I’m a Writer, Get Me Out of Here…!

starsAs one of my favourite TV programmes is on at the moment (IACGMOOH) I just couldn’t resist that title! ‘But, get me out of where?’ I hear you cry.

Well, dear reader, out of a writing rut.

Believe me, I’m writing this for myself as much as you (if indeed, you’ve also had the ‘wading through treacle’ feeling for the past few weeks or have ever suffered from tired brain, writer’s block, or a bad case of procrastination).

I don’t seem to be able to finish anything! And NaNoWriMo didn’t happen for me, of course (although I do still have the trusty notebook and will hopefully use it one day).

If you can relate to this quote from the American writer, William Goldman: ‘The easiest thing to do on earth is not write’ or you’re feeling uninspired and bored with your writing, then you might find something here for you.

I have scoured books and the trusty interweb for handy tips. I’ve even dredged my half-empty brain and managed to find a couple of ideas in there, so here goes:

1. Forgive Yourself

OK, I admit, this is a bit new-age-y (stop sniggering at the back) BUT if you haven’t written as much as you’d like recently, in the words of that song from Frozen: Let It Go. That time’s gone (eek, I’m depressing myself now) .. and there’s nothing you can do about it (it’s getting worse), so don’t brood. Look at yourself in the mirror, say something nice (‘I forgive you!’) and then, move on.

2. No Social Media Until 4pm

This works for me, on the days when I manage to stick to the rule: do not look at emails, Twitter, Facebook, blogs or the like until 4pm. The theory being, that at 4pm you still have an hour of the ‘working day’ left, if there’s anything that needs your attention that day (eg: sometimes – oh, happy days – the editor of Take a Break accepts a story from me by email and asks for the email version to be sent ‘as soon as possible’).

Not browsing the internet during the day means – as well as saving lots of time – I seem to have a much clearer head.

3. Plan

Maybe you’ve simply run out of steam because you didn’t plan enough before you started writing your novel? Many people swear by the ‘Snowflake Method’ – have a look, it might work for you!

4. Change Things

Try writing in a different location, at a different time of day or in a different genre (just for fun – you might like it). Change the sex of your protagonist or the point of view from which your story’s written (from first to third, say or from single to multiple point of view). Write in present tense instead of past, by hand instead of straight onto the PC.

5. Write First Thing in The Morning

There are fewer distractions, you can do it in bed, your will-power will probably be at its highest level and – added bonus – if you get your writing done first thing, you’ll feel super-duper for the rest of the day.

Linked to this, you could try doing Morning Pages. I do these about 50% of the time and once you get into the habit, they become as routine and necessary as cleaning your teeth. Morning Pages are a kind of writerly meditation and they do help create ‘mind-space’, in my humble opinion.

6. If You Can’t Write, Read.

Read inspiring novels or books that will re-ignite your love of the written word. My personal recommendations: A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves; On Writing: a Memoir of The Craft by Stephen King, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

7. Challenge Yourself …

..to write for 30 minutes (or an hour, or whatever you choose), every day for the next 2 weeks. Then set yourself ONE goal for those 2 weeks and break it down into chunks of 30 minutes (or an hour or whatever you’ve chosen). Focus on one project at a time (Oh, I am soooo guilty of not doing this).

8. Use a Timer

Use a timer for scenes that you find difficult to write. No editing (‘til later). Just do it!

9. Give Yourself Permission to Write Rubbish

I really like this quote from author Anna Hope, who (in the latest Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special), when asked ‘Do you ever get writer’s block?’ said, “Rarely, because I have a technique of just writing rubbish until the good stuff comes. It’s like a rusty tap – you keep on until the water runs clear again.”

10. Create a Playlist

Crime writer Ian Rankin does this for every new novel he writes. He creates a playlist of songs and every time he listens to it, it puts him back in the world of the book.

Time-slip novelist Kath McGurl creates a Pinterest board of inspiring images when she starts to craft her next novel (but it doesn’t have to be on Pinterest, you could create a physical ‘mood board’ instead). I’ve never tried these techniques (but then, I’ve never written a novel). They might work for you!

11. Discover What You Really Want to Write About

Perhaps you’re ‘stuck’ because you’re not really writing what excites or interests you.

There’s a great exercise in The Writer’s Book of Days which goes like this: number a page from 1 – 100 and then, as quickly as you can and without really thinking about it, make a list of 100 things you want to write about. Use single words or short phrases, no long descriptions. It doesn’t matter if you repeat yourself (that means it’s really important). Just get it down. Write down 100 themes, memories, mysteries, intriguing situations or questions you want answers to.

So there you go – 11 ideas for getting out of your own writerly ‘bushtucker trial’. Let me know if you’ve got any other tips!

im-a-celebrity-get-me-out-of-here

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20 Responses to I’m a Writer, Get Me Out of Here…!

