I took a lot of writing workshop classes in college, but the one thing I have always remembered from class is this concept: Stay in the room. I first heard this from a book we were studying in a nonfiction workshop. The book was Ron Carlson Writes a Story by Ron Carlson (link here). The premise is exactly what it sounds like. Ron Carlson walks his readers through his writing process, and the thing he always has trouble with, which is staying in the room, at his desk, and staying on task.
I immediately found this relatable. There are TONS of distractions for today’s writers. Instant access to social media and cat memes on your phone can make it hard to focus on sitting down and putting pen to page, or in most cases, fingers to the keyboard. There’s always a new show to watch on Netflix or Hulu, and the new Disney+ with its wonderful nostalgia constantly tugs on our focus. How can I possibly sit down to write when all my friends are talking about these great shows that I haven’t watched yet? The answer is simple.
Discipline. Gasp! But it’s true. You have to train yourself to make writing a habit. Don’t worry! I have five tips to help you stay in the room and meet your writing goals this year!
1. Create your own space
Even if it’s just a corner of your bedroom, create a designated work station for yourself. And have fun with it! Decorate it, make it organized, and make sure you have everything you’ll need (pens, paper, laptop/tablet, coffee) readily available and easily accessible. Treat this space like you would treat going to work. When you’re sitting at that desk, make sure to put on your professional hat. The only difference is that you can totally wear your comfy PJs.
2. Eliminate access to the internet
I know this is going to be a hard one, but if you’re writing on a word processor on your computer, tablet, or phone, TURN OFF YOUR WI-FI. The only reason you might need access to the internet is if you’re doing research, but the desire to switch tabs will be strong. I recommend unplugging your entire router and keeping it in a separate room. Do the same for your cell phone; turn it off or put it away while you’re working. If you feel like being drastic, you can follow Ron Carlson’s example and glue an ethernet cable into your computer and then cut the cord.
3. Forget your chores (at least for a little while)
I get it, my house is always a mess too, but the dishes and the laundry will still be there when you’re done writing. If the chores are high up on your priority list, get them done first. You don’t want to be sitting at your desk and remember you’ve left dishes in the sink and feel the need to drop what you’re doing to wash them. Remember, you need to stay in the room.
4. Set a timer
You want to sit down with a specific goal in mind, so set a timer for yourself. Start with an hour. I know it can be daunting to think about writing for an hour straight, but I think you’ll find that once you get into a state of flow an hour will pass quickly. Setting a timer will help steer you into making writing a habit.
5. Make a schedule, and KEEP IT
The time it takes to form a habit will vary from person to person, but everyone can agree on one thing: it takes time. If you’re serious about writing more, make a schedule. Set aside time on certain days when you know you’ll be free, and don’t let anything stop you from keeping your writing time. Your friends might want to go out to dinner, but if Saturday you write at 6pm, tell them you’ll be available at 7pm. You’ll thank yourself later for keeping to your schedule.
I hope that these five tips will help you in your writing endeavors this year! Just remember to stay in the room! You can do this!
Your Friend at the Henlo Press