Once you’re totally comfortable, here are five things you need to do so that when you rise from your seat, your screen won’t still be totally blank. And naturally this list includes things not to do, too…
1. Turn off all media – TV, radio (including satellite, sorry), electric shaver, etc. This might even include music, which, at least for me and many other authors I know, is a major source of creative inspiration. You may require a total ambient blackout, at least until your brain kicks in. In that case, you probably wouldn’t even notice any music, anyway.
2. Turn off your cellphone – just like in a movie theater, because when you write, you’re essentially transcribing the movie unreeling in your own mind. If there is too much external noise and too many needless interruptions, the narrative flow will suffer, which means the ultimate target audience won’t be able to “hear” what your characters are saying, or follow what they’re doing. That’s because you’ll have trouble hearing and following them as well.
3. Cancel all social engagements – unless you have to leave the house for work-related matters, i.e. things that actually pay your bills so you can afford some peaceful (creative) writing time, you need to tell all your friends and relatives that you’re busy. They may think you’re blowing them off. And maybe you are. (I know I am, many times). But that leads to…
4. Prioritize your writing – yes, you need to feed your pets. Oh, and your kids, if you have any of either. As well as yourself. As I said, you also need to meet all professional obligations, even those that have nothing to do with your writing (because if they’re helping you survive and finance your “habit,” then they’re indirectly related, anyway). You’re a writer, right? So stop dawdling or pretending other things in your life are more pressing when they’re not, and write. And make every word count, because they do.
5. Take your own work seriously – if you want to be taken “seriously” as an author, especially by total strangers, then you need to treat your work and the time you spend doing it as essential to your existence, not just a pastime or a hobby. This means when you’re ready to start writing, you feel like you’re accomplishing something important, at least to you, and not just wasting anyone’s time, including yours.
I will have five more suggestions in the next column. Meantime, stop reading this, and start writing.