English version by – Kirsty/translations – firstname.lastname@example.org
If there’s one comment that drives me bananas, like nothing else can, it’s when someone says «Anyone can write a book nowadays.» I can assure you that’s not the case – you have my word as ghostwriter, among other things. To the author of the comment, writing a book is just a matter of having the time and the inspiration; anyone can sit down and magic up a bestseller. This is because they don’t know how difficult it can be to simply sit down and start… (cue satanic laughter in the background).
Today I want to share five tricks with you, tricks that I hope will help you get started on your first draft.
The first draft of everything is shit – Ernest Hemingway
The first draft, to be a little less defeatist than Mr Hemingway, is the drawer in which you are going to store your ideas. Expressed as best you can, without paying too much attention to how you do it, but giving yourself permission to narrate and jot down what you have in mind. The first draft is the outline of your book and you must allow it to be shit. It’s the raw material from which your book will be born.
The following tips may seem obvious but don’t discard them yet, because though invisible, they are powerful at an unconscious level. Tips 1-2 will help you get started in the practical sense and tips 3-4 will help you free yourself up so you can create this marvellous “chaotic mass” that is the first draft of any future piece of work.
(1) Create a workspace to write in
Consider the fact that your mind gets used to associating spaces with activities. It’s an automatic response to sit on the sofa, and immediately reach for the remote control and switch on the TV – you haven’t even stopped to think about it and it’s done. To be a little bit more romantic, for us writers our sacred workplace has an ancestral anchor. When you get ready to start writing, you are obliged to make a tacit commitment, and prepare yourself with the same ritual (a cup of steaming coffee, a sweep of incense over the computer…) – you are anchoring a space, a smell and a taste to the action of writing (PNL anchoring).
Your writing place could be outside your home, if you prefer to write in a cafe for example, or in a library or a co-working space. If that’s the case, then ask them to reserve your place. Because when we start writing there is a tendency for any silly distraction to break your groove, and that would give you the perfect excuse to not write: there was someone at your table.
(2) Set aside a time for writing
Writing your first draft requires a time in which to do it. If you just leave it to chance and don’t set the time aside, don’t create the space, then the chances are you will never start. Decide on a specific writing schedule, and that means signing a contract with yourself and your future book. My advice is that you squeeze time from where it seems there isn’t any. What do I mean by that? I mean wake up earlier and dedicate the first hour of the day to writing. It might sound awful, but in the morning our inner critic is less active and the creative potential of our mind is intact. When I wrote Viaje al centro de ti mismo (Journey To The Centre Of Yourself) and El talisman del líder danzante (The Talisman Of The Dancing Leader), I would wake up at 5 am, write between 5:30 and 7 am, and then shoot off to open my yoga centre to give classes. Back in the days when I was a frustrated writer I woke up much later, and I promise you that I have twice as much energy now. I recommend you always stick to the same timetable.
(3) The «POMODORO» technique
Pomodoro means tomato in Italian and it refers to those tomato shaped timers we use in the kitchen. You will want one of these for your writing area. The Pomodoro technique is very simple, it involves setting yourself 30 minute work blocks; this means that it doesn’t matter what you are writing, nor whether it’s good or bad, all that matters is that you complete the full 30’ block.
Here are two tricks:
- We tend to use the whole alloted block of time to complete the task. Knowing that I only have 30’ means I will concentrate on finishing it in 30’. The mind works best when you set it limits and short tasks.
- Completing the first Pomodoro will give you a sense of achievement and satisfaction, which will help you mark your second and third work blocks of your first draft.
I recommend you don’t force yourself to write for more than 90 minutes to two hours at a time. That’s a crazy length of time! And anyway, beyond this our attention drifts and it’s good to stop.
And why a Pomodoro and not the alarm on your mobile phone? When you write your phone is taboo. Don’t even look at it, keep it in airplane mode or silenced. Mobiles anchor to other things which are not your writing.
(4) Write in whatever order you like
You don’t write a book in the same way as you read it. It’s a common misconception to think your first draft should begin with the first chapter of your book (I say book to englobe fiction and non-fiction). The first draft, from pomodoro to pomodoro, is made up of scenic blocks; if you have the central scene and the end of the novel but you’re still unsure as to how it begins, there’s nothing to stop you from starting there. Write it, and then you’ll know what happens before and vice versa. Often, the beginning of a book will end up halfway through or the other way round. I forget who said it, but at the time I remember it left an impression on me: A book doesn’t get written, it gets constructed.
(5) The first draft is for your enjoyment only. Though the likes of Hemingway, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King may chant “It’s shit’” in chorus, what they don’t say is how much they enjoyed writing it… Don’t worry, you will sweat later, so for now, for Tip number 5, don’t complicate yourself and enjoy the process of writing your wondrous and glorious first draft.
No one but you is going to read it, it is all just for you. You’ll pull it to pieces later on! But we will talk about that at another time.
For now, I wish you a happy start to your first draft. And remember – if you need me as a creative coach I would be delighted to join you on your adventures.
HAVE YOU EVER DREAMT OF HAVING A PERSONAL COACH TO STIMULATE YOUR CREATIVITY, HELP YOU STRUCTURE YOUR EFFORTS AND OFFER YOU UNWAVERING ENCOURAGEMENT? YES I CAN HELP 🙂