What Do You Do When You Don’t Want To Write?

I strongly recommend writers write every day, or at least most every day, according to a regular schedule. This is a great ideal, however, what happens when we don’t feel like writing? Here are some tips I use to keep me writing every day:

  • Sit Down and Write Anyway: If I don’t feel like writing, I often tell myself, “Too bad, do it anyway.” Then I sit down and start typing. Soon I am writing, moving my project forward.
  • Remember Your Deadline: Having a due date or commitment is another strong motivator. Nothing makes my fingers fly as much as having a submission deadline in a couple of hours or a promise I made to have something done the next day.
  • Switch Projects: Working on the same project day after day is sometimes necessary, but it’s also tedious. If writing seems like too much of a chore, work on a different project for a day or two, even a week. Then move back to the first project, refreshed and ready to go.
  • Reward Yourself Afterwards: Give yourself a small reward after you’ve written so many words or invested a set amount of time. Work first; play later. One warning: if your reward is food, use it sparingly.
  • Change Venues: Some writers need a periodic change of scenery. Try a different room in your house, go to a coffee shop, or work outside. A different environment can provide the incentive to write. (This one seldom works for me; I need a specific environment to write well.)

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of doing something else first to “get in the mood.” Email, Facebook, and Web surfing are all evil distractions that keep us from writing. Cleaning the house, doing dishes, finishing the laundry, mowing the lawn, organizing files, and backing up the computer are all worthy tasks but which impede writing.

If our writing is important, we need to make it our priority by writing even when we don’t feel like it.

Which tip works best for you? What else do you do when you don’t want to write?

Don’t Go Forward Until You Backup

I’m a fanatic about backing up my writing.

  • Each time I take a break, I make a backup copy.
  • Each time I finish working on a piece for the day, I make a backup copy on my local hard drive and a backup copy on a networked computer. Both those computers automatically backup to file cloud-based storage services (one to Carbonite and the other to Dropbox). At this point, I have five current versions of my work, saved in four places.
  • As an added precaution, once a week I backup all my files to an external hard drive, where I keep historic versions until I run out of space. Presently, I can go back as far as thirty months.
  • On those occasions when I work remotely, I save a copy on my laptop, which also backs up to the cloud. I put another copy on a thumb drive. Then I email the file to my Gmail account. Of course, once I return home, the file is added to my desktop computer, where it’s subjected to my normal backup procedures.

I never want to lose my work, and my backup compulsions prove that.

I feel the same way about backing up my blogs and posts. First, it would be overwhelming to recreate an entire blog if something happened to it. Second, every post I write is with an eye towards future reuse, be it in a book compilation, an anthology, another blog site, or turned into an article.

Here, then, is my backup process for my blogs and posts:

  • A copy of each post is automatically emailed to me when it’s posted. I keep the email for one year.
  • I also maintain a text copy of the post on my computer, where I add it to a Word document, which is a chronological record of every post for that blog for the year. This document is also backed up to cloud-based storage and my external hard drive.
  • Before I make a change to my blog or do a WordPress or widget update, I export all my posts, pages, and comments just in case something goes wrong.
  • I automatically make a weekly backup of the entire blog, which is stored off site.
  • My hosting company makes periodic copies of the blog database. Though I can’t access these files, they can if needed – and once they needed to.
  • Once a month I make a manual copy of the entire database to save on my host’s system and another that I save on my desktop, which is then backed up to the cloud and to external hard drive.

While you may think my backup fanaticism is foolish, I think it’s even more foolish to not do any backups. Pick a backup method that works for you, and then follow it faithfully. Start today.

How do you backup your blog, posts, and writing? Have you ever needed to revert to a backup?

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

When I write, I’m compulsive about saving my work at each lull in my typing and often in between: “alt,” “f,” and “s” at each pause and sometimes even typed midsentence. I don’t want to lose a thing.

There’s a reason for this. Early in my career, and in the early days of PCs, I worked as a tech writer. I lost a week’s worth of work because I grew sloppy with my backups. That experience changed me forever. Now I’m the king of backing up. I save my work often.

Sometimes writing is slow and arduous; the words come with difficulty. If those words were lost, it would merely present an opportunity for a fresh start.

