Writing can be a daunting task. There are people out there who seem to do it effortlessly, who bang out 2,000 words a day no problem (King, looking at you, my man.) I know I am not the only one who can have days when even trying to write is a huge struggle mentally – whether it’s that damned inner voice telling you your stuff isn’t good enough, to trying to make the time when you could be reading or hitting up a happy hour with friends.
So, what should you do when you find that writing feels more like a job and you’ve run out of ideas for stories? I can’t promise this article will be the cure for all your writing woes, not everything will work for everyone, but hopefully this at least helps.
If you have anything that works for you, add it in the comments so others can read it too. Let’s spread the author love!
Start With Small Goals
This is something I find works for when you’ve been in a rut for so long that you don’t think you can ever get out. When you feel like your well of ideas has finally dried out or when you try to write, you can’t get past that horrible inner voice of self-doubt.
Just start small, like really small. Set a daily word goal. I went through a rough patch a few years ago and got this advice. Though, I was given this advice more to deal with my crippling fear that I wasn’t accomplishing anything in my life more so than my writing.
I set my daily goal at 200 words. That’s pretty small. Right now, this article is already at 280 so I’ve met my goal for today. Bam!
It’s important to make it small though because it’s something you can achieve and feel good about. You made your goal. It’s done. You can move on if you want. I always find though, that I end up surpassing my daily goal more often than not, which really makes me feel good.
So start small. I have read a lot of blogs that say “don’t force it.” I don’t believe in that. Writing, like other skills, takes practice. Sometimes that means forcing yourself even when you don’t want to. That’s the price of honing a skill. Force yourself to meet that 200 word goal, even if that means the writing is ugly and you hate it. That’s fine, don’t use it. You can shuffle it into your slush pile or delete it and start over the next day, but you have to hold yourself accountable.
Eventually, it becomes easier. Suddenly you’re writing 500 or 800 words a day. You’ve completed a chapter or a short story. You’ve completed something worth being proud about. Time to start the cycle over again – isn’t that the rub of it all?
Write Something Other Than Your WIP
I get it, sometimes you’re absolutely stuck. You don’t know how to continue past a certain point in your WIP. That’s fine – completely fine! How then to meet that small word goal? Write something else. Journal about your day, write a poem, write a micro fiction (or two, depending on your goal 😉 .) Usually I default to writing a blog post or working on an outline for another story.
It’s as simple as that. Then hopefully, the next day, or the day after, you can get back into your WIP.
This is tough advice even for me to follow. Sometimes you just get stuck and can’t get past a point in the WIP, which seems awkward or you don’t know how to frame it right. That happens to me a lot, especially when I’m fleshing out dialogue between characters and want it to be perfect.
Days pass and you still can’t get past that one little point, grinding your progress to a standstill. I get it. Time to grit your teeth, babe, and power through. It’s hard to remember this, but you will get to edit your completed piece after you’re done! That means that you can have a paragraph or chapter be complete garbage. Just puke some nonsense onto that page and clean it up after you’re done.
Remember To Take Care Of Yourself
I know, I know. You’ve read the first three entries and think I’m a monster. I get it. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I’m rather hard on myself and I get that. It only makes sense that my advice (which I use for myself as well as dishing out to others) would sound pretty harsh, but there is a cherry on top of all of it.
Take care of yourself. Practice a little self-love. If you make your small goal in the day, you don’t have to push past it. You can set aside your laptop or notebook and watch some TV, play some video games, take a bath.
And yes, you can also take a break day completely and not write at all once in a while! It’s completely okay to take a cheat day. Spoil yourself! (See, I’m not that bad!)
Hopefully these tips help you. I stick to them as much as I can. Have anything to share? Put it in the comments below – I am always looking for new tips and tricks myself!
x P.L. McMillan
(p.s. this ended up being 900 words. WaBAM)