Last Thursday, I told you that I was in a complete writing slump, and that I would be spending the rest of the week testing out various different “cheats” for getting words on paper. Not with the view of producing great literature, but simply to shake myself out of the doldrums. Well, I made good on my promise, and now I can share the techniques I tried, and tell you what worked and what didn’t.
Get ready for a long list, people. With bullet points.
- Start a freakin’ blog. I’m serious. There have been so many days when I didn’t want to write at all, but then I thought, “Wait though, you’ll have to BLOG tomorrow. You have to have SOMETHING to write about!” Guilt-tripping works, people.
- Free write. This was the first thing I tried, and I’ll be honest, it didn’t really work all that well. But don’t write it off just because I said that. I think the problem this time was that I tried just writing down whatever came into my head, rather than having a direction I wanted to head. Whenever I have done free writing on a specific topic, it has worked like a charm.
- Try some guided journaling. I have several guided journals, one of which is specifically for generating inspiration, with a different thought-provoking quote on each page. I love them, and while they aren’t always exactly what I need, they can provide my mind with a nudge in an unexpected direction.
- Experiment with different forms. Usually write poetry? Try writing a how-to article. More of a high-fantasy writer? Write a contemporary romance short story. This can be hugely refreshing. I tend to be a bit of a dry, “this-happened-then-this-happened” writer, so every once in a while I feel the need to gush out some bad poetry in order to get out of my rut.
- Change your tools. I kid you not. This simple little change can actually put your brain into a different mode. I typically write either directly on my laptop, or in a typical student notebook with a pencil or ballpoint pen. A couple of days ago I decided to haul out my calligraphy pens and try some lettering. Well, it ended up turning into an imaginary correspondence between a young man from the early 1800s and his father, parts of which I have grown quite fond of.
- Draw. Really. Even if you “can’t.” As some of you may know, if you’ve read my blog before, I’m an artist, as well as a writer. One evening, I was doodling a face. It started out as a teenage boy, but one of the eyes became extremely slanted, and his whole face took on a mischievous, elfin aspect. I drew him some pointed ears, and he suddenly became Puck in a tee-shirt. Well, that was certainly interesting… Two hours later I found myself with a new plot line and a host of wonderful new people running around in my brain.
- Try a FanFic. I know, I know. I thought I was “above” them, too. I thought, “Really, if you’re going to spend your time on a story, it might as well be original.” How snobbish of me. I’m ashamed. On one of my dry days, I realized that all I wanted to do was sit around and obsess over one of my many fandoms, but I had this blog post hovering over me (See first bullet point), so I grabbed one of my notebooks and a couple of minor characters and started writing. It was such a blast, people, you have no idea. Plus it gave me a chance to practice quite a few of the skills I’ve been learning, all without any of the pressure that comes with original work.
- If all else fails, read good books. Sometimes, nothing works, and the words just won’t come. And that’s okay. That’s how life works. If you’re really in one of those nasty spaces, read the work of an author you admire. Really read it, don’t just surf over the story. Pay attention to the things the author does. Analyze what makes it great. This practice is immensely fun, for me anyway. It’s like being allowed to attend a masterclass free of charge, but you can sit in a pile of pillows with a cup of tea if you want to. (Welcome to my life, people. Piles of blankets and cups of tea make up a significant percentage of it.)
So there you have it. Some of my recommendations for getting words down on paper when nothing else seems to be working. Let me know if you try any of these, or if you have any sure-fire methods for snapping yourself out of your own writing doldrums. I’d love to hear about it!