Five Ways to Keep on Keeping On

swimmingYou are deep into drafting your novel. You can’t see land in either direction. You can’t quite assess how far you’ve come or how much farther you must go until you can climb out, shake the excess words off, and see the distance you’ve travelled. You can only keep swimming. Here are some tips to keep you going:

1)   Don’t tread water. Keep moving, ideally in the same direction. This means that you are not hitting the same point over and over again. Hit it and go on. What’s next?

2)   Go back and re-read what you wrote over the past couple of days. This takes a certain kind of discipline, because you are likely to hear the angry, frustrated voice of the inner critic telling you just what he or she thinks of what you’ve written. So you must find a way to read just for what’s there, for what’s working, if you must—but better not to even ask yourself if it’s working. Just see what is there and from that, arrive at what comes next.

3)   Put your hands on the keyboard. Close your eyes. Know, powerfully, that what is coming next will come to you. Trust the inkling. Grab it. Go.

4)   Make a left turn, if you can’t keep going forward. If you start to get stuck, just make something happen. Do it as an experiment. You are going to write many books, and many drafts of this book. There is no way to avoid  writing it wrong some of the time, unless you skip out on writing it right, too. So loosen up, get it wrong, and see what you learn.

5)   Remember that water bouys you up if you keep breathing. So, too, will all the swirling matter of your book support your further progress. Lean into it. Breathe, relax, and float. To reverse the poem, you are “not drowning, but swimming “ . . .

What keeps you writing?

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