Hitting the sweet spot

When it comes to exercise, I would say that I’m probably like a lot of people. I have a membership at my local gym, and on occasion have even been known to use it.

At first it’s hard. A slog. I have to drag myself there, then joylessly endure the next hour or so until my conscience decides I’m allowed to leave.

But after a couple of weeks of this, something happens. It gets easier, but not only that, I find that I’m actually enjoying it, pushing myself ever further.

Invariably, something then happens that knocks me out of my stride. A child comes home from school with a bug that sweeps through the household like a bout of bubonic plague, or injury of some kind. Later, when I’m able to go back to the gym once again, I’m right back where I started.

And it’s exactly the same when it comes to writing.

If I have any advice to offer aspiring or struggling writers, it’s this: wherever you are, whatever else you may be doing, write something every day. No excuses.

They say your brain is a muscle, and just like your other muscles, the more you use it the stronger it becomes. It’s just as important to give the creative side of your brain a daily workout.

At first it may be hard, a slog even. You may find that you’ve only been able to write a paragraph or two, and reading it back you hate every word you’ve written. But keep at it the next day, and the next day after that. It all helps.

With me, in writing one 250,000 word novel and passing the halfway mark with the next, it’s something I’ve noticed time and time again – the more I write, the more I want to write.

If you commit time to writing every day, I can pretty much guarantee that eventually you’ll reach a tipping point, where what was an uphill struggle becomes a downhill sprint, your fingers barely able to keep up with the stream of words and ideas.

That’s the sweet spot, and it’s a fantastic feeling. Towards the end of my first book, I was writing thousands of words a day – on the day I finished it I did over 10,000. I came away from my desk that day feeling a bit light-headed!

But just as with physical exercise, it can be startlingly easy to lose momentum. Normally, its work commitments, having that much more on your plate one week that you find yourself sacrificing your writing time just to keep up. Recently, in the midst of one sweet spot, we went away for a week’s holiday and when I returned I’d lost it. This was exacerbated by the pile of work that had built up in that week that greeted me when I got back.

By the time I’d cleared the backlog, creatively I was back at day one of the gym, joylessly pushing through the pain but often finding excuses to do something else instead.

I’m back making time for myself every day to write, and gradually the momentum is coming back. I’m enjoying it again at least, and what was hundreds of words a day is starting to top a thousand, and I’m hoping the sweet spot isn’t far away.

Every writer has their own way of working, their own process – and I’ll talk about mine in more detail at a later date – but I think that whatever it is, applying it every day come what may will not only mean you reach the end more quickly, but you’ll get more out of it too.