Just Do It!

14 Sep

By Sammy Bina


I don’t know about you all, but I have a problem sticking to one project. I’ve got boxes full of ideas that I scribbled down on post-its, napkins, and ticket stubs. I get ideas for stories in the most ridiculous places, and as soon as I get a chance, sit down and start writing. Sometimes I’ll write a hundred words, and sometimes I’ll write 20,000. And later I’ll look back on what I wrote and think to myself, ‘This isn’t so bad. I could really do something with it.’

The only problem is, I don’t.

I’ve currently got a file on my computer entitled ‘Graveyard,’ where I keep all of my unfinished stories. Some of them are just a chapter or two, and others are over a hundred pages long. I mean, that’s a pretty substantial amount in some cases! I’d clearly liked the idea enough to write about a third of the manuscript, so what made me stop? Why’d I give up?

To this day, I don’t have an answer to that question, though I’m leaning toward failed motivation. I still have a file of unfinished stories on my computer, and I’m still combating the habit of starting numerous projects. However, I recently adopted Nike’s well-known slogan: Just do it! And so far, it seems to be working. I even bought myself a new pair of Nikes, to serve as a constant reminder! (Okay, really, I just bought them because I wanted some weird colored sneakers, but we can pretend I did it as a more symbolic kind of thing.)

Motivation is a really important aspect of writing that can easily be overlooked. With the number of ideas we get each and every day, it’s not hard to move from one project to another. That first story seemed like a good idea at the time, but the second one was obviously better, and the third was definitely going to be a bestseller. So you went ahead and finished that last one, but completely forgot about the first two, which were potentially just as good. And why did you do it? A loss in motivation is definitely a potential suspect, among other things. Sometimes we just don’t have time to write, and our excitement over a particular project wanes. Or maybe you read a book that was eerily similar to your own. Maybe you hit a roadblock and don’t know what comes next. All of these things can spell danger for a story, so here’s what I’ve been doing to keep myself motivated lately – hopefully this helps!

Make a schedule. Now that school’s back in session for many of us, it can be hard to find time to write. Students need to worry about their homework and making it to class on time, and those not in school have jobs and families to take care of. Like all of you, as much as I’d like to be writing, I sometimes just can’t find the time. So, to make sure I get an hour or two to myself, I’ve set aside a time each week where all I’m allowed to do is write. From 9-10:30am on Saturday, I’m parked in front of Microsoft Word. Sure, I may have to sacrifice an hour of sleep, but by the end of that hour, even if I’ve only written a hundred words, I feel a lot better. So even if you can only spare an hour or two, pick a time to write, and stick to it. (“Stick to it,” “Just do it…” Are you sensing a trend here?)

Make yourself a promise. I’m convinced I have writing OCD (or I’m a compulsive writing hoarder), because I bounce from one project to the next without much thought. I write what I want at that moment, and if I feel like writing something else the next day, I work on that instead. But a few weeks ago I made myself a promise: I wasn’t going to start any new projects until I’d finished at least one of the three currently being worked on. When I get an idea for a story now, I jot down a few notes in my notebook, and that’s the end of it. So far, the walls are holding.

Write a query letter. Someone suggested this to me a while back, and while I thought it sounded weird at the time, have come to find that it’s actually rather ingenious. By forcing yourself to come up with a general concept for your book, and talking about it as if you were pitching it to an agent, it helps to get ideas flowing. This, my friends, leads to motivation. Also a plus, when you finish your book, you won’t have to write a query letter; it’ll already be done!

Tell other people about your book. With this latest project of mine, I’ve been telling all of my roommates about it. Why, you ask? Won’t that annoy them? It probably does, but since they know what I’m working on, they tend to ask how it’s going. They’ll ask questions about the plot, or the characters, and it serves as a great way to keep me on my toes. I’ve definitely come up with a few ideas based on things my friends have said, or things they’ve suggested.

I know it can be hard to stick to one story sometimes, but the problem with having multiple projects is that sometimes nothing gets done! So today, if you’re in the same boat as me, consider the message Nike’s been preaching: just do it. Pick a story, and just write it. It may be easier said than done, but when you’ve got a finished product in your hand, it’s going to make it all worth it.


Sammy Bina is a fifth year college senior, with a BA in Creative Writing. She is currently querying her adult dystopian novel, THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, and working on a historical YA piece. She has been a staff member of her university’s literary journal for three years, and is currently an intern for the Elaine P. English literary agency. You can follow her on twitter, or check out her blog.


24 Responses to “Just Do It!”

  1. Nicole September 14, 2010 at 12:42 AM #

    Good solid advice. One needs will power to keep and maintain the schedule. I like the query tip, I never thought of that before, I’ll have to try it.


    • samanthabina September 14, 2010 at 1:01 AM #

      It really is a great motivator! I thought my friend was crazy, but as it turns out, she’s a freaking genius!

  2. Kim September 14, 2010 at 2:28 AM #

    I soooooo can relate. Even though I haven’t scheduled some time aside, I do write every week…sort of. But this is of course sporadic and not at the best of times (when I’m suppose to be writing up an assignment). Ours is a quiet, internal struggle. My equivalent ‘Graveyard’ folder is titled ‘Writing Collection 2008’ (though, it contains works not solely written in 2008). And I’ve finally got my ‘Just do it’ novel! YAY!

    I just sneezed into my tea saucer.

    • samanthabina September 14, 2010 at 10:17 AM #

      I love that I’m not the only one with a graveyard file :-p

      And bless you!

