Before successfully hitting the stands with ‘7 Untold Secrets of Living Abroad’, I had written two fiction novels, both half-written lying in my pc. Compelling plot, amazing stories, intriguing characters- the only issue was, the plot kept on changing with time.
I would wait to feel motivated to write. And when I felt so, I would start by reading what I had written till then. I kept enhancing to make it more impactful! The storyline kept on changing & I couldn’t complete it till date. Don’t wait for motivation to happen- the right time, a right day or a right signal.
For my third book and the first published one, the only reason I could cross the finishing line was that I did not wait for motivation to happen. I made a schedule to follow 5AM to 8 AM each day. There were times when I was staring white paper and the writing time was up. But the schedule conditioned my mind, became aware of what was expected. Eventually, it worked out.
1. A schedule (get it right)
2. Consistently showing up (easier said than done, work on it)
3. Reading easy books when not writing (but don’t just keep reading)
Are you waiting for motivation to happen?
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Writer’s block is a state where you are not able to create or write something original. In essence, you are stuck at a point and seems to hit a dead end. ‘Block’ sounds too harsh and extreme, I would say it is a temporary state that you would overcome, eventually!
There may be many reasons for getting stuck at a point.
- Procrastination: Avoiding doing what is required or postponing it for another day/ time/ weather! “I will do it in my room because that is the place I decided to write at” “Tomorrow morning would be better” “Let me think more, and then I will put it all together in one shot”… could be among the stories you may be telling yourself to postpone.
- Perfection: You want to write a perfect story the moment you start typing. You are in a reader’s mode and trying to evaluate your thoughts and looking for an ideal word/ sentence/ scene that will impress the reader.
- Conflicting thoughts: You have many ideas for a single scene, but you are not able to choose the best. ‘The best’ keeps you away from even getting to an ordinary.
- Waiting for inspiration to write?
- What the readers may love?
There is no one formula. None is perfect either.
Potential ways to deal based on my experience:
- Talk to the characters: Well, you really can, if you try: I love this. I did talk to the words. They will respond. Try. It is to experience.
- Read a book: Most would advise doing so. It worked the most for me. Reading is the second-best for writing. When you are stuck, thoughts can get untangled while reading. I completed two books reading while I was writing my book. I would suggest reading some light, easy books from another category than what you are writing about, to avoid getting influenced. I read Animal Farm by George Orwell (for the nth time), and This is Marketing by Seth Godin while writing my book!
- Don’t try to be perfect: Chances to get ‘that picture-perfect’ short in the first attempt is low, though you should try but not get stuck with that. There is a reason why a book is called a draft, then becomes a manuscript and then a final product. If Bollywood stars inspire you, they also – try, improve, rehearse several times over and over to get close to perfection.
- Keep jotting down your ideas: I remember stopping at the middle of the road to jot down some fleeting ideas on my mobile to build upon later. Capture the ideas in whatever means you have handy than trying to recollect what that idea was later!
- Don’t push too hard to write and get frustrated for not being able to. Every athlete takes a break after performing. Even the mean machine that runs on the F1 track must make a pit stop to ensure it makes it to the finishing line! Listen to your body and give it a break when needed though not for days together.
- Do what you love: I would either play with my son or eat (that shot my weight in kgs and reduced options of what I could wear!)
- A fixed routine always works so your brain knows what is expected at that point!
Hope some of it will work for you.
‘7 Untold Secrets of Living Abroad’ is my first book and is #1 Best Seller on Amazon India.
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During the university exams, if you recollect people taking supplement sheets always made others nervous. “Madam, supplement!” and everyone’s head would turn! It would kick in a competitive spirit to join the league soon.
What did writing exam papers did? You were focused – all the senses where at the tip on the pen. You had a mission to reach the finishing line. The more you wrote, the more you could concentrate. Writing your first draft is similar. The blank page staring at you could be scary. Your bad handwriting could make it sweat. But as you fill the pages, you may find your groove. Physical writing is laborious, involves more of you, in turn brings out the best of you!
Digital writing works best when you intend to write specific and short in length – an email, a status message, a blog. Typing draft on a MacBook requires to keep the itch to log on to check mails, read news away. You will scroll the draft to review. You won’t cover the distance. You haven’t built your pieces. You put it off to another day.
Handwritten draft gives you confidence, sense of achievement. Converting to digital gives the first instance to improve it.
What works for you -writing on a piece of paper or typing?
There is a dustbin in your house. It occupies a small corner of your home that you do not often visit or admire it. You clear the dustbin every single morning or night before it starts stinking. It is kept empty as much possible.
Likewise, you will have negative thoughts, sometimes external, sometimes internal; big or small. Don’t dwell on them, don’t spill it all over your mind and be occupied with it. Let it be at a corner occupying smallest possible space and then clear it often. Ignoring those thoughts and staying with positive thoughts are ways to clear them.
When I started writing, I realised that it was imperative to keep myself high; distractions should not bother me. I ignored every distraction that was happening in the office, at home, on the way somebody bumping on my vehicle, honking, etc. It was challenging initially, but that’s the only way I knew.
I practised it till the ritual became part of me; till negative thoughts got cleared subconsciously.
How do you handle negativity?
When my wife goes for vegetable shopping, she will buy all the vegetables and ask the seller to add some ‘coriander and curry leaves’ to the bag at the end; rounding off the bill. It may not be the main ingredient of a recipe, but without curry leaves; the dish may not lift its flavours. The aroma of coriander in your mouth could take the meal to the next level.
I wrote Acknowledgments, Dedication, Preface and Appendix pages while submitting the draft for final editing, last week. These are essential sections that put the book in the right perspective. It helps in letting the readers know about the germination of an idea and the peripheral stories that lead to the book’s completion. It gives an opportunity to talk to the readers before they start turning pages.
Things that you write last are read first by the readers! Do you have any similar experience? Do share!