Other times, words gush forth and the results are good.

On rare occasions I get in the zone. Not only do the words flow fast, but they’re good words, too: cleverly ordered, presenting profound ideas in a compelling manner.

Once my computer locked up when I’d been in the zone and hadn’t saved for several minutes. Dismayed, the thought of losing my eloquent prose was unacceptable.

Hoping for the unlikely, I took a break with the improbable wish that my computer would function when I returned, allowing me to save my precious writing. It didn’t happen.

From desperation springs innovation. I snapped a picture of my computer screen.

Then I rebooted and re-keyed my words.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In my case, it was only a couple hundred, but they were good words and I couldn’t bear to lose them. Thanks to a digital camera, I didn’t have to.

Why I Save What I Delete

When I delete something from a work in progress—be it a book, article, or post—I try to save it. Often it comes in handy later.

Last week’s post, How Much Has Your Writing Progressed in the Past Year?, was running long. I shortened it to make my point more succinctly. I deleted content that didn’t move the piece forward, removing words that failed to connect with the theme or advance my thesis.

One sentence I deleted was:

“We can always improve as writers—and I hope we always will; we need to guard against becoming complacent and settling.”

For years, I was complacent with my writing. My goal was to complete each piece quickly, not to improve. And though writing with regularity helped me to write with greater speed, the quality of my words remained unchanged. At the time I deemed my writing as “good enough”; I had settled.

Then one day I made a mental transition. I uttered the career-changing words, “I am a writer.” I became empowered. An attitude adjustment started that day. Writing with speed merely to reach the end ceased to be my sole goal. Stringing words together to call attention to my prowess as a writer exposed itself as shortsighted and selfish.

I desired to improve. And I have. Though the path is long and I will never reach my destination, I persist in moving forward, growing as a writer with each step. I discover techniques to pursue and habits to discard. I’m picking up tips and developing strategies.

One practice I adopted is saving the things I delete. And today that gave me the basis for this post.

How has your writing improved? What are you doing to become better?

Why You Should Save All Your Writing

It’s disconcerting to admit, but I’ve been writing for 40 years. (Would you believe me if I said I started at birth? I didn’t think so.)

Much of my early work has been forever lost. This includes school assignments, teenage angst-poetry, and short stories. While there would not be much of worth in that batch — and society will likely benefit through its permanent loss — I do wish I had kept them.

It would be good to be able to look back and see my progress as a writer. It would have been affirming to see the sheer quantity of what I’ve written. And some of what I wrote then might have been fodder for new works today.

Even more upsetting is that I have no record of more than 100 columns that were published in the 1980s. I didn’t keep the original version submitted or save the approved printed results. While some of those columns would have been dated or too specific to be of value now, others could have been adapted, repurposed, or put into an anthology.

Alas, those possibilities are no longer options.

So take it from one who learned the hard way, save everything you write, everything you submit, and everything that has been published. You never know when it might come in handy.

Why I Back Up My Writing

Early in my career, I worked as a tech writer. I knew the importance of making copies of my work, so I would faithfully make a backup each Friday as I wrapped up the workweek. One Friday was particularly hectic and in a rush to begin my weekend, I postponed making my backup, planning to do it first thing Monday morning. That was my first mistake.

My second error is that I left my computer running. Over the weekend, a power spike corrupted the files. As a result, I lost over 40 hours of carefully crafted writing; I needed to revert to my backup that was now over a week old.

Although dismayed at my shortsightedness, I immediately begin reconstructing the lost work. Fortunately, the second pass went much quicker than the first iteration; I was able to recompose everything by midday Wednesday. As a bonus, I think the second version was superior to the first.

Having experienced firsthand the importance of frequently backing up my work, I became fastidious in doing so; it is a practice that continues to this day. Not only do I make backups on a network drive, but I also use an automatic off-site backup service. And for writers who feel they can’t afford the $40 or so annual fee for such a service, they should at least sign up for a free Gmail account and email themselves a copy of their writing each time they finish working.

Some people still aren’t following this advice. Periodically, I hear of aspiring writers who lose their entire book when their hard drive crashes.

Please make sure I never hear your name mentioned in such a devastating story.