Writing is great. Yes, it is hard work, particularly if you want to make a living from it, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Writers write because they love it. There is no better feeling than when you get into the flow and the words are pouring onto the page, turning your creative vision into a coherent piece of writing.
So why is it so hard to get started sometimes? Why do so many of us procrastinate when it comes to doing what we love?
Probably because writers also tend to be plagued with insecurities, and writing can be at least equally as frustrating as rewarding. Sometimes it’s downright painful. Nevertheless, in order to be a writer, you must actually write, even when you don’t feel like it, or when the inspiration just isn’t there.
So here are ten tips to help you get started on the days when it seems impossible to force out a single word:
1. Actively try to spark some inspiration. Use images and/or music to spark some ideas or prompt the right mindset. Grab a bunch of brightly coloured pens and a large sketch pad and brain storm ideas. Create a mind map or flow chart, scribble little stick figures, jot down little scraps of action, dialogue, anything that comes to mind. Make it fun, or just look at it from a different angle. Once those creative juices get flowing you’ll usually find yourself eager to get to the keyboard and get writing.
2. Change your location. Instead of sitting there staring at that blinking cursor and trying not to get distracted by social media, grab a pen and notebook and go find a nice park bench in the sun, or a patch of grass under a shady tree. A change of scenery and lack of tempting tools for procrastination can make a big difference.
3. Skip to a different scene in the novel, or change projects. Write a short story to take a break from the novel. If you’re coming up blank with ideas for new project, have a look at websites such as darkmarkets.com and browse through the calls for anthology submissions, find one that sparks your interest and write a short story to suit the brief.
4. Read. This might seem counter-productive, but reading books similar to what you want to write, or that inspired you to write in the first place, can spark enthusiasm and inspiration for your own writing again, and remind you of your own writing aspirations.
5. Free write. Sit down and use a prompt, or even a single random word, set a timer for five minutes and just write constantly for that amount of time anything that comes into your head that’s associated with your word or prompt. There are plenty of books and websites of writing prompts out there, or just open a book, close your eyes and randomly select a word on the page with your finger.
6. Establish a pre-writing routine, one that will train your brain to automatically switch to ‘writing mode’ when it is performed. Make a small ritual that helps your brain switch gears, such as preparing a particular tea or coffee, doing some yoga or tai chi, burning candles or incense, playing Bach on your record player, having a bath with scented oils, whatever floats your boat. Just make it consistent and do it every time, so your mind automatically knows when it is writing time.
7. Force yourself to sit down and write, but only for a short amount of time, such as ten minutes. That doesn’t seem like such an insurmountable obstacle, does it? Remove all distractions and temptations. Turn off the phone and internet, lock the door and put out the do not disturb sign. Often you’ll find that you get into the flow and write much longer than ten minutes. Other times you’ll flee the room screaming once the time is up and refuse to return until the next day’s designated ten minutes are due.
8. Start the day with some editing to ease into things. Or just re-read the last few paragraphs or chapters you wrote to get back into the swing of the story.
9. Set goals. Word counts, time spent writing, a number of short stories per week or month, anything that will engage your competitive side. Set yourself a challenge, get it down in writing and pin it over your workspace. Look at it every day and remind yourself to stay on track.
10. Write every day. The more you write, the more you’ll want to write, and the easier it will be to slip into writing mode every day. That might not seem to help you very much today, but consider it a longer term solution to the problem. A goal to work towards, if you’re goal oriented.
If all else fails, there’s always alcohol. Sometimes caffeine just isn’t enough to get the job done 🙂
Above all, just keep your dreams alive. You may go for days, weeks even without writing due to whatever circumstances, but don’t give up. It can be hard to get started again, but keep at it. Just write.