Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Clearing Your Mind Before Writing

on September 25, 2014

The other day, a blog reader posted this question to me:

I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I’ve had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted just
trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?

I posted a response in the comment section, but I thought I’d elaborate on my response here. If anyone else has questions about the writing process, please post them in the comment section and I’ll take one at a time and respond to them.

 

Thanks for the great question! There are a couple ways I center myself and clear my thoughts prior to writing:

1. Morning Pages–Years ago, I read and studied Julia Cameron’s books on creativity including The Artist Way. In her book, she recommends a couple tools for artists. One is Morning Pages. These are three pages of handwritten “junk,”–usually written when you first get up in the morning, but could be done before a writing too. For me, this clears my mind of all those “daily life” thoughts–When am I going to mow? Why is the light switch not working? Why is the cat eating too much? Sometimes, I will shift into my story mode by the end of those three pages, other times not. But the important thing is to get out all those random thoughts.

2. Outlining and the Brainstorming Work: I’m a big fan of doing pre-writing work before beginning any story. This includes getting to know your characters with character sketches, interviews, monologues and whatever else works for you–and there are tons of information and books out there on ways to do this character development work–I have my favorites, but that’s another post! I also work up a general plot outline of the major plot points (inciting incident, plot point one, dark moment, climax, etc) of the story before I write. This can change in that first draft, but it gives me a map to follow when I sit down to write.  If you are writing a story with a complex setting or a multiple book series based in the same setting, it can also be helpful to flesh out the details of that setting–such as a map, and those minor characters who live in that setting.  These tools help build your story world and can be used as refreshers when you sit down to write.

3.  Stop In the Middle--This is my favorite of all tools. Don’t stop at the end of your chapter or scene when things are all wrapped up. It will be harder to get back into the story. Instead, stop in the middle of the action in the middle of a scene. I can guarantee you’ll do anything to get back to your writing time the next day and hop into your story.

4. Make Notes When You Finish for The Day--No matter where you finish your writing for the day–in the middle of prime action or at the end of a chapter, make notes in your manuscript for where you want to go tomorrow. For me this is as simple as a brief summary of the scene and the goal of the character in that scene. These notes help me pick up my writing the next day without too much of a blank mind over where I’m going next.

Finally, set deadlines for yourself. Determine how long your writing session will be and how many words you will write in that session. Don’t make your writing session too long so it’s unrealistic for you. It’s okay to go over your goal, but set a reasonable goal so you can reach it. The same with the word count, when I’m fast drafting, I set myself a goal of 1500-1600 words a day. Editing is different. Depending on the editing process–if it’s copy edits or a final read through, I can move quickly. If I’m shaping and crafting that first draft, I move much more slowly. Learn your process and then set your goals based on what works for you.

And don’t forget to give yourself some reward at the end of that final deadline when you finish the draft or finally submit to that contest or editor. For example, I recently signed up to attend a Harlequin Reader Event in Seattle at the end of October. This is my carrot on the stick for reaching the deadline of getting my sweet contemporary novel draft finished and my first three chapters and synopsis sent off to an editor whose critique I won at an auction by the date of the Reader Event.

 

 

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2 responses to “Clearing Your Mind Before Writing

  1. Glad they are helpful!

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