Hands up if you’ve left your writing to die.
Me. Guilty as charged.
Whatever anyone else tells you, writing is difficult. It’s lonely and insular and complex (I assume like living at an Antarctic scientific installation). Whenever you tell people you write, they assume that you’re 100% creative 100% of the time, and bombard you with spur of the moment requests either in conversation or in writing.
I’m going to share a secret, guys. I am only good at writing. I can’t speak to humans in a meaningful and productive way, unless I’m totally prepared. I am not a creativity dispenser.
Which is why I guess my writing has died. This is more than writer’s block. This is all the more chronic. This is finding a hundred other things to do rather than writing. This is being so exhausted, you can’t put finger to keyboard. And suddenly, you haven’t written a word for two months and you’re wondering how you’re ever going to get back in there. You hate your characters, and you hate the plot, and you look back over everything you’ve written and wail, ‘I’m a talentless hack! Why am I doing this?’ and your finger hovers over the delete key because it would be way, way better than anything you’ve done up until now.
But there are ways to get around this. It takes time, and a bit of courage and creativity, but you can revive that cold corpse once more.
- Accept you have a life, and you’re busy. It’s so easy to feel guilty for being an adult. I mean, when I started writing at 12, I could bash out a novel in 6 months or less. And that’s because I didn’t have to cook, clean, go to work or pay my bills. I went straight from that to uni, where it was my job to write. Then, I went from that to Thailand, where I was hugely inspired. As soon as I started having a career, MIRACULOUSLY, my writing started to dry. My job is no 9-5. So when I come home at 8pm, after being at work for 13 hours, I don’t want to do anything else that is remotely taxing. And that’s okay. Writing should be enjoyable. Give yourself time to do it. Schedule time for it, like every other job you have to do in your week, and stick to it. Even if what you write is horrible. This is about flexing your muscle again, and getting rid of the atrophy.
2. Talk to other writers about what you think is wrong. If you explain your problem to someone else who is creative, in as much detail as you can bear, chances are they’ll be able to help you out. Their ideas might stink, or not work in practise, but it’s really good to try new things. One of the reasons writing dies is because you aren’t taking any risks, and you’ve got comfortable where you are. Remind yourself what it’s like to fail and fix. Sometimes, what will happen is the idea will come to YOU in conversation, and then you can try it out.
3. Write something new. Clean the canvas. I always find that if I embark on another project or short story, it gives me a little bit of confidence of edge that I lost, and I can go back to the other thing with fresh eyes. Write from another character’s point of view, or write a before and after, or do some automatic writing (writing for 5 minutes solid, without stopping or judging yourself). Better yet, get away from the keyboard and write by hand. I always think writing by hand makes you remember you have control over what you’re writing.
4. Go back to the drawing board. Get back into the nitty gritty. Go back to your planning. Re-read your notes. Do some research on how to catch rabbits in the winter or what kinds of wild food you can find when it’s snowing. Edit something else you’ve previously written and practise your craft. Something in there will rekindle your ideas.
5. Make it no pressure. Don’t have the document open all day, staring at it, waiting for it to murder you. Make this your time. Turn off the TV. Shut the door. Unhook the phone. Turn the internet off. Open a bottle of wine. Put your pyjamas on. Make it relaxed and fun. Even if you just write one paragraph you’re happy with, that’s more than you originally thought. Honestly, you don’t have to write every day if you can’t. But you should do something related to your writing every day, and it should be low pressure.
I hope that’s helpful for you, because it’s working for me. I’m writing my final novel in the Ash-Brides trilogy, and I’m super stuck – so I started writing from Garrick’s perspective. I like his voice, it’s fun – and I think I might include it in the novel, now. But it’s leading up to the super stuck bit, and I think with Garrick’s help, I might be able to get through this thing.
Everyone should always try to do something new with their writing from time to time. It’s good for you, I promise.
NEXT WEEK: Editing (again) and how I do the thing.