How many times have you sat down at your computer, fully intending to put masterful thought to paper and then come up blank? Your fingers hover over the keyboard, typing a few choice words. You pause for a few seconds contemplating your next thought but, instead, hit the delete button. Your mind scrambles. I know I had something I wanted to write about. But what?!
You know you should be writing. You know you have something you want to say, but you’re stuck. Instead, you check your email for the third time that day. You skim Facebook feeds and browse news reels that haven’t updated in the five minutes since you last checked.
These are mindless activities meant to fill up the minutes of our days. You know you should be writing but can’t. And so you procrastinate and pretend that there are more important things that you need to do first.
This happens to me. A lot. I couldn’t wait to sit down and write this guest post about writing and authorship. I’ve been developing my own blog for the last year, write poetry on the side, comment on domestic and world news and events, and am recently exploring the world of short stories. I should have plenty to say!
Instead, I had nothing.
For me, a good chunk of the issue is lack of motivation and daily distractions. I work a full-time job. One of those proverbial desk jockeys, I spend anywhere from eight to ten hours a day reading and drafting reports, sifting through data, and making small talk at the office coffee station. And while many in my field tell me I’m supporting a good cause, the stability of our government, and safety of our country, I find the work tedious. It does not inspire passion. In fact it can be extremely draining; so much so that when I finally make it home I have very little desire to sit back down at a desk and write. I feel the pull of outside and the need to breathe in fresh air and soak in light that isn’t manufactured by a glass bulb.
So what is a person to do when they have little desire to write for themselves? Do you give up and let the words turn stale?
Here are four things you can do when you can’t write.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this piece of advice. Like anything else, writing is a discipline. It’s something that rarely comes naturally and must be developed consistently over time. Set aside anywhere from ten to thirty minutes a day and practice free writing. The more you write the better writer you will become.
What is free writing? Well it’s definitely not structured, that I can tell you. It’s not meant to be read by anyone but you. So stop worrying about what someone else might think. Pick up that pen or open that laptop and just write whatever comes to mind and ignore the urge to create pretty, perfectly crafted prose. You misspelled a word? So what! You wrote an entire paragraph of nonsensical half-sentences? Big deal! Turns out your head is one mess of profanity and obscene thoughts? Join the rest of the world! Unleash your mind and let whatever thoughts and feelings you have come alive on the page in front of you. Let go of any fear of judgment or critique. At the end of it your creative juices should start to flow and it doesn’t matter if what you wrote sounds like something a madman would say. We all have a little freak inside of us, so why try to ignore it.
When you’re not writing you should be reading. It’s as simple as that. Reading breeds creativity. We draw inspiration from others. And it can be from anything! You don’t need to pick up a thousand page novel each day in order to fuel your own writing. It can be a blog post or a news story. Broaden your horizons and read a genre unfamiliar to you. Pick up a comic book. Indulge in a romance novel and enjoy some erotica. Whatever it is, you should enjoy reading it and be able to draw inspiration from it to help improve your own writing.
Try Something New
Why do we lack inspiration? Perhaps it’s because you’re living an uninspiring life. It’s amazing how many times my own writing draws my own experiences. Often times when I am in a writing rut it’s because I’ve fallen into a daily routine where nothing changes and rarely does anything exciting happen. So snap out of it! Apathy can kill.
I’m not saying quit your day job or move to another country, but try something small at first to breakup your routine. Take a weekend trip. Decide that this year will be the year you finally take those salsa lessons or learn to cook. I’m reminded of that move “Julie & Julia.” You know the one I’m talking about. The one where blogger Julia Powell decides to challenge herself to cook through Julia Child’s Joy of Cooking cookbook and rediscovers her passion for writing. It’s a perfect example of how shaking up your routine can lead to an enlightened experience.
Stop Being Your Best, And Worst, Critic
Not every word you write is going to be perfect. Stop nitpicking over every sentence and phrase. Some days everything you write will be utter crap and that’s ok. That’s part of being human. You cannot please everyone and you have to be open to that reality if you want to be a serious writer. Some will praise and others will pass judgment. You must be willing to take the bad with the good and not take every critique to heart by turning it into a personal character flaw. Be proud of what you wrote even if it stinks. You had the courage to put it out there and that’s what matters. Write for you and no one else.
Kristina Leigh is a wannabe writer, professional dreamer, and optimistic critic. When she’s not out running, rock climbing or haunting coffee shops and farmers market stalls in San Diego you can find her at www.selectivelyattentive.com and www.bookingtimetoread.com. You can follow her on Twitter (@Kris2Leigh).