Four Anchors For Beginning Writers

If you want to write to completion, whether it is a novel or a blog post, you need a plan that will get you past the initial euphoria of inspiration and carry you through the hard days when the words are stuck on some space station in an alternate universe (See the Five Faces of Writing Block).  The basic plan that got me started on my way to a daily writing plan sprang like a phoenix from the ashes of a failed (I thought) writing project that drove me to vow I would never write another word.  I made that promise to myself because I was a stop and start writer which made giving up an option.  But my passion for writing overrode my dashed ego and I came up with a plan that got me started again, and on my way to a daily practice.  I call it The Four Anchors.  I think it will go a long way toward helping you write to completion.  One of the Anchors is obvious.  You'll have to take on faith the importance of the other three.

1.  Rate your passion for writing, from zero to 10.  __________

 I've never met a writer who listed their passion for writing as less than 6.  I'm not talking here about your talent for writing, your time for writing, your confidence in your ability.  I just mean the desire behind the statement:  If only I could write.  If you rate your passion for writing higher than a five and you write that number on your pages, in your journal or tattoo it on your forehead so you see it every time you look in the mirror, you will find it easier to give yourself permission to pursue something that deep down I'll bet you believe you were born to do.

2.  Write fifteen minutes a day.  No matter what!  

You will not produce a novel in fifteen minutes a day unless you have found the fountain of youth and you live a thousand years.  But that fifteen minutes will hook you into a practice that will open up new stories and keep you anchored to the ones that want to drift away.  Some days you will write two hours, three hours or long into the night.  But if you commit to at least fifteen minutes every day, you will never find yourself looking at the calendar and wondering how six months or two years have passed since you last wrote a word.  Fifteen minutes a day will get you to the days when you have the time or faith in yourself to write longer.

3.  Carry a page of your manuscript with you wherever you go.
Put a page of your manuscript in your wallet, pocket, briefcase or purse every day.  This is not so that you will pull it out and work on it when you have a free moment--though you can if you want to.  This page is like an umbilical cord to your writing self, a reminder of your real work.  I'm sure that whatever your day job, whether it is parent and homemaker or CEO of a major corporation, if your desire to write is higher than a five, an important part of you believes writing is your real work.

4.  Call yourself a writer.

So many of us have the notion that there is some Job Description for Writers for which we don't qualify.  We find it easy to apologize for our addiction to words, sentences and stories by saying we fool around with writing but we're not real writers.  This reluctance is deadly to a writing practice.  For me it was, yes, I wrote a cookbook but real writing is fiction and for years I was too intimidated to try it.   Real writing is anything you put down on paper.  If you've completed one fifteen minute writing session, you are a real writer.  Unless you had a robot do it.  I don't tell you to call yourself a writer as an ego booster. The danger of avoiding defining yourself as a writer is that when it gets hard you can say to yourself, I'm not a real writer, and give up.  Writers write.  They--we--you do it on days when it is easy and we're in the thrall of inspiration, and on days when it is hard.  Hemingway wrote every day and never allowed himself to use a hangover, of which he had many, as an excuse not to sit down at the typewriter.  Would you throw your child away on days when he or she is driving you up the wall and say, oh, I'm not a real mother?  Don't do it to your writing self.