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10 writing mantras

Writing is many things but mostly it is a habit. As habits go, it is not as destructive as some, but also not as instantly rewarding as drinking or gambling. The rewards can feel quite distant with a large project such as a novel. So distant, in fact, that even the false summit of a completed first draft can be hard to make out in a swirling mist.

To combat writing fatigue, general bone-idleness, and competing attractions (see drinking and gambling above) I have collected the writing mantras that speak to me. I write them on to post-it notes, and stick them to the wall above my writing desk. They come from many sources, including other writers and my wife’s interest in Buddhism. They help get me started on a writing session. Perhaps they might be useful to you. Better still, perhaps you can tell me how you remind yourself that writing – that poem, blog, chapter, play, or Tweet, is a very good idea and now is the best time to do it. Please add any suggestions via the Comments below.

1. Start from where you are.

(To me, this means working with what I have got, finishing what I have started, and not clutching at fantasy straws. It is unusual to go from office cleaner to managing director in one step.)

2. Write with a light heart.

(There’s enough bitterness in the world without adding to the sum with my gripes.)

3. The mind is a machine for jumping to conclusions.

(This is a reminder write fiction with holes in it and to allow the reader to do some work.)

4. Coherence is a useful illusion.

(Life is not often coherent, but people like to think it is when they read a story.)

5. Tell the damned story.

(A reminder to focus on the purpose of the activity and not get bogged down in waffle.)

6. Banish all doubt.

(At the time of writing, doubt is the enemy and can lead to paralysis. Doubt, and a little humility, is good later on the process when editing or deciding what to do with piece.)

7. Give up hoping for results.

(Unless you are solely motivated by fame and money, writing has to be done for its own sake. Do not expect applause just because you’ve written something.)

8. Reach out to other writers.

(Every creative act is a risk, and it is good to appreciate the risks other people take when they share or publish.)

9. Writing something is better than writing nothing.

(Phew! At least I wrote something… I can improve it later.)

10. ………………… (Insert your mantra here.)

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