Sometimes the hardest thing is to just sit down and start writing. To be honest, for me, that's always the hardest thing. I'm an idea person, a dreamer, a procrastinator, easily distracted by shiny new ideas and things with fur. I always have a long list of things I want to write in my head but I am the worst at actually writing.
Let me rephrase that: I am actually pretty good at writing, but it's a huge struggle for me to start writing and to write consistently. That is one of the reasons that Andrea and I first started working together. We encouraged each other to write. I still call her a couple times a week to tell her all the things I am definitely going to write this time. And she tells me how she finished another story/draft of her novel/article/or some other generally awesome accomplishment. I would love to take credit for encouraging her to accomplish all those things, but it's all on her. I'm just glad she takes time out of her busy writing schedule to listen to me talk about what I'm not writing! I’m glad I have her support, but sometimes I need more.
So, for all of you dreamers and procrastinators and slow starters, here are a few of the tools I use to help me start writing.
1. Written? Kitten!
When I need a gentle push, this is the website I go to. In fact I'm using it as I write this. For every 100 words I write a new picture of a kitten pops up. That's all it is. Type enough words and see a new kitten. (I just scored my 3rd kitten!) If you don't like kittens, you can choose to see puppies or bunnies or bacon. But I like kittens. They are very encouraging. And it's free.
I don't like writing in coffee shops, probably because I am very easily distracted and have a tendency to tune in to other people's conversations. But I love this site. There's something very relaxing about the ambient sounds of a cafe. It also takes away the sense of isolation that can happen when you're working at home. The free version works great for me.
3. 750 Words
This site is a little different. It encourages you to write 750 words every day. You can track your emotions, worries, mindset, while writing, and common themes. It encourages you to write, but it will also let you learn more about yourself and how you write. There is a 30-day free trial period so you can try it out and see if it's for you. The subscription fee is $5/month after that. I used it when I was trying to start journaling every day. It definitely got me me writing more regularly but I found it didn’t satisfy all my long-term writing needs so I didn’t subscribe after the trial period.
I love lists. I love to write lists. I haven’t gone a day in the last decade without making at least one list. So I use Todoist to help me stay organized. But you can also schedule recurring events and use this feature to build new habits - like writing every day. I put it into my schedule to write for 10 minutes every day and if I haven't checked it off by dinnertime, Todoist sends me an email reminder. Sometimes I need the reminder. But I really love to check things off my lists so that in itself is sometimes all the motivation I need. I use the free version of the app on my phone. It's simple but effective.
5. TheTimer on My Phone and a Pen
When Andrea and I lived in the same city, we used to meet regularly and would always do short writing exercises. We both discovered that writing by hand for 10 minutes straight was crippling. But it was also really compelling. We are all so used to writing with computers that writing with a pen and paper can have strange effects on us. Sometimes I just stare at a blank Word doc for ages, but when I pick up a pen and paper things just start coming out of me. I don't want to say it's magic...but it's definitely worth trying something different if you're feeling stuck. And timing it adds just enough pressure to make the magic happen!
6. The Brainstormer
I actually paid money for this app, though not much, and it was definitely worth it. There are three wheels that you can spin: plot, subject, and setting/style. Some of the items included on the pre-built wheels are pretty wild but you have the option of building your own brainstormers and populating them with themes and characters that appeal to you. This works great for me when I need a prompt for a short writing exercise.
BONUS 7. Skype
Having a writing partner is one of the best things that ever happened to me as a writer and even though Andrea and I live in different cities now we still meet regularly on Skype. Andrea inspires me to never give up. She and I talk about our ideas and work out different aspects of our stories. And we set deadlines and hold each other accountable. Do you have someone in your life - near or far - that can help you stay on track?
There are lots of websites, books, podcasts and other tools that inspire me to keep writing. And then there’s editing; I really love editing. But those are lists for another day.
Today is about starting. Why not try out something new from the list, or combine several things like I do? Let us know how it goes. And if you have a favourite technological helper, please share it with us in the comments below!