Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


5 Ways to Get Yourself Writing Today

Banish the inner and outer critics saying "Do something else!"

Just as there is no way to walk except by putting one foot after the other, there is no way to write except by putting one word after the other. To begin your work, you must stop preparing to work and start working.

Here are 5 simple ways you can help yourself right now:

1. The point of the task is not to finish it but to start it; don't worry yet about how it will end. If you hesitate to begin because you are afraid that you won't be able to complete it, you are doing the very thing guaranteeing that outcome. Write a phrase. Start with a simple sentence. Explain a single word if you must; you can, after all, start a journey by hopping on one foot. It's not pretty and others might not want to watch, but it is possible and all movement is better that stagnation. One word on a page is a beginning.

2. Don't apologize for working. Writing is work. Banish the inner and outer critics who tell you that you should be doing something else: exercising, cleaning, cooking, researching, talking on the phone, playing with the dog, looking out the window, or reorganizing your library. Sit down and face the page or the screen without guilt—and with a sense of authority. That's what Virginia Woolf really meant when she talked about an artist needing a room of one's own.

3. In addition to feeling a lack of guilt about choosing to work on one's writing, Woolf also thought it was imperative that a writer be able to work somewhere private—a place where she or he can close the door on the rest of the world. Make yourself unavailable to anyone except your own imagination. Don't answer the phone, for example, or use Facebook. Don't look at other books on Amazon. Don't read other articles in places you would like to publish. Write your own and read when you have finished today's writing task.

4. Listen to your inner mentor; listen to the voice that says "Well done!" when you get 250 words or 500 words on the page. Give yourself credit. Give yourself a treat. Don't keep telling yourself it isn't good enough, or it isn't long enough, or that it isn't what you hoped it would be. Be as kind and generous to yourself as you would be to a hopeful, emerging artist who was asking for your encouragement.

5. Write something—anything—every day, especially when you think you can't. Give yourself a question and answer it in an email to yourself. Give yourself a ten-minute limit to write longhand and get something on the page. Make a list of the fifty most disgusting words you can think of or the silliest words you've ever heard and keep those lists handy. Write something that your later self can use because you'll be grateful for it and being grateful for and good to yourself is the only way you can keep approaching the daunting business of getting your writing into the hands of readers.

And when should you begin? You already know the answer to that: the time to start is right now.

More from Gina Barreca Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today