Get Off Your Butt and Write

If you’re a new writer struggling with getting work done, then your main problem is probably getting your butt in the seat to write.   In order to get work done, you need to either be disciplined or challenged.  If you can discipline yourself then you can write every day.   But most people aren’t so disciplined.   Writing every day is not easy for a lot of people,  just how exercising every day is not easy for a lot of people.   Personally, I get work done by challenging myself with a deadline.  In my opinion, the best motivation for a writer is a deadline… especially when that deadline comes from a publisher interested in your work.   Not many writers are so lucky, but there are other useful methods of getting work done.  Here are some ideas:

1) NaNoWriMo – November is National Novel Writing Month.  Writers all over the world participate in this event.   You have one month to write a 50,000 word novel.  Although many people swear by this, I don’t think it is works because you have nothing to lose if you fail.  Even though I have written several books in less than a month, I have tried the NaNoWriMo marathon and failed twice.  Still, a lot of people swear by it and have done great work by giving themselves a one month deadline to write a 50,000 word novel.   Bizarro authors Gina Ranalli and Bradley Sands have also tried this.  For more information, go to:  http://www.nanowrimo.org

2) The 3-Day Novel Contest – Every labor day,  there is a contest to see who can write a 100 page novel in three days.  To enter, you send in your $50 entry fee.  The best book written during those three days gets publised.  This is an excellent motivation to finish a project, because a) you paid $50 to enter so you will force yourself to finish the book because otherwise you’ve wasted $50…and  b) if you win you’ll get a book published.  I recommend all writers do this at least twice (the first time is miserable for a lot of people).  Not only is it a great challenge, it also really teaches you to throw away the perfectionist instinct and embrace the creative flow.  During this kind of marathon, you might also get into the ‘zone’ where you are so into the book you are writing that you forget you are actually writing a book and feel like you are inside of the story.  That’s my favorite part of writing.  Gina Ranalli has also tried this contest before.  For more information, go to:   http://www.3daynovel.com/

3) Betting a Friend – Another way to work by deadline is to bet a friend $100 that you can finish a book within a certain amount of time.  Maybe a 50,000 word book in a month, maybe a 20,000 word book in a week, or three days.  Make sure to bet a friend who will definitely collect the money if you fail.  This method works because you will definitely finish a project if you know you have something to lose.  If you try this method and fail, then you might want to try again with $300-500.  If you have the choice between finishing a book or losing $500, which would you choose?  You might also want to bet another writer who, in exchange, bets you he can finish his own project during the same time.  That way, if you both fail neither of you has to pay.  I have done a bet like this with Jeremy Robert Johnson and Mitch Maraude in the past.

4) Checking into a hotel – This is my favorite method for getting work done.   I like to isolate myself from the rest of the world (people, the internet, tv) for several days until I finish the project.  I check into a hotel and don’t leave until it is done.  Because I am paying money for every day that I write, I make sure to get as much done as possible per day.  This is seriously the best method of writing that I know.  I like to do this once a month or at least once a season.  In fact, that is what I’m going to do this week.  I’ve got a crappy $30 hotel booked and I’ll be living there until I write at least 100 pages.  So you won’t here from me until the weekend.  I have done this before with Daniel Scott Buck and Mykle Hansen.   This week, Mykle Hansen, Cameron Pierce, and Jeff Burk are all doing writing marathons at the same time as I am.  However, Mykle will be writing at a friend’s beach house, Jeff will be doing it at home, and Cameron will be camping out in the Eraserhead Press office.  I have faith all 4 of us will be successful.

5) Withhold Something – Tell your spouse, roommate, mom, or whoever is closest to you to withhold something from you until you finish your project.  It can be television, your Xbox, the internet, drinking, smoking, sex, spending money.  Whatever you think you would miss the most, forcing you to finish your project as quickly as possible.  If you are overweight a good one would be to have good/fattening food withheld.  So then you would be on a strict diet until you finished your book.  This is good because if it takes you a really long time to write your book, at least you will be losing weight and living healthy during the process.

For additional information on getting stuff done, check this out:

Merlin Mann talks about getting creative things done. He says, “Get comfortable with the idea that you’re going to suck” while advising abandoning perfectionist tendencies and fear of sucking for the sake of improving through doing.

Have a listen:

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/06/19/merlin-mann-on-getti.html

9 Responses to “Get Off Your Butt and Write”

  1. william Says:

    thanks for the advice! today i was just moping around since i can’t read a book after i read your satan burger twice in a row. it walmed me to books, and i can’t read anything by another author longer than a couple of pages. now i’ll write a couple short stories!

  2. I’m down for a writing marathon this week too!

    • carltonmellick Says:

      You should! It would be great!

      • chris benton Says:

        You have a fascinating point, for the speed of self-inflicted deadlines are indeed a real motivator. I’ve set one for myself, being halfway through the the pitch that Kevin showed some interest in. The true rub of such theorems is that I’m getting one of my teeth cut out this wednesday, the eve of my b-day, not that this means anything other than the frustrating fact that coincidence is the Whore of Babylon…

  3. carltonmellick Says:

    Hey, Wednesday is the eve of your B-day? Does that mean your B-day is on Thursday, July 2nd? If so, that is my birthday too. Though I was born in ’77.

    • chris benton Says:

      yeah, that’s right. But I was born in ’76. planned to write all that day but I have a feeling that dental surgery is going to steal most of my thunder for a couple of days. We’ll see what happens. Cheers, by the way…

  4. Happy Birthday guys!

  5. [...] before my marathon started, I wrote the blog “Get Off Your Butt and Write” with ideas on how to write marathon-style. However, every time I tell new writers they should [...]

  6. Raymond Sherry Says:

    Yippie yi yaay Yippie yi ohhh ghost writers in the sky

    I’m estatic to finally discover a community for abstract writing. Teeth and Tounge Landscape brought me to a higher state of consciousness and the pages in the back turned me on to this website

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