How do I encourage myself to write more?

This is from a million
years ago, but I’m answering it anyway as part of my initiative to get back to
replying to people in a timely fashion. Gotta start somewhere, you know?

So here’s a technique that a lot of therapists will recommend
when you’re trying to train yourself to do something (before you think that
sounds too clinical, just hear me out). It’s called “Too Small to Fail.”

It’s a pretty basic concept. Just set goals for yourself that
are literally so small and insignificant that there’s no way you can’t do them.

For example, you want to write more. I bet you could write one
sentences per day.

The trick is that you sit down and do it, because after all, how
hard can it be to write ONE measly sentence?

Because once you write that one sentence, you’ll be like, “Oh,
that wasn’t so bad. I can write a few more.” The next thing you know, you’ve written
a paragraph or even a page.

In other fields, you can see this as, say, replying to one
e-mail per day or when you want to start doing yoga: three poses per day. Not
so hard, is it?

Eventually, you can schedule in more items for your tiny goals, but
you have to start small.

This is the technical way to get yourself to write more.

If you’re wanting to know how to mentally get yourself to write
more, you have to think about it differently.

Get out a piece of paper
and write down every fear you have about writing. Maybe you think it will take
too long or that it won’t be good or you have bad handwriting. No problem is
too small to list, okay? Every single hang-up you have about writing–write it
down on your list. Make sure you number the items.

So now you know how many
things are holding you back from writing. This creates a sense of concreteness,
for me at least. It is no longer a nebulous worry that is hanging out in your
brain–it’s a real problem. And you know what? Every problem has a solution.

Ask yourself how to solve these issues and why they’re issues in
the first place.

When I was in grad
school, one source of my anxiety was that my fellow graduate assistants seemed smarter
and more prepared than I was. So I wrote it down. The question I asked
was “What can I do to feel more prepared?” It puts the burden on
something I can do instead of some perceived weakness. It puts it in the
perspective of what I can DO, rather than just wallowing in the issue. It’s not
that they’re SMARTER than me anymore—it’s that I can feel prepared if I make
the effort for it.

Almost
any mental problem you have can be solved by turning it into something you can
tackle realistically. Everyone’s stronger than you are or more up-to-date on
current events than you are? What can you do about it? Or is this something
that actually matters to you? Do you care if you can lift 50 pounds, or are you
concerned about your lack of muscles because you want people to like you?
Essentially, what is the core of the issue?

So
let’s go back to your list. To address some common issues that I listed a few
paragraphs ago:

Are
you worried that writing takes too much time? Perhaps you have work and school
and ballet class and softball practice. What if you stay up 10 minutes late or
get up 10 minutes early? Could you set aside 10 minutes for writing? Can you
dedicate 10 minutes of Tumblr-browsing to writing? You’d be surprised at where
you can find the time, if you really think about it.

What
if it’s no good? This is the most common fear that writers face. The more you
challenge that fear, the better your writing will be. Heck, if you’re a new writer,
then go ahead and assume it’s not going to be any good. But you have to get
alllllll of your bad stories out of your system so you can learn from them and
write new ones. Everyone’s writing is different, and if you’re starting out,
you’re going to feel inadequate. You need to tell that part of yourself to shut
up. You gotta practice in order to get better.

Do
you think you have nothing interesting to write about? It’s possibly true as
well. So don’t write about something interesting. Embrace that. Write about
stuff that you like. If you want to write two paragraphs about owls, do it!
Just take some time to write about things you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be
poetic or even interesting. Writing about stuff you like will help you
associate writing with enjoyment! Don’t compare it to anyone else’s writing.
Just spend time writing about whatever you want. Take a small notebook and a
pen with you everywhere. If ANYTHING strikes you as interesting, write it down
as fast as you can. You’ll be glad you did.

Is
your handwriting bad? Type it up! Easy as that. Want to write on the go? Take
some time to work on writing a few sentences neatly every day—too small to
fail!

Does
your work feel derivative? You bet it is! Everyone feels that way too. Make it
your own as best you can. No one can write it the way you can.

When
it comes down to it, you don’t become a good writer overnight, okay? There is a
lot of anguish that comes with pouring your soul onto paper. It comes with the
territory. The more you accept that you won’t always like your writing, the
better off you’ll be.

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