You’re half way through your novel and suddenly you don’t want to work on it anymore.
You’re past deadline and your editor wants to know where your manuscript is.
The thought of writing gives you a headache and sends you to bed.
We’ve all been there, the writer who doesn’t want to write. We’re tired, we’re bored. We’d like to take a break and do something else more exciting, even if it’s scrub the toilet or feed the pigs. Ernest Hemingway said it so well. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
I believe writing is a gift. Others look at writing as a job. Either way, we all come to the page the same, inspired or not to get words on paper.
How we do that, though, is another story. Some writers designate a specific time, say, every day 8 a.m. to noon, as their writing time. During those hours they write, whether they feel like it or not. Others write in big chunks of time when they feel inspired. They let artistic inspiration take over and write until they are empty. Then they wait for the well to fill and repeat the process. Productivity is as varied as there are writers, and we each handle writing-time differently.
I don’t write everyday. Many days I lack inspiration. But I do do something writing-related everyday. This is my job and fans are waiting for the next story. I can’t let lack of inspiration keep me from doing the work. If I did, nothing would ever get done.
So here’s what I do when I don’t feel like writing.
I work on something writing related, like marketing.
I research for the next story.
I do something writing related and record it on a calendar I keep on my desk. Too many blank days in my calendar means I’m lazy and unfocused and I need to get busy.
If you’re feeling uninspired, here are some tips that may help.
1) Show up.
If it’s a workday, work. Record your progress on your calendar and then go play. At the end of the day you may not have written five pages, but you will have done something to move forward and the day won’t have been wasted.
2) Reward yourself with Internet and email after writing. You’d be surprised what a motivator that is.
3) Set a timer and start writing.
Turn off your internal editor and just start writing. Anything. Even if you write ‘this is crap’ for ten minutes. Free writing stimulates the brain and before you know it you’ll be in the zone. You can’t edit a blank page, so get to work.
4) Change your location.
Sometimes a change in location can be just the boost you need. Go outside and write in the sun. Go sit by a stream. Even a coffee shop or library can inspire you to be productive.
5) Work on something new, or collaborate with another writer.
Often we get tired of working on the same thing everyday. It’s boring and unchallenging. Work on something else. Have more than one story in the basket at a time. When you tire of one you can still be productive. Just be sure to complete those stories and not use this as an excuse to procrastinate.
6) Have a writing buddy.
Having someone who understands the writing process is invaluable. Whine to your writing buddy when you don’t want to write. Finding out that they are having a good productive day will tweak the competitor in you and send you to your desk. Before you know it the words will flow again.
7) Get up and move.
Take a walk. Take a coffee break. Physical exercise often stimulates the muse.
8) Listen to music and set the mood.
I have a meditation CD I play when I lack inspiration. Sometimes I also light a candle. These stimuli tell my brain it’s time to work and add pleasure to what can some days be daunting.
9) Read a good book. Read a bad book.
Either one will get you thinking. Why did he/she use that word? Why does this work so well? This is a piece of shit. I can do better.
10) Allow yourself to make mistakes.
The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be written.
Not every writer approaches the blank page the same. Some writers work best at night. Some in the morning. Some during the day when kids are in school. Some only when the muse strikes hot. How you approach the blank page is up to you. The trick is to be consistent, to keep writing even on days when you’d rather mow the lawn.