
But, beyond logistics, there is the power of awareness. If your mood becomes difficult, if writing makes you ornery, if you have a difficult time transitioning on from your writing to the rest of your to-do list, you may end up unconsciously avoiding writing. You think you’re ‘just procrastinating’, when actually there may be a part of your brain that has decided that in order to be kind to your housemates or coherent in a meeting, it’s best if you don’t write today. With a bit of awareness about this, you can work with it.
What if notice and name your mood? What if you develop a ritual for coming out of writing? You could try establishing a routine for what you do when you stop: five minutes of journaling, a walk around the block, a break to fold the laundry. If you need space before moving on to the next thing, give it to yourself. The key is to be conscious about setting your time to write, and to allow that time to include both moving in and easing out.
All of this relies on your setting a time to write. It may be a particular hour each day or a precise length of time. Decide before you start how long you will spend doing it. Allow for the starting and stopping as well as for the writing itself.
Committing to regular, consistent writing time can mean you discover that, as with most habits, it becomes something that is easier to move in and out of. It doesn’t mean it will always go well, or that you’ll always enjoy it. It does mean though that the switch in and out of the mental space of writing becomes smoother. You will be able to step away from whatever mood your writing evokes, and you’ll be able to slip back into your project next time. By paying attention, and setting up simple structures, it is possible to leave writing-brain to writing time, and to trust it will be there when you return.
And what happens if you make the commitment and then, when the appointed hour arrives, you’re just not in the mood? What we will suggest is this: try writing anyway. If you have considered your energy levels over the course of a day and decided that the best time to write is nine o’clock, trust your past self, not the mood. Separate mood from energy. You may find that sometimes it’s following a mood that drains you, and letting go of it that energizes.
NEXT: Good Enough Is Perfect