The Mark Blog

MOMENTUM: Writing Flow Exercises

This has been a busy year. Life is like that: you can’t schedule the unforeseeable. Bathrooms will flood, new bosses will pop up, people will die, and loved ones will need help.

In the past, all of the above have derailed me from writing for days, weeks, even months. Being in The Mark Program has helped me maintain an intense focus. Getting sidetracked, even if by a very real issue, isn’t feasible. I figured out ways to get writing done even if a different part of my life was presenting time and energy demands. Enter the value of momentum.

I’ve heard people speak of momentum, even had glimpses of the power of momentum in the past. However, being in The Mark Program is sort of like being in a pressure cooker. It never lets up; there’s always a piece of the manuscript that needs to be written, revised, organized, revised, pondered, revised, or researched. After all, it is a manuscript-polishing program. What has worked during this process is coming back to the project on a nightly basis, no matter what is happening.

Momentum is a special energy that can’t be found, it just builds, day after day, until it takes on a life of its own. Since I’m constantly in contact with the characters, my mind continues to work on the book even after I have left the notebook or computer screen. Ideas or solutions to challenges I’m facing on the page come to me at odd times like when I’m inching along Interstate 110 or slicing up a tomato for a salad.

Here are a couple of momentum-builders that I’ve found helpful:

--Same bat time, same bat channel: setting a block of writing time aside at or around the same time each day allows the act of writing to become a habit. Even if an emergency cuts into the time, get in as much time as possible. Even thirty minutes, if done daily, helps.

--Small goals, to-do list style: make a list of writing goals that need to be done before the end of the week, or by end of the month. Examples: Write a new scene for a story, find a new title, rewrite the ending of a story, or check dialogue tags on pages X through Y. Some sort of immediate target date is essential. Crossing out the accomplished goals is also motivating.

--If it’s late in the day and you’re ready to call it a writing-free day, don’t. Set the timer for ten or fifteen minutes, then write while standing. Make yourself write towards your project, even if you think it’s shit and you’re exhausted. Sometimes good things will still come. Regardless, at least you’re connecting with your creative flow.

--When stuck, think of the story’s issues while going through the nighttime routine. Right before going to sleep, invite the mind to solve the problem while sleeping. In the morning, an inkling of how to proceed might be present.

Writing, like life, can be unpredictable. Trial and error is usually the rule instead of the exception when trying to build momentum. Each person is unique. And in the end, we are all human, doing the best that we can, under the circumstances we face. Allow that effort to count.