Monday, February 15, 2016

When the Writing Gets Hard: 3 Ways to Refresh

It's been my goal this year (so far) to write a lot more than I did in 2015. Don't get me wrong. I did write a decent amount in 2015, even winning at Camp NaNoWriMo in July, but that story still isn't finished, and I've started other stories since that time.

Probably not a good thing to do when all I want to do is publish several books, and make a living from my writing.

Add to that, this month I've been battling a nasty cold and sore throat. It's absolute misery, and nothing sounds good, except watching TV and eating an excess of junk food. I did manage to get a decent amount of writing done when I stayed home from church with a fever, but fevered writing can sometimes be a bit jenky. Or absolutely brilliant. I'll let you know when I'm back in my right mind.

So what's a person to do when the "Muse" is being fickle, and not helping you do your job?

1. Sometimes, you have to kick her to the curb and write anyway.

When I was in college, one of my teachers told us that sometimes writing will suck. You will type out absolute garbage, but in a way, you're clearing the garbage out of your head to make room for the good stuff. Besides, first drafts aren't supposed to be good. They're supposed to be blueprints.

A few years ago, I had a story on this website, which is now defunct, Five Sprockets, that I wrote whenever I just had to clear my head. It was trite, annoying, probably took a little too liberally from where I wish my life was, but it helped me to get into a zone so I could transition into a story I preferred working on. That story eventually became Sugar & Spies, which is currently in the process of rewrites (and holy frijoles, does it suck!).

2. Get out.

Do it. Go out. Get out of your home, bedroom, office, wherever it is that you write, just leave. Try someplace new. 

My sister and I take sister dates, occasionally. We used to go to this coffee shop in Omaha, Legends, which is also a Comic Book store. We're super geeky, and enjoy looking at collectibles for sale, while also settling down to write. We're there with our headphones, our coffee, and Pandora, and just the change of scenery helps a lot.

I'm planning to test out my local library as a place to write very soon. But last time I was there, someone let their kids run and scream through the place. Not so quiet anymore, I guess? (And yes. I'm totally shaming people who let their kids scream in a library. Deal with it).

But if you're suffering from some kind of block, sometimes switching things up helps. It might be difficult, even in winter (especially in the Midwest, where we seem to be getting a blizzard every other week, which is really starting to annoy the hell out of me and my sinuses).

Go for a walk, go to the gym, go shopping, go to a museum, go to the zoo. Just get out, and get some air. Being cooped up does not help the artistic process. If you're in the Omaha Metro Area, the Joslyn Art Museum permanent exhibit is free, and they have some amazing pieces. They even have a Jackson Pollock! Art usually gets the juices flowing.

I also recommend finding a new book to read. Reading helps my writing more than not reading ever did. Comparing my manuscripts from when I've been reading a lot to when I've been watching a lot of TV, the difference is astounding.

3. Take some time off.

Yes, this contradicts the first two on the list, but hear me out. Sometimes, I will go for days without writing, because it is physically impossible for me to put words out into the universe. I know that sometimes, you just want to be hard on yourself, and like I said, write through it, but sometimes, it's physically impossible, and that is OKAY. Sometimes, you just need a break. Give yourself a day or two, but don't take too much time off. It's hard to get started again once you've stopped (like going to the gym.

Nine times out of ten, these tips really help me to decompress and get right back to writing. Sometimes, it's all the push you need.

  • How do you push past periods of hard writing?

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