We all have times when we face the screen or blank page and practically ache with the not-wanting-to-be-there and the sheer force required to keep us in our chairs. Here are some tips that might help you get past the block and writing again.
In the words of Elsa, “Let it go.” Are you not writing because you are too busy, because too many people want a piece of you, because you wish you’d said “no,” because circumstances beyond your control have landed you with yet another responsibility, because …? Grab a pen and write it all down. Write out your anger, your frustration. Grind your pen into the paper and have your pity party because dammit you’re entitled. Having all those negative emotions bottled up inside will severely hamper any attempts to dig into your creativity. When you’re done, tear up the page you filled into little bits and let it go. Exhale. Breathe. It’s okay. You’ve handled crazy stuff before and you can handle this—and it’s not going to get in the way of your writing anymore. Onward!
This idea comes from Jennifer Manuel and her blog, How to Write Your Best Story Ever with One Epic Exercise. She cites other authors who copied the works of their favourite writers in order to learn how to write better stories and unlock their creativity. The technique Manuel preferred was to copy her favourite book—by hand in a notebook—for 25 to 30 minutes every morning. When she was finished, she moved into her own writing. She chronicles the positive changes to her writing that occurred during the first year that she pursued this simple exercise. “Over time, I looked forward to my morning copywork because it became somewhat entrancing. Yet, I was absorbing incredible techniques of craft–in my head and in my heart and in my gut.” Check out Manuel’s blog to learn more. I’m going this myself right now. It’s a fascinating process and worth giving a try.
- Change where you write. When I get stuck, I head to my favourite coffee shop. Even writing in a different room in my house can unlock a story problem.
- Get walking! Or dancing! Or unearth your gym membership! Stanford researchers have found a link between creativity and walking, so why not give it a try. “We’re not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo, … [but] it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity.” (co-author of project, Marily Oppezzo) That works for me!
Find an accountability buddy who will be waiting every day for your email to say that you’ve written that day. It’s amazing how knowing that someone is waiting for you to get the work done will actually help you get it done.
Lower your goals. Consider striving for mini-habits instead of impossibly ambitious writing goals. Willpower and motivation will only take you so far. Setting a daily writing goal of 50 words a day is more likely to get you to the end of your project than setting a goal of 1000. You will succeed at writing 50, and once you’re done, you’re more likely to keep writing. If you fail at 1000, you only remember failing the next time you sit down to write. If you succeed at 50, you sit down to write the next day remembering success. To learn more about mini-habits, here’s a great blog by Kirsti Holl and a link to the book Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise. (Yes, I own the book. No, I don’t get anything for referring you to it.)
Sometimes it’s very hard to break from the busyness of your day and get into the writing groove. Consider a small ritual that will help you transition into writing mode. Light a candle, read an inspiring writer or colour a picture for 10 minutes, choose music or background sounds that change the pace of your day to writing mode, make a special cup of writing tea or coffee. Doing this regularly will help you find your internal writing space more quickly as time goes on.
Get inspired by other writers. Read your favourites. What makes them so special? Wallow in their wonderful ability to transport you into their worlds. Read books about writing and creativity. My favourites include the following:
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
- No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty
- Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice by Colum McCann
- Please add your favourite writerly book in the comments below.
When I’m stuck, my biggest challenge is to forgive myself for not being the perfect writer every day. Life happens (I’m an expert these days) and sometimes that means that writing doesn’t happen. Give yourself the time you need to heal, recover, regroup, whatever you need, but honour the writer in yourself by jotting the odd thought in a journal once in a while or on a sticky note (keeping it small) that you paste in a notebook, and think of this time as filling the well for the time when you and creativity are partners again.
If you’re ready to write that book, take advantage of what I’ve learned about writing and publishing by checking out my personalized writing coach options. Arrange for your free 15-minute telephone chat to see if I’m the coach for you. There’s a writer inside all of us, let me help you find yours.