Writing is amazing. Writing is hard. At times, writing is both amazing and hard all in the same moment. As someone who notes down writing ideas day-after-day (fiction, non-fiction, blogging, how-to guides…), I forever flutter on the line of inspiration and keyboard-glaring. If you’re a fellow pen scratcher, I’m sure you know my pain… and glory… and wonder. You know, the wonder of writing and sharing your heart and soul with the world.
When I say to people, “I’m a writer,” I smile and feel rather lucky indeed. I mean, we are lucky, aren’t we? We get to write books and articles and posts, and although the craft can sometimes be relentless, I hope I always enjoy a sense of fortune for what I do. But this doesn’t make writer’s block any easier. Hell, I’m not even sure if I believe in writer’s block – although recent circumstances has me wondering.
Until a few weeks ago weeks ago, I’ve always been able to write… something… anything. However, with my latest novel, I UNLOVE YOU, writing ideas are harder to come by. Take yesterday, for instance: a day where the words flowed from my fingertips for the first time in a long time.
Sitting in Costa Coffee with a super black Americano in hand, the words NEEDED to escape. I didn’t have to search, rather each sentence demanded to be part of the moment. I couldn’t write fast enough, and I call this process, full flow. I love full flow writing, and I miss it a great deal.
When I wrote TICK to the TOCK, full flow took the journey with me. I enjoyed each writing session as much as the last, and I completed the first draft in a couple of months. With I UNLOVE YOU, it’s already been three months, and I’ve yet to reach half-way. Is this because I don’t like the story? Or that the idea is worthless? Or that I’ve fallen out of love with writing and my writing ideas? HELL NO! Don’t be goddam crazy!
WHEN THE WRITING IDEAS DRY UP, IT’S TIME TO FACE YOUR FEARS
Now, don’t for a second think I’ve found writing easy all these years. I haven’t. I’ve experienced dry patches before, where writing ideas are harder to come by than a good Phil Collins song (FYI: there is no such thing as a good Phil Collins song!). This is my most prolonged period, though, which is why, for the first time ever, the notion of writer’s block rears its ugly head.
BUT, I say no. Screw you, writer’s block. I still believe you’re a figment of our imagination. An excuse by writers everywhere. An excuse that doesn’t exist, an excuse that strokes our hand and makes us feel better. The truth is, I’m in a rut! That’s it. It’s no more glamorous than that, so let’s not kid ourselves into thinking writer’s block exists; that writing ideas dry up forever and ever.
I will write I UNLOVE YOU. Full flow writing session like yesterday will return… OFTEN. The words will spew out of me like morning-after-alcohol (sorry, what a disgusting image :/). I don’t for a second pretend I have the answers, but based on what I’m doing RIGHT NOW, on what I’ve done in the past when writing ideas dry up, and from speaking to other writers who go through tough times, I have five tips to share. Tips aimed at getting you out of a rut. Tips aimed at getting me out of my own rut. Little ideas to help regain full flow, and rock the world of writing once more 🙂
1: CHANGE POV
Before I started TICK to the TOCK, I wrote several short stories from the POV (point of view) of the four main characters. Not only did these short stories inspire the One Day in September Series, but they taught me a great deal about the book, the plot, and the journey Dante, Ethan, Danii & Wil needed to take.
In February, I started to do this for I UNLOVE YOU, but one thing after another caught up with me, and I ended up moving straight into the main story. Is this why I struggle right now? Is this why writing ideas are drier than ever? I’m not sure, but I sense it plays a role. The truth is, I don’t feel as connected with the main characters as I did with my previous novel. This is a big deal. After all, these characters are EVERYTHING!
When you find yourself struggling at a start of a novel, or in the middle, or towards the end, try jumping out of the main character’s POV and into somebody else’s. Not only does it provide an insight into other characters, but frees your mind and eases your woes. I’m not sure about you, but a large project like a book can overwhelm. Taking a step back makes a big difference. At times, it makes all the difference.
Added Bonus, it may take you down a few exciting paths – like spin off novels, a short series, standalone books, marketing material, etc..
2: ESCAPE YOUR PROJECT
One of the first things I do when my writing ideas fly out of the window, is to escape whatever project I’m working on. Whether it’s a novel, a non-fiction book, a blog post, or whatever… when the tough times come, I run away.
I have a writing friend, and we recently spoke about our books, and how she’s put her current novel on hiatus. She’s completed a large chunk of it, but come across a dead end, and together, with life’s other stresses, she’s found herself fearful and wary. Have you ever felt this way? It’s a shitty feeling, but one I’m sure you know well – I know I do.
This friend of mine is super talented, and I know it’s still there in abundance. After nodding and umming-and-ahhing, I said, “Just write something else for a while. Take a few weeks to write a short story or two… or some poetry… or start another book. Get the creative juices flowing, and soon you’ll be back on track.”
Her face lit up, and a gooey-happy sensations spread all over my skin. In a moment, her hope reignited before my eyes 🙂
Sometimes a single project (no matter what it is) becomes too much. Facing it head on is fine for a while, and I don’t suggest running away the first time hardship hits. But if this prolongs, walk away. Write something else. Regain full flow. Come back with vengeance once your writing ideas sling and dance around your mind.
