So you’ve got this really great idea. You’ve written a bunch of notes. So you sit down with your favorite writing implements (mine is a computer) and open up a blank page… and stare at it for the next hour (or play internet solitaire, whichever floats your boat). When you look up, it’s still blank and suddenly you remember you’re hungry and thirsty, that there are errands to run, this television show you wanted to watch starts in the next five minutes or that there is an awesome bubble wrap game that is almost as fun as popping bubble wrap in the real world. So, you close your writing implement and decide to try again another time.
Except the same thing happens again and again and you just can’t seem to focus to get into the ‘mood’ to write.
We’ve all been there. You are not alone. It happens to the best of us. It can happening at the beginning of the story, such as in my scenario, the sorry middle where you’re trying to get over that mid book plot hump or even at the end as you’re stalling to keep from finishing!
But you know it is possible. There are people out there that write thousands and thousands of words every day! Why can’t you?
Well, you can, but to write ten thousand words a day that will probably take about eight hours. Not everyone has that time to devote to writing every day. Hey, even professional writers don’t always have eight hours to devote to writing every day. They have lives and errands and families and friends and medical emergencies just like everyone else! It still is possible to write every day. In fact, it is highly recommended by writers everywhere that one writes every day.
Writing is a creative and artistic endeavor. The creative part of our brain responds pretty much the same way as any part of our brain that has to do with work. Remember, writing is work. While it can be fun, it doesn’t mean it is always easy. So, our brain treats creativity just like it treats everything else. It can only take so much work before it needs to shut down and rest. The brain has its very own built in set of brakes and this is for your benefit. Being tired and not being able to think is your brain’s way of telling you to take a break (not have more coffee or energy drinks.) Just like your body uses pain to tell you something is wrong, your brain uses the inability to think to tell you to stop!
So, the first thing I recommend if you’re having a hard time writing is to reduce stress. Your brain can’t focus on writing if it is worried about the bills or Mary from work or about your mother’s health. Find the things you can control in your life and deal with them. Sometimes writing can reduce stress and is fun and relaxing. Other times writing is a method of trying to put off our problems, when it would be much easier to deal with our problems when they’re little rather than procrastinating until they are big problems.
The next thing you want to do if you’re going to be more creative is to take care of your body! Eat. Sleep. Exercise! If you’re tired or in physical pain, you won’t be able to be creative. Exercise is a great mood lifter. A gentle walk is also a great time to think by either sorting out the stresses to deal with them or by thinking about your story and coming up with more ideas.
There is a mode of thought that emotional and mental stress actually cause illness and produce pain in your body. So, by reducing stress and taking care of your body, you can have more energy to focus on creative endeavors. Creative energy comes from your heart. If there is anything hurting your heart emotionally, mentally or physically. It can be really hard to be creative!
The next best thing to do is to reduce distractions. Some people can write on trains, other people can write in cafes, some writers need a log cabin in the middle of the woods and the London symphony. There is a lot of noise in our lives. There is radio, television, the internet, well-meaning family and friends who think we’re becoming hermits. Sometimes, we create our own distractions and diversions, such as hobbies and yard work until our hobbies take over our lives to the exclusion of other hobbies, like writing. There are children and pets and noisy, nosy neighbors. So, find a way to cut off distractions. Turn off the television and put the phone on silent. Resolve to step away from the internet. Be polite, friendly and kind and tell the well intentioned people, ‘no.’ Shut a door. Have snacks on hand. Hire a babysitter. Find whatever works for you, if that’s being on the back porch or at an internet café or riding the train home from work. (And if you need noise to write, by all means use the radio or the television!)
If you want to write and are serious about writing, you will make time for it. Don’t wait for the ‘mood’ to strike you, set aside time to write. Seriously! If you are having a hard time writing. Make a schedule and say, “I’m going to take this hour after dinner and I’m going to write.” Or whenever you’ve got free. Then sit down and actually do it. If time blocks aren’t your thing, say to yourself “today, I’m going to write 300 words” (roughly a double spaced page) and write 300 words. It doesn’t have to be great writing. It doesn’t even have to be for your story. It just needs to get you into the habit of writing.
See, writing, like everything else, takes practice. The more you practice the craft of writing, the somewhat easier it will become. Then you can write more words or at least, know you can write more words. Sometimes, if you can write even 300 words, by the time you hit word 300, you’re on a roll and the next thing you know you’ve wrote 1,000 words or more! (Which is where this article is at as of that last sentence.)
Be positive. The more you say you can write. “I can write. I know how to write.” The more likely it is that you will be able to write. This is the power of positive thinking. If you put good things out into the universe, then good things come to you.
Writing is an artistic craft. Being a craft, it also takes skill. Skill tends to come by doing. And if you’re stressed, tired, ill or overly busy. You aren’t going to be able to write. Reduce stress, take care of your body by eating, sleeping and doing exercise. Reduce distractions, even distractions of your own making. (You can record that TV show, the lawn doesn’t have to be mown every other day. No one cares if your dishes are dirty!) Set aside time to write. Practice and stay positive! And hopefully, you will be able to get focused and start writing more.