Tips for Writers: Don’t Give Up and Take Yourself On

My baby on the climbing wall.

My baby on the climbing wall.

True confession:  In my day life, where I go to the office and do work that separate from my writing life, I’ve got a doctorate. I share this because that experience more than anything else in life taught me how to be a writer. The experience served as my personal writing boot camp.

A doctorate is a book, technically my first book. It’s written according to a set of specifications and then judged by a committee of experts, often one’s own personal pantheon of gods (talk about intimidation).  Statistically, most people don’t finish their thesis and it has nothing to with either a lack of talent or capability.  From what I’ve seen, the people who make it through are just stubbornly, tenaciously, uncompromisingly persistent.  They stick to it until it’s done—no matter how long it takes and what they have to do to move it forward.

It’s the same with writing. So tip one, don’t give up. It may take longer than you think, you may have to revise more than you realized, but if you stick it out from beginning to end and all the rewrites in between—you will grow as a writer. Grit Rules.

Grit requires tools. When I was struggling through the whole graduate process, another student who just finished, who frankly I didn’t like very much because I found him to be the most arrogant, condescending SOB I’d ever come across, deemed to share his secret with me for success. Why did I listen?  Because in that conversation he revealed to me a profound vulnerability and a deep wisdom that I use to this day. From that momentary human exchange, I also learned how to like him because he changed the way I saw him.  Its that piece of knowledge that got me through my thesis and keeps me coming back to the page as a writer.  Here’s what he told me, that made him if not a friend, then a valued colleague afterwards. Because the advice came from his heart and he was 100% right.

Whatever trips you up in life, whatever blocks you from moving forward, will be the obstacles that prevent you from finishing.  The Ph.D. is not an intellectual challenge, it’s an emotional one.

So is writing.

Tip two, learn to take yourself on, to manage your weaknesses and harness your strengths.

How does one do that?  I created a lot of tools that worked for me and I still use them. Here are a couple:

My challenge: procrastination, including but not limited to, a need to keep doing research.

My solution: rewards.  To get myself moving, I came with several reward structures that got me to push forward.  I used to write for half an hour, then take a reward period such as reading for 15 minutes, taking a walk around the block, having a cup of tea and yes, doing some additional research.  On really hard days, it might be a strange balance—write 10 minutes, reward 20. But whatever happened, I kept moving it forward

My challenge: when I’m alone I can get caught up in my own head and don’t get work done.

My solution: go where there are other people.  That could a library, a study room, a coffee shop, any place where I could look up and see other people. I didn’t have to be able to talk to them, I just needed some simulated social pressure to keep myself on the page.

What tricks do you use to keep yourself on track? How do you plow through the emotional time bombs that threaten to derail you?

Sabrina Garie is on a journey to create the most kick-ass heroine in romance fiction. You can meet the first heroine in Fires of Justice at Elloras Cave, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

About Sabrina Garie

Writer, reader, explorer, chauffeur (oops, I meant mom)

Posted on June 11, 2013, in Sabrina Garie and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Sabrina Garie and commented:

    Over at Darker Temptations today. This post not only shares tips on writing, but a few interesting life insights. Writing is life, isnt’ it?

  2. 100% agree! I once had a professor say something very similar right before I started graduate school (I think his was more along the lines of getting a doctorate has nothing to do with intelligence, but the willingness to jump through all the hoops–something I always thought of when forcing myself to sit at my desk and pound out the next thesis chapter). Great post!

    • Thanks Meradeth. Its so true with many things. If we can learn how to navigate a new world, keep our spirits up, and pick ourselves up after a fall (there will be some in new places) we can master any new endeavor.

  3. To keep myself on track, I have to set my own written deadlines. Whether it is something a simple as a to-do list, I need that structure to stay focused. I also really struggle with letting myself work in drafts. My biggest emotional block is wanting to be perfect out of the gate, and I’ve let too many projects fall by the wayside when they weren’t going as planned. I’m not sure how to overcome that one, other than to force myself to try even when my brain says, “but you don’t know how!”

  4. I set my own deadlines to with milestones a long the way. One thing I find helps is to incubate. There is, I’ve discovered, a difference between incubating and procrastinating. I write down the questions I am struggling with in a draft or new story, and may do it daily, Its making the challenges conscience to sort of steer you subconscious. It takes a little faith but I find that works well.

  5. Excellent post, Sabrina!

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