1. Education
Richard Nordquist

Getting Into a Writing Frame of Mind

By February 11, 2013

Follow me on:

Two things every writer needs are motivation and concentration. But how do you silence the jabbering voices in your head and get mentally prepared to write--especially when you're not in the mood?

Author Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, has likened the process to a night watchman's job:

People often ask how I get into the writing frame of mind. To me, it feels like being the night watchman in a museum. My job is to make sure all the doors are locked, and the blinds are pulled, and the lights are out.

As a writer, you need to shut out all of the distractions from your other senses. I make sure I'm not hungry, tired, uncomfortable, or listening to anything. Then, like the night watchman, I go room by room with my flashlight until something scares me, surprises me, or makes me laugh. I have to feel something. And when I do, that's the part I keep. Then I wrap up the inspiring words in ordinary words, to form sentences. That part is more craft than art.
(Scott Adams, "Like a Night Watchman." The Scott Adams Blog, January 25, 2010)
As discussed in the List Trick, one way to warm up to writing is to start out jotting rather than composing. Listing a few random observations may be all that's needed to eliminate distractions, spark some fresh ideas, and create an immediate incentive to write.

Now it's your turn. Have you developed any useful tricks, strategies, or routines for getting into a writing frame of mind? If so, tell us about them by clicking on "comments" below

More About Getting Started:

Image: Dilbert and Dogbert. Dilbert, by Scott Adams 2013, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.


February 13, 2013 at 2:36 pm
(1) Gwydion says:

Whenever I sit down to write a new chapter or short story, I start by making a list of simple things I want to happen. Then I expand on that by writing a summary with more detail, which usually draws in fresh ideas and fleshes out the piece. Once I’ve managed that, I can usually start work on the actual draft, since by that point all I have to do is tell the story – I’ve already got the guideline.

February 18, 2013 at 11:50 am
(2) barbara1923 says:

Just what I needed. I am so glad I visited today.

February 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm
(3) SarahFroggatt says:

Many thanks Richard,
I would love to link this to my website and daily blog, where I try to write about trying to write…..

February 18, 2013 at 8:10 pm
(4) Martin Bryce says:

Because I get bored easily by sedentary occupation, I have to imagine my day’s writing as a great adventure. For example, making the first human footprints in the Martian dust, dying gloriously at Agincourt (which I nearly did in a lucid dream once), or seducing Helen away from Paris and sailing off into a golden sunset with her. The trouble with all this brazen impertinence is that it often sends me into hours of reverie from which it is impossible to recover without a superhuman effort of the will equal to, or greater than that needed to actually accomplish all of the above exemplars put together at one sitting. Thus no work actually gets done. So I find my days alternating between frenzied, extravagant escapism and the tedious documentation of my Quixotic adventures. Somewhere in the middle there descends a hush and I feel their presence; warm, sweet-scented breath, soft caresses, whispered promises. Wooed beyond sensibility, I enter their world of heart and soul and sensation where nothing, no one but they can touch me. The spirit quickens as, bewitched ninefold, the work begins in earnest.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.