How to get in the right mood to write

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you’ll find it hard to kick-start yourself and get into writing mode. If you’re writing at home this can be even harder, because there are endless distractions around the place to help you procrastinate … housework, dog walking, grass cutting, cooking, eating, you name it.

Even if you’re in work mode and can justify business hours spent on your book, blog, article, speech or whatever because it will be a business tool, the reality is it can be hard to focus and make the best of those hours.

article about getting in the right mood to write

Peace and privacy are essential if you are to organise your thoughts. Often a quiet cubicle is the only reasonable and available choice.

While the sheer obstructions of life aren’t necessarily an issue, often I still find that the problem is not that I don’t want to start writing, but that I don’t know where to start. So, I find it hard to concentrate my efforts in a productive direction. If you have the same problem from time to time, here are a few ideas that may help you.

How to concentrate

This trick helps you take the pressure off yourself, if only in your imagination. Don’t think, “I’ve got to write the whole of this project now,” but instead think, “if I had plenty of time, what are the key points of the project that I would start with?” By making yourself mentally step outside of the current problem, you find yourself looking back into it as a relaxed observer rather than as the harassed participant. It sounds like psychobullsh*t but it works.

If that car alarm down the street is still going off, go and sit quietly somewhere other than at your desk. Get rid of all the clutter in your mind – by crossing feng shui with mindfulness techniques.

At the risk of offending some of you, the restroom often is a good choice. Yes, even in a cubicle, sitting down. I’ve done some of my best thinking and got some of my most useful ideas in precisely these surroundings. (And I’ve heard all the jokes about it, too). I think it’s because you’re cocooned in a small, plain space with absolutely no external mental stimulation. That frees your mind to focus on what you want it to focus on.

If the restroom doesn’t appeal to you, then sit quietly somewhere else and close your eyes. Rather as you do with meditation, discard irrelevant thoughts one by one as they occur, and keep nudging yourself back to the key points of the project you want to work on. Don’t rack your brain; just let it work by itself. Soon you’ll find things settling into place and you’ll be able to prioritise and organise your thoughts.

How to deal with writer’s block

Writer’s block is no artsy cliché – it can be a real pain that holds you up for expensive hours, days and more. The blank screen or piece of paper has terrified even famous authors for generations. And unlike the famous authors of old we usually haven’t got time to seek inspiration through bacchanalian debauchery or an uplifting stroll amongst a host of golden daffodils, because we have schedules to keep, deadlines to meet, family obligations to fulfil and a life to lead.

This can be the next step beyond not knowing where to start with your writing – it’s not being able to write a single word, not even key points. It’s one of those awful times when you get mentally (and always temporarily, by the way) paralysed, and you have to be careful that you don’t compound the issue by worrying about it. That’s because you’ll develop the ‘fear of fear’ syndrome which is even more unproductive.

Panicking already? Don’t worry, help is at hand. Here are a few tricks that I have learned through experience, and they work for almost everything you may need to write – whether it’s a nonfiction book, or merely an email.

Don’t try to get it right first time

One of the mistakes we all make is that we try to get it right first time. No matter how much we might experiment with a message or concept in our minds, the first time we commit that to screen or paper, by golly it’s got to be perfect. This is foolish, because it steers you straight into writer’s block.

There is no need to practise economy if you’re using a desktop or laptop computer to write. Screen space is available on a limitless basis and all it costs you is the energy bill. Even if you use paper, you’ll still need to write an awful lot before you’ve used up a fraction of a tree’s worth. So forget perfect and get writing.

Keep that flow going

Now simply continue writing but change direction as you go. It doesn’t matter how long-winded it is because you’re going to edit it later. Just narrow your focus on what you need to convey and write that up in as many words as you want.

Think about your readers while you’re writing – not as ‘readers,’ but as real, live people. Imagine you’re sitting next to them in a bar or coffee house. Imagine you’re chatting with them casually and informally – sharing what’s on your mind. Imagine the sort of questions they would ask you and answer them. And before you know it, the writer’s block will be lifted and you’ll be on your way.

Punchline: never try to force yourself into writing when you really are not in the mood, or suffer from writer’s block. Instead work around the edges and focus on your thinking about the topic concerned: even imagine you’re telling the key points of it to that friend in the bar or coffee house. As soon as your thoughts start crystallising, begin to jot them down. And soon you will be writing fluently.

If you want to write a nonfiction book (or you know someone who does) – and need some affordable help to do it easily, check out How To Write A Brilliant Nonfiction Book – practical help based on what I learned from publishing 37 books of my own, and 30 years as a copywriter and content marketer.

“As the author of many nonfiction books myself, I applaud Suzan’s ability to teach new nonfiction authors what they need to know without formulae or jargon; to make that experience entertaining and amusing in places; and above all, to make it a ‘good read.’”
Christopher Wilson, journalist, broadcaster, Royal biographer and (as T P Fielden) best-selling novellist of  ‘Stealing The Crown’ and many others.

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  1. Trudy Van Buskirk says

    I use Jeff Goins’ three bucket system. Bucket #1 is ideas, #2 is drafts and #3 is edit and publish. I can start in bucket #1, 2 or 3. I don’t have to write a lot but I’m writing, aren’t I!