Plan the night before.
You see, every writing coach and every book on writing stresses the importance of writing regularly, if not daily.
Simple but not easy, right? Not easy at all.
You may feel that the biggest problem facing you is the blank monitor with the brainlessly blinking cursor.
Well, you’re wrong.
Your biggest foe is within you; it’s your blank mind.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
All successful writers know this. And there’s only one way to overcome it.
Plan before you write.
With writing as with everything else, preparation is the key to success.
This is also the way to beat writer’s block.
What is writer’s block?
Writer’s block is either a blank mind or a mind paralysed by fear.
Beneath the surface of writer’s block is a lack of self-confidence.
In the words of Arthur Ashe, “One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”
Lack of planning leads to lack of action.
This insight also provides an important tool to overcome writer’s block—whenever you are stuck, use your scheduled writing time to plan what you will write during your next session.
Plan before you write.
A five-step road-map to writing success
Here’s how you follow the path of other successful writers:
1. Plan your writing session the night before.
Schedule your writing session, its duration and the topic or title for the next day.
Write this down on the top of your daily to-do list.
Do this daily without fail.
This is the most important step.
The rest is just follow-through.
2. Wake up early and write first thing in the morning
This is the foolproof way of getting your writing done.
Do it first.
3. Reduce input.
Or in the words of the Buddha: “Guard your sense doors.”
a. Stop being a TV addict.
TV is the biggest enemy of writers.
b. Stop being an information junkie.
We are all suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) aka “Next Shiny Object Syndrome.”
Ask yourself this simple question:
Is this article, e-book, audio, video, webinar likely to be of benefit to me right now?
If the answer is “No” shelve it in a folder marked “Later” and get back to your writing.
4. Convert all your input into output
Write an article or review or at least a comment about everything you read.
Write a short story or flash fiction.
Then publish it.
Become a producer; not just a consumer.
Become an alchemist: convert all your input, junk or otherwise, into published gold.
4. Write every single day
Steven Pressfield calls this “turning pro.”
If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you have to take your writing seriously.
It’s that simple.
Listen to Isaac Asimov:
“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”
5. Complete the process
Writing is a multi-step process.
Plan: decide on a topic, craft a great title, brainstorm, Mind Map, outline, list subheads or main ideas.
Write: fill in the gaps, add stories or quotations, complete first draft.
Revise: Read aloud. Do final check, including checking for typos and grammatical errors.
Make it as good as you can.
(If possible, keep for one day or more and read with fresh eyes.)
Submit: If accepted, rejoice. If not, adapt and submit elsewhere.
Repeat. Every. Day.
Because this is the only way to become a prolific writer.
(26 June 2013)
Rohi Shetty is a medical doctor, Vipassana meditator, writer, editor, translator and blogger. His short stories and articles have been published online and in print.