We hear a lot about creating a sense of urgency in our writing. But do you have it in your writing life?
A recent ADOBE study showed that 8 in 10 people see unlocking creativity as vital to economic growth and nearly two-thirds consider creativity an asset to society. Yet only 1 in 4 people worldwide believe they are living up to their creative potential. Yipes. Though it’s refreshing to hear that creativity is valued, those results are frightening. And I couldn’t help but wonder how many writers feel similarly.
I’m not suggesting we run around in a “MUST WRITE” panic, as…entertaining as that might be. And I know many of you are eager go-getters who interact on social media between intense bouts of writing, or have deadlines keeping you on your toes. Regardless, I think we can all use tips and reminders when it comes to maintaining writing glee. Remember that wheeee feeling we talked about a few posts back? The following steps have helped me ignite it when the swing set seems slightly out of reach.
10 Ways to Relight Your Writing Fire & Keep it Burning
1. Write when ideas strike, or shortly thereafter. There’s a reason ideas are illustrated by cartoon lightbulbs a la head. When they strike us, they are HOT. If we wait hours, days or longer to put them down on paper, they’re likely to fizzle out. Keep a note pad in your car, purse or workplace, or type your thoughts into your computer or phone.
2. Nurture ideas you’re excited about. It can be tempting to choose a topic or premise only because it seems profitable. But writing for (what I believe are) wrong reasons shows. I believe we should write stories because if we don’t, we might explode, stories that have us jumping out of bed in the morning. Think about the book you’ve always wanted to read, then write it.
3. If you don’t have a full-fledged story idea, start with a character, place or issue you’re revved up about. In other words, get excited about something. Don’t sit there waiting for exciting story ideas to crop up. Excitement attracts ideas; boredom nukes them. You could also try brainstorming a list—quickly—of possible ways to build on your starting point, or simply write about it until something forms. Then go to a quiet place you find inspiring and let the ideas flow.
4. Take breaks. Staring at the computer, awaiting the muse, won’t do much good. I like to use FAR—an acronym developed by author and physician, Dr. Matthew Edlund. It stands for Food, Activity, Rest. By creating a rhythm of eating, doing something active (writing, exercise, cleaning…) then something restful (walking, meditating, taking a bath…) we can feel more rested and sleep-ready at night, and sharper creatively during the day. Some of our best ideas arise when we’re away from our computers. That’s still writing, in my opinion—a vital part, at that.
5. Manage stress. I don’t much believe in writer’s block, but I do believe in life block. If we’re stuck in toxic relationships, jobs we hate or other stressful situations, our writing lives can feel like cement—unmovable or changeable. If you tend to write your feelings before you recognize them, incorporate morning pages into your routine. Julia Cameron features the exercise in her book, The Artist’s Way. Free-writing—some call it “word vomit”—first thing each morning can not only ease stress but show us how we feel. It also clears the pathway for other writing.
6. Take a novel outing. Cameron recommends Artist Dates, or taking yourself on solo expeditions to do anything your heart desires. I take my actual projects on dates. (No, not in a delusional Lars and the Real Girl type way.) When I feel unproductive, I take my computer or notebook to parks, Starbucks or where ever for quality one-on-one time. We all need solace for our writing to soar. Pets, family members and home or office distractions can interfere. These outings work every time.
7. Interact with driven, creative friends. Chatting with fellow artists who are totally on fire for their work can light our fires. Hopefully you’ll have a similar effect on them. Simply talking about our work adds meaning and value. Just try not to do so on Twitter, Facebook and the WANA Tribe all at once, all day, or with friends who love talking about creative work, but seldom do it.
8. Do something really boring. I’ve never done this on purpose, but before I’d fully quit theatrical and fashion work, I had several jobs that required standing very still for very long periods of time, for a purpose I didn’t care about whatsoever. It took all of my might not to bust out of there and start typing.
9. Remind yourself why you’re a writer in the first place. If you love writing, you should write. Whatever led you to start putting words and stories on paper can keep you going. If not, ask yourself what has changed? Like stress, stagnancy can be a symptom of a deeper problem that needs addressing.
10. Repeat after me: I am my muse. My muse is in me. I’m a writer. I’m a writer! I MUST WRITE! Now ignore the funny expressions poised at you right now. They’re just jealous. If you want to write, you can and should. I believe that. And the more you write, the better you’ll become. Don’t judge, just write.
More ideas worth mentioning:
- Enter writing contests.
- Set deadlines that stick.
- Set reasonable goals.
- Join a quality writing or critique group, or seek coaching or counsel from a trusted agent, editor or beta-reader.
- Get therapy. (We can all use emotional check-ins, if we can’t manage stress or stagnancy in particular.)
- Go to a conference.
- Take a WANA class, and join a tribe.
- Use the buddy system, trading pages every week or month.
- Write in short increments—give yourself at least 30 minutes each day.
- If you’re a morning person, write first thing most days.
- If you’re a night-owl, write first thing most nights.
- If social media is swallowing too much of your time, take a break. Or save it for breaks.
- Exercise. (Activity stimulates creativity.)
- Create a mini writing retreat in your home or, if you can, away.