Struggling to stay focused? Zero motivation? Every start sound god awful? Yeah, well welcome to the club. I live for the days where writing is a breeze, where not even the Hoover Dam could hold back the flood of inspiration. Every word seems to flow onto the page with a life its own as the story, chapter, scene, whatever evolves beneath your very fingers.
Alas, this is not all the time.
“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
–Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades
Of course, there is a plethora of advice for when writer’s block takes hold and refuses to let you go, most of it contradictory or just plain unrealistic. Some authors hold that you should write every day. Every. Single. Day. Whether it be for half an hour or a couple, put something related to your story on paper. So what if it’s garbage and you end up throwing it out? You did something.
Obviously, this approach is not for the faint of heart. Yes, I self-identify in this category. Throwing something out feels like ripping off a piece of myself. No idea how authors can ditch a third or more of their work and just start over. Heck no. While I do try to do something productive story-wise nearly every day, sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s called life and it happens every day.
So instead of harping on all the ways that writing (or trying to write) can bog a writer down, I’m going to highlight some ways to uplift, cut loose, have a little fun.
Exhibit A: I did a writer sprint (virtually) with a group of like-minded writers. Yes, I know I literally just said you shouldn’t force yourself to write every day. But this was more about trying out a new exercise with a supportive group than any intent of productivity. Sometimes, you may not be the one who needs the exercise, doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t benefit from a joint endeavor.
The premise here is to dedicate a solid chunk of uninterrupted time to just go. No edits, no backspace, just your fingers moving across a keyboard (or pen across paper, if that’s your preference. I do both and don’t judge). There are of course, a couple ways to do this: A) Everyone uses the same prompt to get the juices going B) Hit your current WIP hard.
What we did last night was focus on a current project. We each posted initial word count for accountability, then launched into the first leg of the sprint. The key here is dedication. I won’t lie, I was multitasking like a boss (dinner, dogs, dialogue)…which you’re not supposed to do. I also was actually just typing up things I’d technically already written and developing the concepts as I transferred from one medium to another.
….Anyway. We went for thirty minutes full out, paused for a five minute recess, then resumed to finish out our devoted hour. At the end, we all shared our thoughts about the experience and our final word count. Now, the actual number was irrelevant (mine was 1,333), the point was that we each had done something. For some, that was the first time they’d even looked at their story in weeks, for others it was more about the social aspect. All of that is fine. You get out of it what you need and we all accomplished something together.
It was fun. I’d do it again. Hopefully with far less multitasking next time.
Another really fun way to shake up ideas is one that I started using in high school when K. N. Cowser and I first started working on the Shadow Chronicles. For consistency, we’ll call it exhibit B.
You ready for this? Pretty sure you’re not.
Exhibit B: Don’t write a damn thing.
You heard me. Nada. (Unless you feel so moved once you begin the exercise.)
Here’s how it works. Grab a buddy. (Preferably one familiar with the story you’re struggling with.) Do you have your exit buddy? Good. Now the focus of this game is character. Some situational aspects may come into play, but predominantly everything will center around your character and their decisions. Because…you will be concocting crazy (and some not so crazy) scenarios to drop them.
For example: What would your character do if they suddenly found themselves at an underground rave? Oh, your character exists in eighteenth century England? Tough cookies. You want to alter the prompt to suit the era? Nope. Answer as is; that’s part of the challenge.
The idea behind this is to see how well you truly know your character and fill in the gaps as you go. I promise, it’s a ton of fun and you may even stumble across some things you actually end up using. I know I have. In fact, a great resource to help launch this was given to me as a gift by a fellow writer.
Actually planning to use it tomorrow, so wish me luck. Trust me, there be some crazy situations in there and it’s a total blast!
Welp, those are my two shares for the week. What ways do you conquer the drag of being uninspired? Share with us all. You never know what tip might be absolute gold!