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.
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!