I’ve been asked once or twice how it is I’m able to run my editing business, post regularly on my blog, perform my tasks as Story Coordinator and Chief Editor for CWC, engage with enthusiasm in a few other collaborations, and still find the time and energy to write my own fiction.
It was a very good question, and it took me a moment to really think about what it was that gave me that extra pep once all the “work” (which isn’t work, really; I love it so much) was finished during the day. Yes, I am involved in a rather insane number of projects – personal, professional, and communal. No, I don’t work on each one of them every single day. Technically, I only have 17 hours to work with in a day. Realistically, I’m doing something writing-related about 10-12 of those hours. How?
I realized that it was the variety of projects, for both work and purely out of enjoyment, that kept me going every day.
It would be a lie to say that I work on my solo fiction projects – novels and short stories – every day. Sometimes I just can’t find the brain power…or the motivation, inspiration, lightning bolt of creativity, if you will…to work on my own novels. Others may call this temporary hiatus from my own fiction work “writer’s block”. I do not subscribe to this phrase or idea.
I can say in all honesty that I write every single day. No matter what. And most days it’s because I don’t really have a choice in the matter. Deadlines approach, emails and updates need to be sent, other writers anxiously await my “section” in the collaborative rotation. I write so many things on a consistent basis that if I were to combine everything from just the last month, I would have a full-length (albeit highly disorganized and senseless) novel already!
The question asked, along with some prompting from a colleague, brought me to write this post today about how to get yourself writing…a lot.
There are so many things you can do to push yourself into the “zone”, so many things that can open the floodgates for your own creative process. Even if you have diagnosed yourself with the ethereal creative disease known as “Writer’s Block”.
#1 (and this is really important, folks): There is no such thing as “Writer’s Block”.
Okay, I know. This may be blasphemous to some. But I really don’t believe this is a thing. Sure, you may be stuck on a certain project, but your talents as a writer and love of creating have not been blasted back by some invisible wall. If you tell yourself that you are going to write, you will.
#2: Take a break.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a break from writing altogether. If you’re feeling particularly stuck with a novel, short story, or other project…step away. We beat ourselves over the head with a spiked club because we can’t write the next chapter of a work in progress, and then we still expect to be able to write after that? That just sounds mean. I have one project underway that I haven’t touched in five weeks – but I don’t have writer’s block. I just need to let the project stew for a bit, soak in its destiny, before I come back to it and attack it like a hungry shark. In the meantime, I follow the next step.
#3: Find another project.
It took me a few years, actually, to realize that working on multiple projects at once did not mean I had completely abandoned the ones I set down for a while. I promise you that whatever your favorite book series is, it wasn’t written all at once. Neither should your own projects be if you’re finding difficulty in continuing. Move on to something else. Did you start a different novel years ago but then toss the idea? Is there a short story or fragment that you were really passionate about but then couldn’t finish? Pick these back up! Our brains are constantly changing along with our skills and imagination, so revisiting these projects later down the road has phenomenal potential. You wrote these things for a reason, right? You may just find a reason to finish them. (And if you haven’t already, start saving all of your pieces and scraps of writing…now! Read my post on why you should always save your most seemingly inconsequential scribbles here.)
#4: It’s okay to use writing prompts.
For some reason, I used to have an aversion to writing prompts. Maybe they felt like a “cheat sheet” that I was too proud to use in my younger years. I learned how valuable they were out of desperation, though, and I have come to love a good writing prompt. It can be absolutely anything to ignite your creative spark. I’ve written short stories inspired by prompts that were completely unrelated in every way…except for the fact that reading the prompt gave me a new idea. There are the classic places like the Writers Digest Prompt page, where people post prompts and you are literally given hundred of ideas for free. Or, because I love them, Facebook groups like An Author’s Tale, with a moderator or moderators who provide daily or weekly writing prompts, either from themselves or directly from other members of the group. This is a wonderful place to search, simply because when you’ve seen the prompt, written a fantastic piece, and are wonderfully proud of yourself, you also have the added benefit of other group members with which you can share your work! Communities like this are founded in order to give writers feedback, support, and inspiration. You never know what may come out of sharing your work, and graciously receiving feedback, in places like these.
#5: Join a collaboration.
This seems like a big step, but putting your head together with one or more other writers turns writing into a sort of alternate reality. Reach out in these Facebook groups you joined, contact your own writing friends, and ask people if they’d like to write something with you. Giving yourself to the mercy of your brain – mixed with one, five, or ten other brains – gives a life and breadth to a collaboration that writing on your own definitely lacks. I cannot say that one is better than the other, but collaborating with other writers is a surefire way to get your words down on paper.
First, you’re brainstorming like crazy with other like-minded, creative people. Second, when you really commit yourself to working on something with others, you are no longer just accountable to yourself. There are people actually counting on you to write the next section, sitting at the edge of their seats to read your work. Yes, it may start out as excitement for writing their own next section, but give it a few rounds and everyone is more invested in the story than ever seemed possible. Plus, the satisfaction of finishing a collaborative project and seeing how it morphed into a beautiful work is something I feel every author should experience at least once. Take a look at my article on The Three Components to Writing a Successful Collaborative Novel to kick off your collaboration with a bang. And if you really want to experience a treat in successful (and published) collaborations, sign up with Collaborative Writing Challenge (CWC)! We are always on the lookout for great new authors to join our ranks, and you can’t go wrong with a chapter or two published at the end!
#6: Talk about what you’re working on with other writers.
No, this does not make you conceded, selfish, self-absorbed, or arrogant. Talk to others with similar interests, whether you find them in your writing communities online, in your collaborative projects, or within your own group of friends. Some of the most invigorating and inspiring conversations I’ve had are those I’ve engaged in with other writers about what I’m having difficulty writing. We all know what we want our stories to be, but sometimes it’s hard to get them there. Geeking out with another author over robots, favorite books, new rules or twists on parallel universes, magical powers, conspiracy theories, or any other fabulous factors of your work in progress will not only hone your skills at explaining what you envision, but it will remind you why you started writing any of it in the first place. We are writers. We know what makes us tick (and what usually makes other people stare off into space and drool on themselves until we’re finished ranting). But when you find someone else who ticks to the same tock, the possibilities are endless!
I could have added one more tip, but I like to think of it as just some extra advice. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. I know, there’s a lot of romanticism that goes along with the “struggling writer” persona, who thrives on coffee, Pop Tarts, cigarettes, and two hours of sleep a night (with a little bit of head-bludgeoning thrown in for good measure). But your writing muscle is just like all the other parts of your body – it needs food, water, sunlight, fresh air, and rest. If you can help it, try not to sit down at the computer (or notebook) on an empty stomach, or with eyelids that sink like you’ve attached concrete bricks to them and thrown them in the river. More important than anything you could possibly write is your own health and sanity.
I’m not saying to go bog yourself down with all-you-can-eat writing projects, but I have noticed that the more of these things I “pencil into my schedule”, the more I write. Having your fingers in a lot of different word-pies will give you more opportunities for creativity than drawing constant blanks on the same project, over and over. The point is to oil the hinges and get writing. Isn’t that what we’re here for?
I’d love to see your comments on other habits, hobbies, or practices that keep you in tip-top writing shape. Share them below!