You have put in a full day of work after getting a bit of writing done in themorning. Your energy is at a pretty good level due toSmart Snacks, Breathingand Stretching. The societal instinct is to settle in with a hefty cooked dinner and some television. The creative person, however, needs to use this time to work on his craft. Writing in the evening on your workdays serves as great weekly motivation. You won’t just be an employee for five days in a row; you will be a writer throughout the entire week.
This is also the time that your friends will ask you to come out and hang/drink. There is no problem doing this every so often, but if you go out and drink every night it can seriously cut into your writing time. Try these tactics a couple of times to start out. I suspect that if you get that burst of motivation from writing after work every so often, you will want to experience it more and more. It might even be more fun than your typical nighttime beer guzzling :).
Early Evening: 6 PM - 8 PM
Take Care of Business
You have arrived home via car, train or bus. What is the first thing that typically happens when you get home? Either your apartment/house or the person you live with begins to ask you to do things. If it’s just the apartment/house this asking comes in the form of a dirty pile of clothes on the floor or a sink full of dirty dishes. If it’s someone you live with, then they are telling you about these clothes or dishes or asking you to help them with a project. I have seen this sap the energy out of many a person when they return home.
Give yourself a half hour to an hour to take care of business. Get those clothes into a hamper, wash those dishes, and help out your roommate. Be very clear to yourself and that person that you only have a limited amount of time, but do not complain or have a pity party about these tasks. There is no reason to bring any negative energy into the situation. Be happy to step in and help and if you aren’t happy, fake it until you make it. By getting these things out of the way before getting into any writing at all, you can feel accomplished and knock out a lot of potential distractions for the rest of the evening.
If there are too many tasks that need your attention, you have two options. You can limit yourself to an hour of work on them and then head off to another location to get your writing done. This step will probably lead to you spending a whole hour on these activities every evening. Unless your apartment/house is a complete disaster, an hour a day is bound to clear up even the worst of problems within a week or two. The second option is to spend the whole evening, and any successive evenings, completely eradicating the problem. You won’t get any writing done, but at least you will no longer have this looming requirement hanging over your head.
This is not the time to pig out. If you make dinner your largest meal of the day by far as most people do, you will get sleepy for the rest of the night. Be sensible. Figure out some dishes that are easy to prepare and light in nature. If you go out to eat, get something with a lot of vegetables that isn’t completely covered in cheese or sauce. The important thing, as it is with the other meals of the day, is that you are using this meal to gain energy not to take it away. By eating too much food that is cooked heavily or deep fried, your energy will be spent trying to break down that food in your stomach. That means less energy for your brain and your writing.
Be healthy in your dinner and you will be smarter in the evening.
Now it’s time to get organized. Set up your writing space just the way you like it. Gather all of your materials: pens, pencils, research sources, a cup of water, desk lamp, comfortable chair, quiet space, etc. This should take you ten to fifteen minutes to get things exactly the way you want them, if you are an OCD person like myself :). Normal people can probably accomplish this task in five minutes or so.
An organized space can help you get your thoughts out. There are fewer distractions and you can feel more professional. If there are things missing from your workspace that will take too long for you to get this evening, try to deal without them for tonight and put getting that item on your to-do list for the next day. I’m sure you’ll do OK without your lucky writing bear just for one night :).
Mid-Evening: 8 PM - 10 PM
It’s your time to shine! Work on your current project or a project you’ve been meaning to but putting off. You can draw from your morning plan or start something new. All your daily motivation has been leading up to this and the door is open and ready for you to write. So do it!
If you don’t know what to write, check out some of these prompts for inspiration. If you don’t like these story starters, simply start writing something, anything. Eventually what you write will turn into an idea or a project and you can go from there. It is up to you how long you want to write, but if possible write for the entire two hours.
If you lose your motivation a bit or you get hungry/tired, try giving yourself a treat. I often use food to treat myself, like a fresh, juicy apple or some kettle corn (or the occasional Trader Joe’s Ice Cream, mmm). Food works for me due to the quick energy boost and the good feelings associated with eating something sweet and tasty. Once again, try not to go overboard with how much you eat and what you eat ( an entire candy bar is not a good option :) ).
The treat does not have to be food. It should still be somewhat healthy, not too lengthy, and make you feel good. Some examples are a quick walk outside, a phone call to a good friend, and watching an entertaining webisode on the Internet. Don’t use the treat to tangent off and quit writing for the night. Use the treat to push you forward into as much writing as possible.
It is difficult to avoid the distractions of the home. If you are starting to lose steam or feel the pull of other tasks in the house, change locations. Go to a coffee shop or a diner or a library or anywhere that is open for at least the next hour or two that you think you will be able to write in. Often, a simple change in space can bring new energy to your writing and give you an extra hour of motivation without doing anything too drastic.
This optional step also gives you a great deal to draw from if you aren’t sure of what to write. You can people watch and describe the new location to your heart’s content.
Changing to a new location is a trick to keep that motivation balloon bouncing in the air one last time. More often than not it will work and sometimes it will not. Stay at this new location as long as you wish and when you are tired or feel unmotivated return home. There is a chance that even being in this other place for a short period of time will recharge you when you get back.
Late Evening: 10 PM to 12 AM
It’s getting late (for some) and your eyes are getting heavy. You may have been fired up with inspiration and your pen scribbled furiously just an hour earlier, but now you are starting to drag.
Get your last few ideas down on paper. It can help to outline the next few sections of what you were writing in a very basic format. This way you don’t feel as though you will miss out on the great brainstorms you had this evening, you can pick right back up tomorrow. There is a chance that one of your great ideas will hit now as you’re getting sleepy. The relaxation of tiredness can allow brilliant thoughts when there isn’t so much tension or pressure. Of course, you should write these down and flesh them out tomorrow.
Put all of your writing and materials back in a place where you can easily find them tomorrow. If you leave your area organized now, you will need to do less preparation for the next evening’s session.
Begin to prepare for your next work day. Iron clothes, prepare lunches, and do any other tasks that will help you be ready for the following morning. If you do not have to do a whole lot to get ready for tomorrow, take on one aspect of your general organization that needs fixing. Deconstruct an old filing system that no longer functions, go through some old mail and throw out all the junk, or condense two drawers of junk into one drawer of junk. If you continue to knock down some of these old organizational blocks, over time you will become a lot more put together.
It is time for bed and the opportunity to recharge for the next day of daily motivation. If you have gotten through all of these crazy motivational steps throughout the day, you are probably feeling pretty damn good about yourself. Remember that as you lie down to sleep. Tomorrow is a day where you can do exactly the same if not even better.
Just as you did during work, keep a notepad beside your bed when you are going to sleep. As I stated earlier, the relaxation you feel as you are drifting away can lead to a great idea coming to the front of your mind. Don’t worry if it takes you a little longer to sleep than usual. Surprisingly, getting more things done can give you more energy at the end of the day. Relax or read a book to help you to convince your brain it’s time to sleep. Sweet dreams.
Getting through an entire work day with a good deal of motivation and productivity is not easy. Having daily motivation for most of the day is good enough and still probably better than most of the working population. If you find this too overwhelming, take it one step at a time, one day at a time. You don’t have to be perfect but you do have to be a writer. The only thing stopping you is you. So write already!
Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.