How to write by training your brain
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
― Stephen King,
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”
― Neil Gaiman
Are you wondering how to write? I mean, you know how to write, but maybe you are wondering how to write consistently and more, much more.
Are you staring at the screen or page with no clue, or are you jumping out of bed because you urgently need to get your ideas written?
Which writer do you want to be?
There are those writers who wait for inspiration to come and those that write every day no matter the circumstances or their mood.There are those writers who wait for inspiration to come and those that write every day no matter the circumstances or their mood. Click To Tweet
It no accident or happy quirk of birth that allows some writers to pour forth a steady stream of words at a decent pace and to do so almost every day.
If you are reading this post, I’m guessing that you too would like the secret to the magic writing formula. And yes, there is one.
The “how to write” more formula is to train your brain.
Warning. The training is some work. It takes discipline. If you are not serious about becoming a writing machine leave now and go watch some cat videos.
Okay, now that it is just us serious people, here are the basics (details follow the list):
- Before you go to bed, think about what you might write the next day
- Set your alarm for at least 30 minutes early
- Sit down to write every day at the same time
- Rinse and repeat
Yup, that’s it. But wait; let’s break these points down a bit. (I can hear some of you thinking, this is stupid common sense, why waste my time reading on. Read that Stephen King quote again. It works for him – ’nuff said?)
Before you go to bed, think about what you might write the next day
Perhaps you don’t know if you want to write fiction, articles, memoirs or some other genre. That is okay. You will figure out what you are best suited to write over time. But that will only happen if you write enough to figure that out. So, for this exercise, let’s assume you want to write a blog post every day.
To train your brain, it is helpful to have a framework or a theme. This cuts down on the work of weeding through the entire universe. If you have a narrow focus, your brain can magnify the details. Writing is about the details.
For example, my current theme is helping writers by giving them 500 writing tips and prompts. When I go to bed, I know that I only have to write one tip the next day. This small focus lets my brain get busy. It doesn’t have to think about all the other things I could be writing. It knows it just needs to find that one needle by the time I sit down to write the next morning. Easy.
Sometimes, I already know what I want to write about the next day because it came to me during the day. But many times, I let my unconscious work on it through my dreams, which leads to step 2.
Set your alarm for at least 30 minutes early
I do my best creative thinking in the hypnagogic state between sleep and wakefulness. I set my alarm for 30 minutes early so I can linger in this state before I actually need to get up.
In this state, sometimes a fragment of a dream becomes an idea. But usually, I get a full idea for my writing that appears from the mist of this hypnogogic state. By thinking about my writing before I go to sleep and allowing it to work through the dream states, my unconscious rewards this steeping with an answer when I wake.
It may not happen for you the first few times you try this, but with time, it will. Read Naomi Epel’s book, Writers Dreaming: 25 Writers Talk about Their Dreams and the Creative Process to see how this process has worked for many writers.
Sit down to write every day at the same time
This step is perhaps the most important. It doesn’t matter what time a day it is, but make sure it is free from distractions. For most writers, this usually means getting up before the rest of the household. If you are single with no needy toddlers about, then you may not need to set your alarm extra early, but chances are you still have a job to get to. If not a commute and somewhere you have to be, then you have other distractions such as email and phone calls which with to contend. For some a lunch hour works well. And for some, you must write late at night. You probably already know when you have the least distractions and the most energy. This is the sweet spot for writing consistently.
But the point is, to train your brain to be a writing warrior; you need to get it accustomed to a steady practice. This is difficult to quantify and prove, but so many writers have testified to the fact that they write more consistently if they write at the same time every day.
This consistency seems to make the brain ready. It is in a waiting and prepared state for you to begin. Perhaps a poor analogy, but think of your dog waiting for his morning treat. He knows full well that once you’ve gotten your tea and toast, it is coming. He waits patiently in his snack-getting-spot because he knows this is what happens every morning without fail. You don’t have to think about it, and neither does he. It is routine. This is how you want your writing habit to be. A routine removes the distractions, greases the wheels, and lets the writing flow.
Rinse and repeat
Of course, a routine and habit comes only with repetition. None of this is glamorous or surprising. But I will hold out that if you commit to these training steps, you will discover its magic.
- You will have more ideas than you can write about in a lifetime.
- You will wake excited to get to your computer or pen.
- You won’t have to struggle for a word count.
- You will have more pages than time to revise.
Writing prompt – No fairy dust required
Brainstorm several themes or a writing project that you’d like to write about over time. Pick one of these and break it down into ten smaller topics. If you already have a theme or project, come up with ten new topics that you can write about in one writing session, one per session. The trick is to make each topic small enough that you can cover most of it in an hour or two. If writing fiction, these topics would be one scene per session. You would not need to complete each in a session but it would get you going each day.
Now, you have a topic or scene to muse on before going to bed (Step 1). You will be surprised what happens overnight. If nothing happens the first or second time, you do have a starting point for your writing session. Start with a title or a first sentence and keep going. In this case, more is more. The more you write consistently, the more writing will come without effort.
Equipped with this idea, you don’t need to be in the mood to write or need to wait for inspiration. You now know how to write, now go.
If you dare, please share your results from the writing prompt in the comments below or something about your writing process.
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Carla Paton, Ph.D.-c is a writer, marketer, and Depth Psychologist. She loves helping writers with quick and easy marketing tips so they can get back to writing. Grab your free Power Words Cheat Sheet for Busy Writers, and then make those words shine!