One Word After The Other

I’m excited by the prospect of a blank canvas before me. It can be intimidating, but it’s also full of potentials ready to be harnessed.

Shawn Blanc shares he schedules a time in the morning for writing. That’s when he’s the freshest and most energetic. And since he writes for a living, that’s the most important thing to do.

So every day, he’ll sit in front of his machine for an hour and write. Coffee within reach, the aroma filled his room. I used to imagine that writing comes easily to people like him, especially when they’ve been writing for a long time. It’s anything but the case. Sure, writing continuously for a long time does make things easier, but there will be days (and they’re plenty) when the work feels daft and shallow, ugly and awkward. That’s OK, because the most crucial thing is getting the words down. You’ll never know when the weird piece of writing will come in handy in the future.

Again, writing – or any form of exercise – requires constant practice. Like running, the more you run the easier it gets. You realise it’s not so bad after all, and you can actually go further. So each time you go running, the feet feel lighter and the heart feels stronger. One lamp post after the other, you tell yourself.

I used to think that ideas can be produced on demand. That’s true to a certain extend. Brainstorming ideas regularly can activate the area of the brain to generate ideas on short notice. But that requires practice too. Take a notebook and start writing down 10 ideas every day. Doesn’t matter what they are. It’s personal and true to you. So every day, you follow this same routine of writing down your ideas. When the notebook is filled and you flip through the pages, you wonder woah, did I really think about this? Some ideas will make you chuckle, some will make you wonder why you didn’t execute on them. Dwelling helps no one – continue writing down those fragile ideas down on the nifty notebook.

We generate as much bad ideas as the good ones, but the more ideas you have, the more you can weed out the bad ones. So you build up a collection of good ideas within you that you can maybe reproduced on demand. If not, the practice of generating ideas will serve you good. You can sit down and come up with ideas. Unlike your peers, you won’t be held back by judgement at this stage. You won’t evaluate their feasibility. You know it’s important to get it down first and scan through later. While they are cautiously putting one idea after the other, you are done.

So what happens when the writing gets tough? Sure, they will be days like this. Shawn Blanc said he will just sit through the entire hour he put aside for his writing. It’s uncomfortable, but too bad. A commitment is a commitment. Build this into a routine and routine turns into a habit. Routine reduces mental activation so comes the next time you sit down before the machine, you already know what to do – write. There’s no other option. At the scheduled time, you write.

Our habits make us who we are and who we will be.

I want to develop a habit of constantly writing. Therefore, I schedule the morning for this. Before the flurry of demands come rushing in, I’m afforded the quiet and serene 30 minutes to unload my mind. Ideally, I’ll be in such fine form that I can write farther. But I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. It’s good enough to get the words down. For now, what’s important is developing a routine of writing every weekday, without fail.

Yesterday I wrote after a long lay-off and it felt good. I’m hoping the momentum gathers steam as I push one word after the other.