Added Bonus – you may just come up with a future book idea or two. The more writing ideas you have in your notebook, the better 🙂
3: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH CREATIVE MINDS
A year ago, I joined a local group to help organise an Arts Festival. Poets, writers, musicians, artists, photographers, and more came together to share creative love with local folk. artSBridge (of Sowerby Bridge), is an amazing and inspiring group, but the best thing to come of it is an army of local like-minded individuals.
I love my friends and family, but unless you go through the happiness and pain that creative life brings, it’s hard to understand. When it comes to regaining writing ideas and rediscovering full flow, the more creative people I surround myself with, the better. If they happen to be writer’s, great. If not, this is fine, because it’s the creative mindset that’s important.
Whether you’re struggling or not, I recommend joining a local group or two, and find people just like you. If one doesn’t exist, create one. This is what Isolde did with artSBridge, and in doing so she’s brought dozens of people together who now collaborate and share stories with one another.
It’s amazing what can come when you surround yourself with like-minded individuals. In recent weeks, I’ve tried to do this more and more, and each time I do, inspiration flows. It doesn’t always lead to more writing ideas, but the buzz and adrenaline of creativity empowers me. It’s wonderful, so be sure to surround yourself with as many cool cats as possible.
Added Bonus – you make new friends. I’ve formed great friendships through artSBridge. This in itself is reason enough.
4: EMBRACE ART
I can’t draw for shit! I’m serious, whenever I draw or paint, it looks like Kid Turndog did it (and he hasn’t formed real motor skills yet). However, when writing ideas dry up, I try and embrace the entire concept of art: writing, poetry, music, painting, sculpting, drawing, everything…
Last week I had a drink with a painter friend of mine, who’s in the middle of an exhibition. A few days later I visited, and bits of pieces of creativity began to form. Again, like above, it doesn’t always lead to new writing ideas, but general creativity is key to full flow.
I need to do this more, but my advice is to keep an open mind and put yourself out there:
- Take a drawing class
- Go to a poetry evening
- Read at an open-mic night
- Go to gigs and festivals
- Visit an art gallery
- Try sculpting
- Learn a new instrument
- Hell, learn a new language
I fear sometimes we become so fixated in our own work that we forget other great art surrounds us.
Enjoy other people’s works of art, open your eyes to the possibilities around you, and allow bits and pieces of creativity to click into place. Whether it leads to writing ideas or not, it’s a sure fire way to get you back on the right path. Writer’s block? Please, let’s banish this excuse for good!
Added Bonus – you may uncover a hidden talent (I’ve yet to, but here’s hoping 🙂
5: READ & WALK
This is my number one tip. If you do nothing else, this is the one to follow.
There’s several reasons I’m currently in a writing rut, and finding new wiring ideas hard to come by. However, the one I fear holds most importance is READING – or should I say, my lack of it!
I love to read, but not of late. For some unknown reason, I can’t seem to get into a good book. I’ll read a little, but not enough. Does this affect my own writing? HELL YES! In such a humungous fashion!
I’m pushing myself at the moment to read more and more, because I know once I do, it’ll have a knock on effect: new writing ideas, the hunger to read more, the desire to write, longer writing sessions, more frequent writing sessions, full flow, and new words and styles.
But it doesn’t stop at reading, because exercise is a great companion.
Would you like to know why I found myself in full flow yesterday? That morning, walking to the station, I thought about I UNLOVE YOU, the scene before me, and the situation the characters were in. Before I knew it, I arrived at the station with my mind buzzing. Fingers twitching, I couldn’t wait to open my laptop and tip-tap away.
Everything I wrote that corning, came to me as I walked. And whether it’s yoga, walking, running, football, stretching… exercise takes you away from the moment. So, if you struggle to write, go for a walk. If you’re lagging and tired, go for a walk. If you run out of writing ideas, go for a walk.
Added Bonus – you get fitter and healthier. Yey
YOUR SUPER SPECIAL BONUS TIP
Write little but often. I’ve never been part of the ‘write 1,000 words every day‘ group. I tend to block out a few large sessions a week, and fit the majority of my writing into each of them. However, this hasn’t worked of late, so in a bid to freshen things up, I’ve made July 2014 the month to write at least 1,000 each day (Tuesday – Friday).
If successful, I should tackle around 20,000 words, which I believe will kickstart my writing world once more. In the end of the day, the brain requires training. Because I’m in a rut, it struggles for writing stamina and focus. By writing little but often, strength and endurance forms, and before I know it, those five hour writing sessions will be easy-peasy once more.
At least, this is the plan. What do you think? Will it work?
YOUR BESTEST WRITING IDEAS AWAIT
These are just a few things I’ve done in the past, tried of late, and spoken to others about. Will they work for you? I have no idea, but they’ve helped me in my quest of full flow and new writing ideas. I’m not where I want to be – yet – but I know I’ll regain everything once again. After all, writer’s block isn’t real, remember 🙂
So, please don’t lose faith. No matter what your writing may include (fiction, non-fiction, journalism, freelance, blogging, reviewing…) don’t lose faith. You haven’t lost it. It hasn’t disappeared forever. You can get it back, and those writing ideas and full flow sessions will return. Maybe the above will help, but if not, find ideas that do.
Here’s to you, and future writing ideas that rock.