How to get in the right writing headspace

Half the battle with a long-term writing project is getting in the right frame of mind and staying there. Here’s my advice for getting in the right writing headspace…

It takes focus, determination and attention to successfully start and finish a writing project. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts and the occasional podcast episode, it’s a lifestyle choice to be a writer. Everything else needs to adjust around it. Including — and some may argue, most importantly — your mindset. It’s quite a psychological business, writing. If your head isn’t fully in it, you won’t get it done. And yes, obviously everyone’s process will be different for getting into the right writing headspace. But as I start another week’s work on You Can Hear Chopin, these are the steps I take to get mentally ready.

Set a reasonable time frame

One think adult life continually teaches me — there aren’t enough hours in a day. But even that shouldn’t prevent you from progressing into your project. So, I always begin by setting aside some time, whether that’s in that day or across a whole week, and call it dedicated writing time. You set yourself too much or too little time, your mind is going to wander, or you’re going to feel too much pressure and procrastinate. My window is usually an hour, maybe two depending on how long or difficult or busy the day is. With complete focus, a lot can get done in those 60 minutes.

Set an achievable goal for that time frame

Again, this can vary according to your own commitments, dependents and so on, though there are a lot of writers argue the whole 1,500 words a day thing as gospel. Within an hour, I like to aim for 1,000 words. Or, on particularly busy days when I’m working on other projects simultaneously, 500 words. That’s easily achievable and pushes me closer to the end of the process. More often than not, I’ll exceed that anyway, which gives a greater sense of progress at the end.

Remove distractions

You’ll see a lot of writers out there on social media posting pictures of their writing spaces. If you’re lucky enough to have such a space, fantastic. However, if not, make one as fit for purpose as possible for getting into that writing headspace. If you can sit in another room from your TV, games consoles, etc., that’s a good start. Otherwise you’ll have Netflix calling you from the other side of the room.

It’s a no-brainer: the fewer distractions you have, the more likely you are to engage with your work.

Close your web browser

An off-shoot of the distractions point. I find that unless I find a very engaging playlist, I cannot have YouTube open on my browser. I don’t even like to check research points, facts, etc. while I’m writing — I’ll leave a comment to myself in the draft to check another time in the re-draft and edit process. Because I know what I’m like. I get on YouTube or Google, I fall down a rabbit hole of watching videos and reading irrelevant content. Best advice: keep it all turned off. Just you and your Word processor.

Set your ambience

Admittedly contradicting my previous point. Unless you’re someone who thrives in total silence, give yourself a soundtrack. It may help you focus, maybe even inspire you. Whether it’s a full-on Ibiza-style dance playlist or just ambient sounds like waves on a shore or a rainforest… set it on your phone and then set your phone on the other side of the room. Out of reach, out of sight, out of mind. You’ll be less tempted to check it, flick onto Instagram, or whatever else could risk distracting you out of your timeframe and away from your goal.

None of what I have described above requires a great deal of effort, when you boil it down. So, getting into the right headspace for writing is quite easy.

Thank you for reading. Do you have any questions? Or alternative suggestions for getting into the right mindset for writing? Get in touch via my Facebook and Instagram pages. Also read further posts out more about my latest novel, and stay up to date with my podcast.