10 April 2012

5 Ways to Buck the Writing Blues

Copyright Stacy Lynn Ennis

I love writing.  I think it's fantastic.  It's splendid, marvelous, wonderful, and every other happy-sounding adjective you can think of.  I just love writing.

I also hate it.  Hate with a capital H.  H-A-T-E it.  Hate as in, "I hate it so much I could just cry."

It's funny how these two extremes seem to often occupy the same space.  I can be clipping along, words elegantly gracing the page or screen, thoughts flowing through me with ease and concise perfection (at least to me)...and then the next minute, nothing.  This state of nothingness can last for minutes, hours, and even days.


Well, for me, it has to do with two things: focus and creative stimulation.

Focus is first because I'm actually a pretty focused person.  I recently started planning out my day--writing out what time I'll do what and for how long.  This helps me stay focused.

However, this uber-planning sometimes only slightly alleviates my desire to get everything done now.  Especially when working on creative projects (such as writing or art), it's easy to feel that they're not as productive because they're more difficult to measure.  For example, I feel more productive if I spend an hour editing a four-page article or reading 40 pages for class versus writing two paragraphs or starting the design to one book cover mockup.  The quantitative side of me tends to see more as better, and this can cause me to lose focus on the creative task at hand--namely, writing.

Creative stimulation is second because I tend to be heavily influenced by my environment.  When I'm writing for long periods of time, I'm pretty good about setting up my space: a warm cup of coffee, the window partially open, my desk clear of clutter, a notepad and pen nearby, and no sounds but the birds singing outside (and sometimes the cats fighting, but I can't control that).  I don't check e-mail or social media, and I try not to have any conversations with humans.  (Cats are fine because they don't talk back.)

But when I'm writing a day here and a day there--right now, for example, as I'm revising my book--and not in a daily routine, I find it hard to get creative.  Sometimes I struggle to resist the urge to be "productive."  After all, to be creative, sometimes you just have to sit and think.  This does not always feel productive, although I know it will lead to productivity.

So, how does one buck the writing blues?  Here are some things that work for me:
  1. Find out what inspires you...and then do it.  I watch TED.com videos most mornings to get inspired for the day.  In the early afternoons, when I'm feeling tired and a bit sluggish, I have a cup of tea and stretch out on my foam roller; this small break is often the fuel I need to finish the day strong.  A bit later, I do some sort of exercise.  This gets my blood pumping, and these long fitness sessions often lead to really great ideas.  I find all of these things inspiring, and they've quickly become necessary to my creativity.
  2. Make a switch.  Feeling antsy?  Having trouble focusing?  About to fall asleep from boredom?  Move to another room. Stand up at your desk for a period of time.  Turn on some music.  Work from your tablet instead of your desktop.  Switch gears and work on another project.  Head to a coffee shop.  The possibilities are endless, but the point is the same: Changing things up often aids in both focus and creativity.
  3. Write down your writing goals.  I know I often tout goal setting as the ultimate way to be productive and achieve dreams, but it's true.  I set monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly goals...and I almost always achieve them.  I also set long-term goals, but I don't usually write them out.  (Although one of my goals this month is to start writing those long-term goals out.)  If you're feeling stuck, stumped, or otherwise battling writing blues, writing your goals out on paper might help you visualize the finish product, which will help keep you focused.
  4. Be intentional.  Goal setting will help with this, but the idea here is to be aware of what you're doing and why you're doing it.  Make decisions that bring you closer to what you desire, whether it's writing a novel or finishing a poem.  Record your achievements in a spreadsheet or by checking off items on a list--it doesn't matter how you live intentionally, just that you do it.  I used Wunderlist to make weekly and daily lists for myself, then check off things as they're completed.  I love clicking that little box and seeing the list item move to the "Recently done" section.
  5. Stick it out.  You can do anything for a short period of time, and writing projects are no different. If you're feeling like you just can't type another word, remind yourself that the end is near.  Are you writing a book?  A few months to a year is doable, right?  Penning an article?  You can get through those couple of hours.  Being intentional with your writing and setting goals will help, but if you have to clear out your schedule or say "no" to a few things, then do it.  Book club can wait. So can cocktails with the gals.  Achieve your writing goals now.
No matter the cause of your writing blues, there is hope, and a prolifically-perfect day is right around the well-worded corner.

What about you?  How do you buck the writing blues?


    Stephanie M. said...

    Love this post. Reminds me of something MB said last quarter about how she hates writing but loves "having written." The trick for me is to work in chunks and take breaks to do things that are unrelated to the writing--whether that's balancing the checkbook, cooking dinner, or whatever. Sometimes even switching to reading for class is enough of a change. ;-)

    Stacy Lynn said...

    Great tip, Steph! I agree. Stepping away is good for me, too, even if I just go unload the dishwasher or take a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood.

    Genevieve DeGuzman said...

    Great points, Stacy. I also tend to beat myself up if I'm not being productive, ticking off very specific tasks on my to-do list. The trick is to widen your perspective of what productive is... Sometimes you just need to sit there and be a sponge, or do something else completely (long runs are great!) and let your mind wander.