  3. Aurora Blackguard September 14, 2010 at 11:17 AM #

    I can totally understand the jumping mexican bean habits of my writing when related to yours. It’s really difficult. I’ve got two other stories and a play I’m juggling and it’s becoming a hassle to keep switching characters. Thanks!

    But one thing: you said it’s good to tell people about your books – before or after?? Because you know, sudden novel death syndrome 🙂

    • Jennifer September 14, 2010 at 6:07 PM #

      That made me think of Savannah’s article, too!

    • samanthabina September 14, 2010 at 6:19 PM #

      That’s definitely another problem. When you have to keep switching characters and tones, you can definitely lose some motivation. Even though all of my current pieces are on the dark side, the tones are radically different. So skipping back and forth does not help my situation at all.

      I’m basically preaching the opposite of Savannah, in that respect, lol. I tell people about my stuff right when I start. For me, it serves as motivation, but I can see how it would kill someone else’s.

      • Aurora Blackguard September 15, 2010 at 11:46 AM #

        so, another point of view? 🙂 It’s really interesting that telling people about your stories helps considering how it spells out suicide for others. Thanks Sammy! (that sounded so weird – my name’s sammy too). Anyway, awesome post! 😀

        • samanthabina September 15, 2010 at 11:12 PM #

          Some things just work for some people, and not for others! It’s so weird!

  4. Jess September 14, 2010 at 11:35 AM #

    Lilith Saintcrow (or Lili St. Crow here in the YA sphere) gave me three simple words that sum up your post:

    Discipline Builds Momentum.

    I mentioned how I had completed a new novel recently to a friend struggling through his first. He made an offhand comment like this: of course you did, you’re unemployed and have all day to write.

    Know what I told him? I spend typically no more than an hour and a half every day writing. I use an egg timer. That’s it. That’s my big secret. Three half hour stints of forced writing.

    Discipline builds momentum.

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 14, 2010 at 4:25 PM #

      Brilliant three-word mantra, Jess! I’m going to go dig out my egg timer right now!

    • samanthabina September 14, 2010 at 6:20 PM #

      I need to try this egg timer business. Seriously. That’s kind of great.

      • Julie Eshbaugh September 14, 2010 at 7:30 PM #

        OMGosh I did the timer thing today and 30 minutes flew by like 10! Immediately added another 30. woot!

  5. jenn fitzgerald September 14, 2010 at 1:27 PM #

    Great article, Sammy! I totally have the same problem of jumping all over the place with my writing and rarely finishing things, so this is great advice 🙂

    • samanthabina September 14, 2010 at 6:21 PM #

      I know. Ugh. I’m still fighting through it, but I’ve definitely gotten better!

  6. Julie Eshbaugh September 14, 2010 at 4:23 PM #

    Great post Sammy!!! This was just loaded with advice I can use today (and today, I really need it.) Just before reading this, I had diagnosed what I think may be the issue holding me back from finishing my current revision… Fear of failure! I think a lot of authors fall back on the consolation that, if it’s not finished, it’s still improving. Today I decided that I have to trust myself to know when a project is done, and have faith that it is good. So I’m getting out my orange Nikes and I’m gonna take your advice and Just Do It! 🙂

    • samanthabina September 14, 2010 at 6:22 PM #

      Thanks, Julie!

      And I totally know what you mean. Ending a story is a really big deal. Like, REALLY big. But as I learned this summer, and over the course of writing my thesis, there comes a point where all you’re really doing is nitpicking over tiny things that won’t matter either way. Sometimes you just have to trust in yourself and shelve a project and know it’s the right thing. So finish that revision! You can do it! And I am positive that it is awesome 😀

      • Julie Eshbaugh September 14, 2010 at 7:48 PM #

        Sammy, you are so sweet! The truth is if it’s awesome or if it stinks, I have nothing to lose, right? It’s not published now, so things can only improve, or at the very least, stay the same. But at least I’ll have improved as a writer. 😉

  7. September 14, 2010 at 10:33 PM #

    I love Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die Writing Lab.

    • samanthabina September 15, 2010 at 11:13 PM #

      I hate WoD for some reason. I can use a timer, but for some reason I cannot use that site :-p

  8. Vanessa September 15, 2010 at 11:28 AM #

    Wonderful post Sammy!!!! ❤

    This is something I really needed to hear. There are times when I think, "I really should try writing at least a scene", and then I don't. Lately, I've been struggling to find time to write. Often, I get lines or ideas popping into my head right before I go to sleep, so I have a notebook beside my bed full of ideas/lines to insert into my MS. I really need to start getting back into having a routine for my writing.

    This post makes me want to write ASAP! So thank you! 😀 I guess I needed a push.

    • samanthabina September 15, 2010 at 11:14 PM #

      Me too :-/ I’ve had about ZERO time to write lately, so I’m trying REALLY HARD to set aside even just an hour a week. It’s better than nothing, for sure. You and I should be motivation buddies :-p At least in the sense of making sure the other person had time to write, lol.

      • Vanessa September 16, 2010 at 10:06 AM #

        We totally should be!!!!! I’ll start sending you harassing emails, ahahahahaha :p Errr, I mean… motivational emails 😉

        I guess the first step is noticing that we don’t set aside enough time to write (or any time, really).

  9. Marumae September 19, 2010 at 5:07 PM #

    Jeez are you me? I have the exact same problem and I couldn’t seem to find any real advice from anyone on it, I swear I sat down and thought (am I the only one who has this problem of too many stories no motivation? I’m going to set aside some real “writing time” during the week and see how that works! Thanks for the great advice!

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