  1. Heather Walker says:

    I have done NaNoWriMo once. I’m lucky that I don’t work so time wise it’s easier. I’ve also found that I’m quite disciplined in my writing (how? I don’t know, not in much else!!) and I can get 1,000 or so words down a day no probs. I set my own realistic targets and don’t get down if I miss them but more than not I get there before! I do have playlists. It’s usually Trance (hardly any words, they distract) and I often use the same list over and over for that piece of writing. It sets the mood. With the novel I’m working on now I chose a particularly moody playlist to match the atmosphere I wanted to create. It works for me.

  2. Helen Yendall says:

    Thanks for your comment, Heather. You do sound disciplined – good for you! I think half my problem is that I have lots of (little) projects on the go at once. If I had just ONE big thing – like a novel – I might be better at knuckling down to it!

  3. Sara Kellow says:

    It’s all about word counts for me. I keep a spreadsheet to make myself feel businesslike when it’s going well. If it’s any consolation it’s going badly at the mo. after pounding out roughly 30000 words half the letters on my keyboard don’t work any more and I have to use ASCII code instead (ie ALT 100 = d) Handy to know if your keyboard’s broken but not conducive to elegant prose!

  4. pennywrite says:

    Useful advice! Thank you. Writing rubbish isn’t always the easy option – it really does depend on the ‘let it go’ factor allowing it to happen. But once you start, well, it certainly helps to have even rubbish to work on.
    My personal choice of A Really Helpful Writing Book would be A J Palmer’s ‘Writing and Imagery.’ (Aber Publishing).

  5. Kate Hogan says:

    Thanks for the advice, Helen. I too am wading through treacle at the moment. Too many projects that need work on scattered around me. Too much fear of the ‘familiar theme’ writing and not enough enthusiasm to care much! So I’ll try some of the helpful tips you’ve been kind enough to put together. I hope they work for you, too. Good wishes Kate Hogan

    • Thanks, Kate. Hope they work for you too! My friend (who’s laid up with a horrible bug) texted me today to say she’d just read my blog and it had saved her from ‘gloom of paracetomols, tissues, antibiotics’ and her ‘haven’t managed Nano guilt’. She had decided to ‘forgive herself’ and get on with a list of 100 things she wanted to write about, so that was nice to know.

  6. I never get stuck for ideas – but deciding on one and buckling down to taking it further is another matter. Very useful post, thanks, Helen (particularly tip on no social media until 4pm!).

  7. juliathorley says:

    That snowflake method looks too much like hard work. When I get stuck, I say to myself ‘OK, no writing today,’ and I go out. It doesn’t have to be anywyhere special: just into town for a coffee will often do the trick. I don’t know if it’s the change of scenery or the fact that as soon as I say I’m not going to do something I perversely want to, but it often helps. If nothing else, I’ve had a trip out!

    • Yes, I’m not too sure about the Snowflake method either. The idea is, I think, that you do a lot of the work ‘up front’ so when it comes to the actual writing, off you go.. all the planning done and the rest of it’s a breeze! Hmm, maybe.

  8. Tracy Fells says:

    I use playlists for novel writing and it seems to work like a form of conditioning. I’ve even created different playlists for different characters (POV). I do like the sound of no. 11, which for my Flash nano challenge would be useful as now on day 22 I’m running very low on story ideas. Thanks for these, Helen.

  9. LadyCristobel says:

    oh, I love the rusty tap simile, Helen! On a recent flash fiction workshop we did this several times a day. I would not have believed that after all the rust that flowed out the water would run so clear and become an exciting piece of writing.

    I (whose middle name is ‘no-I-won’t-ever-write-a-novel’) have just submitted my very first Nano novel to the non-human Nano word counter. The sheer quantity of writing over the past three weeks has massively increased my optimism about my writing. A couple of short story acceptances helped but my optimism does have to be topped up regularly.
    oh, and I used Freemind to structure the novel, very helpful, and an alternative to snowflake.
    Thanks for the post.

    • I love the rusty tap simile too! Never heard it before but it makes such sense to me and has spurred me on to try to ‘write through the rubbish’! Well done for completing NaNo and well done on the short story acceptances. May I ask where they’ll be appearing?

  10. What a useful post! Thank you, Helen.

    I find researching a novel (which I’m currently doing) becomes an excuse for not writing, so I’ve tasked myself each day to work on short stories. I also have two ‘to do’ lists, one for the week and one for each day, which does help, even if some jobs get moved on a day (or two). I agree that working in a different location can help. I’ll often go out for a coffee and sit for a couple of hours writing because there are no distractions. Bliss.
    Francesca

  11. Della Parker says:

    No social media till 4.00 pm. That is my favourite one. How do you do that exactly? xxx

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