Plan Your Writing So You Can Write When You Plan To
There’s one surefire way to kill writer’s block before it happens: planning.
I’m sure some people can write without planning, but I’m not one of them. Some people, especially fiction writers, might be able to simply sit down at their desks and start a mighty flow of words. But nonfiction writing all but requires advance planning, and fiction writing can benefit from it, too.
(Approximately) 90 percent of writing is simply tricking yourself into putting the words down. Putting the words down is the one literal requirement of writing, but it can take a lot to get us there. Here’s what I do to make sure the words are coming at the right time:
- Pick a time to write and stick to it. I’m a calendar person—if it’s in the calendar, I’ll do it. For me, writing is a full-time job, so my appointed time is roughly 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Your appointed time might be different. But put it in the calendar, or do whatever you know works to get you to do the thing.
- Write down ideas when you have them. Get a system and commit to writing them all down. You will not remember later. You must do it when you have the idea. Don’t judge now, just jot it down. Later, you can evaluate it for its merits. My system for capturing ideas is a simple list on my computer; I’ll email myself if I’m not near the computer when an idea strikes. I like an inbox-zero when possible, so I will immediately transfer the idea from the email to the list at the first possible opportunity. Again, figure out what gets you to do this, and do it. Maybe it’s a notebook and pen in your pocket, or the voice memo function on your phone, or a list that is easily accessible from both your phone and your laptop.
- Make outlines. Once you pick an idea to work on, make yourself a reasonably detailed outline. Once you have this, you have basically broken the task of writing down into manageable steps. When you get to your appointed time, you just look at your outline and write the next part. And then the next part. And then the next part. Do this enough times, and, poof, you have written!
- Of course, don’t just hit publish or send it out or whatever you’re going to do with it next. You’ll want to build in some time to self-edit, and/or maybe have a trusted friend/colleague/partner look at it. But you have written, and that is the biggest part of being a writer!
- Now, keep going!