Michaeline: Story Bites for When You Just Can’t

There are a lot of excuses and reasons for not writing, and let’s face it: they are boring, often similar, and people will try and talk you out of them. You know your own business best, and if you say you can’t write today, I believe you. Some days are like that. Hell, some years are like that.

But, if you have a story that you are feeling guilty about, there are little things you can do that don’t take up much time at all – things that will help you feel better, and may even provide some of that spark and energy you need to find the time to write the rest.

If you’ve got five minutes . . . . (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

If you have five minutes:
Find a song, listen to it, and decide to add it to your playlist (or not). Either way, you are thinking about your story and the basic building blocks that define it. We’ve talked about playlists on this blog before. Nancy: A Little Mood Music (March 16, 2015) and Jilly: Building a Playlist (March 6, 2016)
Find a picture for your picture file. You may want to set a timer for this so you don’t drop down some Google Image Rabbit Hole. My heroine, Bunny Blavatsky, mostly sprang from a picture search, and you can find some sketches and flash fiction about her and her world right here on this blog. Michaeline: Bunny Blavatsky Arrives in New York (December 26, 2015)


Write a haiku. Again, set a timer, and this time, turn off your inner censor. You might be able to whip out three or four haiku in five minutes, and who knows where that will lead? You might get a glimpse at some of the interesting things your subconscious is working through, but didn’t want to bother you with yet. Michaeline: Autumn Haiku (September 26, 2015)

If you’ve got ten minutes . . . . (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

If you’ve got ten minutes:
Flip through your picture file for one of your WIPs, or look at a random section of your story notes document. Refresh your memory about your story every day. It’s kind of like watering a needy plant. More info on collage? Try the search box here, or Nancy: My Story in Pictures (October 27, 2014)
Write a paragraph that you know will dead end. Yes, I know you know it isn’t going to work – but for some reason, your subconscious has thrown it up there. Take ten minutes to write it anyway, and then think about why it doesn’t really work. You might be surprised to find something that does work.

If you’ve got twenty minutes:
OK, now we’re talking about some real, meaty time.
You can write 500 words. Why 500 words is a good goal: Kay: Adding Words (June 26, 2014). And crunching some numbers: Kay: Better Productivity Through Mathematics (November 14, 2013)
You can read an article about something connected to your story and take story notes, as well as copy links to your story notes document.
Listen to your playlist. Bonus guilt-assuager: do some housework while you are doing it. Something mindless like

And if you’ve got twenty minutes, make like Grand Central Station, and get busy! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

sweeping or dusting. Or clean out your purse or computer bag.
Take a power nap while listening to a quick creativity meditation from YouTube or MARC. Elizabeth: Discovering One-Moment Meditation (January 28, 2015), Michaeline: You Are Feeling Strong and Confident (September 13, 2014) and MARC is the Mindful Awareness Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Even if you can’t sit down and write for two hours, you can still keep your head in your story, and nurture your creativity. Some time, that two-hour window is going to happen for you – or you’ll be so possessed by your own creativity, you’ll grab that two-hour window. Give yourself and your story the gift of five minutes every day, and see what happens. Would love to hear from you about what does!

5 thoughts on “Michaeline: Story Bites for When You Just Can’t

  1. Michaeline – this is a great list of suggestions. I’m going to start at the top and work my way through them. Writing has seemed like a Herculean task recently and even the Friday Writing Sprints haven’t been triggering much. The Girls in the Basement have been completely distracted by world events, the day job, and some personal concerns. Here’s hoping music and pictures can bring their attention back to my in-progress stories, at least for 5 or 10 minutes.

    • I hope something clicks for you! I’m in the same situation, which is why the list popped up. (-: I think a lot of blogging is simply a matter of some poor soul trying to cheerlead herself out of a funk. My goal for the week is a new playlist of about 45 minutes, built up from little five minute intervals. I have a playlist from the same universe, so I can recycle some of those songs. So, about nine stolen moments, and I’m there!

  2. Pingback: Jilly: Powerful Shots of Story – Eight Ladies Writing

  3. 500 words in 20 minutes is a lot! But on days when the writing is really stuck, I tell myself I just have to get through a paragraph. That I can definitely do in twenty minutes, and sometimes it does climb to much higher output.

    • It is a lot. When I’m on a roll, and in non-censoring mode, I can usually do about 1000 words in 45 minutes. So, I figured if someone is on a roll, no one will begrudge that extra two and a half minutes. It’s a high anchor figure, but not impossibly high. Feel free to change it to be reasonable for your writing habits!

      I should have added, “Have a little edit!” Maybe two average scenes could be edited in 20 minutes? I’m not sure what I think of editing during a draft, though. It can be fine, or it can be futile because the scene or whatever will get thrown away, anyway. But from a productivity standpoint, a lot of writing is futile! Darlings manufactured only to be killed. Those darlings serve as motivation, a little treat, an exploration into characterization or plotting, or a dead end that helps define the true path. Futile they may be, but necessary for a good finished product.

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