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{how to keep writing when you feel uninspired, part three}

intropart onepart two

 

Write every day and publish every week.

But wait! I’m supposed to be telling you how to stay inspired — doesn’t a person have to be inspired before he can write and publish that frequently? Well, not exactly. Discipline produces inspiration. The hardest part about writing is showing up to write. Sitting in your writing chair with fingers ready to record your words is the hardest step of the process.

Occasionally inspiration will strike hard enough that you can’t help but write, even in the middle of the night! When an idea does come to you out of the blue, write it down. This way, you’ll have a list of topics to draw from when you sit down to write. Don't expect inspiration to stick around, though. The greatest writers know that all too often inspiration waits for you to come wake it up, not the other way around.

There are three steps to the writing process: idea-generation, writing, and editing. These three do not mix well with each other. When you sit down to write, you should not be deciding what to write, nor should you be worried about editing and refining your words as you write them. Choose your topic in advance, and begin the editing process after you have a full draft on the page.

Sean McCabe (the voice behind nope.press, a fun little writing tool you might try sometime) goes so far as to suggest that you remove the delete key from your keyboard while you’re in the “writing” phase (you can put it back once you enter the editing phase). He’s not actually suggesting that you literally pry out the delete key, but you will become a better writer if you keep writing rather than constantly deleting words and phrases to reword your thoughts. If you are in the middle of writing and want to rephrase something, go ahead — but don’t delete what you’ve already written! Simply keep writing. Write the sentence three or four times over if you need to, but don’t delete any of the iterations — that can wait for the editing stage. Keep the flow moving forward.

One way that I minimize the temptation to edit as I go along is to write my first draft by hand with a pen. No delete key, no copy/paste to move text around, and no eraser. This forces me to keep writing. I’ll allow myself to cross out a word or phrase or even a whole paragraph, especially if I found myself rambling, but if I do, I use a simple strikethrough, leaving the crossed-out text readable.

Showing up to write every day trains your inspiration to know where to meet you. Consistency and discipline breed inspiration. As you write more and more, you will find yourself developing a natural rhythm.

It’s important to exercise your writing muscle by developing a discipline of writing every day. Once you’ve done that, take it a step further and start publishing your work regularly — weekly is the best place to start. Your words don’t do nearly as much good trapped in a document as they would out in the world!

So start showing up to write. Share consistently with your readers. Write for them.