We’ve all been there. We’re going merrily along, making headway on our work in progress (WIP), writing the latest and greatest masterpiece. And then life happens. Sick kids, aging parents, day job crises, family emergencies. We’ve had our fair share of these kinds of life interruptions among the Eight Ladies over the past month. And when the crisis is over, we take a deep breath, count our blessings, and get back to work.
At least, that’s the goal – to get back to the masterpiece because, you know, the world is waiting! But sometimes those life interruptions or writer’s block or some other impediment shuts down our writer’s brain. The project stalls. We flounder. We try to get back into the project, but it’s just not clicking. So what’s a frustrated creative genius (that’s you!) to do? Before you spend thousands of dollars on therapy or give up writing to take up bourbon drinking full time (pro tip: bourbon drinking does NOT pay well), I have a few suggestions that might help you find your way back to your story.
Meditation. Some of the other Eight Ladies have written about meditation, for example, this post by Elizabeth about One-Moment Meditation. While a one-minute meditation can help reduce stress, the most benefit comes from longer meditations. As strange as it may seem, learning to sit still and clear your mind can be extremely difficult and require practice, but those who master it swear by its ability to recharge mind, body, and creative energy. Copyblogger has a detailed meditation how-to here that can help you get started with a practice that could help you clear out the mental detritus and get your focus back on your story.
Recreation. As Michaeline discussed in her post this past week, many writers swear by physical activity as a way to stay attuned to their creative energy. Exercise in and of itself can be a meditative endeavor. Practices like yoga and tai-chi are specifically designed to help focus your mind and get mind and body working together. But anything that gets the blood pumping, from lifting weights to running or taking a brisk walk around the block, can give you a much-needed energy and creativity boost. And regular exercise improves everything from your mood to your posture, putting you in both the right mental and physical condition to get back to writing.
Connection. Writing is a lonely business. It comes with the territory. But that doesn’t mean you always have to do it alone. If the isolation of writing is making it difficult to get your butt in the chair, find ways to connect with other writers who can encourage and inspire you. There are lots of online places to find writers. You might have to try a few different places before you find your ‘tribe’, but a group of supportive writer friends are worth their weight in gold. If you’re fortunate enough to know writers who live near you, make a coffee or lunch date, then put on pants, brush your hair, and venture out to interact with other introverted writer types in the real world. One of the great benefits of connecting with other writers is that the topic will eventually (and usually sooner than later) turn to ‘what are you writing?’, which will lead to talking about story – theirs and yours. Talking about it, finding words to describe what you’re doing, and engaging the speech part of your brain to communicate it, can get you reconnected to your story.
Redirection. Writing a novel is a major undertaking. On the best of days, it can be daunting. On the less good days, it can be overwhelming. If getting back into the book has you paralyzed, consider the advice one of the Eight Ladies recently gave me: write something shorter but related, like character backstory or vignettes. Or write something entirely different, like a short story or a chapter for a future (or even imaginary) book. And if you need some ideas, check out the fabulous writing sprint challenges and prompts Elizabeth has been providing on Fridays right here at 8LW.
Extension. As writers, we often think of writing as being synonymous with creativity. But there are lots of ways to tap into creativity. There are the obvious creative outlets like drawing, painting, and making music. If you don’t have or don’t want to develop talents in those areas, there are other options. Try cooking, baking, gardening, completing puzzles, or even coloring. There’s a whole new craze around adult coloring books, and evidence to back up the fact that it’s stress-relieving. Engaging your brain in a different creative exercise can get the creativity flowing without the pressure of staring at the blank screen.
Immersion. The world is a big, wide, beautiful place. It is bigger than your computer screen and e-reader. Sometimes you need to step away from the screens and go forth into said world. Visit a museum, walk through a park, people watch at a café. Play with a child, laugh with some friends. As counter-intuitive as it might seem, forgetting about the WIP for a while could be just the thing you need to do to get back in touch with it. Immersing yourself in the world around you can expand your horizons, and observing humans in their natural habitats can be great fodder for building characters.
Disconnection. Especially l if you’re returning to writing after dealing with a life crisis or high-stress situation, you might need to step away from the rest of the world for a while. Consider unplugging your computer and smartphone. Take a bubble bath, make a major dent in your TBR pile, watch a movie, journal, or just putter around the house or yard. Much like meditation, this quiet time can help you reconnect with your own inner life, which is the well that feeds all that creativity that flows into your masterpiece.
The next time you’re stuck, blocked, or just plain frustrated with your WIP, consider taking a break and trying a writing hack (or two or even all seven!) to get your writing back on track. And please share your writing and creativity hacks with us in the comments!