ten things a writer shouldn’t do!

I’m in the mood for lists. I think it’s a New Year thing. You always feel more in control when you have a good list by your side! I’m trying to organise my work life. A hard task considering that organisation doesn’t come easily to me – along with house cleaning, putting my clothes away and avoiding chocolate. Anyway, for what it’s worth here are my thoughts on what a writer shouldn’t do in order to get their book finished.
  1. Don’t stay up all night to get some writing done. STUPID. In desperation to actually achieve something this school holiday, other than picking up after two tiny kids, I thought it was clever to drink massive amounts of caffeine and stay awake to write. Sure, I got the peace and quiet that I was desperate for. I also got serious jitters, a headache and thirty pages of absolute rubbish that I’ll never be able to use!
  1. Don’t get any animals. Seriously. I tried to calculate how many hours I spend distracted with pets when I could have been writing and ran out of fingers. Cats that sit on your keyboard. Dogs that chew through computer cables. Chickens that escape their pen and nest in your office cupboard only to squawk when you least expect it. And that damn sheep who constantly leaves a little trail of ‘presents’ outside my office door. NO. Get rid of the animals and write the book!
The chair in my office. I bought it in a junk shop in the hope I could edit in comfort. The cat won’t let me near it!
  1. Don’t fall into the research trap. It’s a pit you’ll never get out of. Wean yourself off Google. Join a support group if that’s what it takes and the next time you hear yourself say – just one more click, one more page and I’m done – unplug your internet connection and write your book instead.
  1. If at all possible – gag your husband. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to stop writing to answer the question – how’s the work going? I’d be rich. The answer my darling, is that the work would be going a lot better if you’d stop asking about it!
  1. Don’t buy cookies while trying to convince yourself  that  you need the sugar to think. You don’t need that much energy to write. Climb a mountain, maybe, but sitting in a chair, no. Sure your fingers get a workout, but all those calories don’t make it to your fingers they only fall from the stomach to the hips. So next time you try to convince yourself that a writer needs brain food, remind yourself that brain food is tuna, not chocolate digestives.
  1. Don’t listen to any critics while writing your book. Ignore all of them – good, bad, internal, external. Concentration is a fragile thing.  It often doesn’t take that much to derail your thought process. This week my seven year old read my computer screen while dancing as a fairy beside me – she said, “Lake is a silly name for a boy. And if this is set in Scotland shouldn’t he be called Loch?” That was enough to stop the creative flow dead, although to be fair the fairy dancing had already put a nail in the coffin. And for the record, my new hero is called Lake Benson and I like it! So there!
  1. Don’t get distracted by fancy new computer programmes. All you need to write is a pen and a piece of paper, everything else is icing. Plus, lets be honest. How many of us have the degree in IT we need to decipher some of these things? I spent three hours this week just trying to figure out what a widget was, before I could even decide if I needed one or not! Time well spent…
  1. Never stop work to answer the door. This never leads to anything good. People will come back. And if they don’t all the better!
  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. The next time you’re wishing the keyboard would work by magic, and the words would appear on the screen straight from your brain – remind yourself that you’re writing fiction, not the constitution for a new country. Lighten up. Have fun.  Take a break. The words will always come when they’re needed – I hope!
As you can see my brain dried up after point 9. I’m hoping that you can provide no. 10! So, what’s on your list for the new year? What do you plan to avoid in order to get that book finished? I want to know!
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