Well, hello there!
I didn’t get a ton of writing done on Chorus Mortem yesterday, though I did finally manage to pick away at it a bit. The problem was, I knew what I wanted to do, but the words just didn’t want to emerge. I felt kind of scattered, like my plot was there but every time I reached for it, it fluttered away into the ether. So, I drank some coffee while I wrote a blog post, which usually clears the cobwebs… but that didn’t work, either.
So, I browsed some writing groups — sometimes the posts help motivate me and that gets the words going. Still, nothing.
And then I took a look around me.
I should probably be a bit embarrassed to admit it, but my workspace was an absolute mess. Paperwork scattered about, old coffee mugs that needed to be taken downstairs, full trash can needing to be cleared — the works. I do try to regularly keep things tidy, but in my excitement to get as many words out as possible lately, I guess I sort of slacked off and my little writing oasis was suffering because of it. I knew there were other areas of our house that were dealing with the same consequences.
So, begrudgingly, I took most of the day to get my stuff tidied up, and what do you know? Today, I feel clear and inspired and ready to take on another chapter (or two? Shoot for the moon…)
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know I recently posted about making time for writing, no matter what, but sometimes despite having that time set aside, words just will not emerge how you want them to. It happens to most writers, and although I’m still learning the life-work balance of a new mom and an indie author, I thought I’d share the things that have helped me in the past when I’ve reached a roadblock.
Try listening to some music. Sometimes, a little mood music that you might associate with your genre is especially helpful. Apps like Spotify and Pandora even have channels for things like “Epic Fantasy Music”. Or, even just some of your old favorite pop tunes might shake that inspiration loose. Get to know the characters in your head – would they jam out to this, or scowl and change the channel? It sounds silly, and maybe a little crazy… but we, authors, aren’t known for being the most sane individuals out there, now are we? 😉 Give it a shot. What’ve you got to lose?
2. Fresh air
If the weather permits, a few moments or a short walk outside can really clear your head and inspire. Give it a go, see if that helps spark something. If you care to, imagine how you would describe your environment to a reader. Make an effort to notice everything – are the lawns manicured, or overgrown? Is it quiet, or bustling with the background noise of a nearby city? Does it smell like a rainstorm is on the horizon, or is your stomach growling from the scent of a nearby bakery?
3. Coffee (or Tea, or chocolate, or whatever your go-to pick-me-up thing is if you have one)
This seems to be a given, but for those of you who drink coffee regularly, don’t forget to have your morning cup. You might be surprised at the amount of times I’ve left my mug in a weird place while chasing a baby around, only to realize it later when I get to the keyboard and feel super foggy. Just be careful not to overdo it – too much caffeine can actually have a negative effect on creativity, and then you just end up jittery with a blank page before you.
If you can’t get into the project you’re stuck on, you still should try to write something. Even if it’s nonsense. Even if no one will ever read it. Just write something — anything. Describe your day, write out a recipe, detail instructions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – literally anything. Write it long-form, or open up a word doc, or blog… whatever works for you. Sometimes, getting some words flowing opens the door for all the other words to follow.
Sometimes, imagining a world or story that someone else has perfectly captured is just the thing you need to be inspired. I tend to avoid my genre while I’m writing, just to prevent any story clouding or me doubting my own perspective on things, but everything else is fair game. Others don’t have this issue, so you’ll have to go with what works for you!
6. Browse the Internet, but with Purpose
Be selective – try to focus on images that inspire you, or inspirational stories from other authors out there. (But don’t fall into the comparison trap – that can be a real downer. We all walk a different road to get to where we need to be.) Try to find a new factoid about your setting, or some technology you’re incorporating in your book. Go on Instagram and search the hashtag for the city your main character grew up in to see if you can get a glimpse into what their life might’ve been like. Browsing the internet doesn’t have to be a time-waster if you’re mindful of what you’re doing.
Believe it or not, there are some writers who don’t actually read all that much. It’s rare, but they’re out there. Regardless, this one is a good tool for both readers and non-readers if you have the means in your household. If you fancy a story to inspire you, try one of the many fantastic RPG-style games out there. Skyrim is a beginner-friendly game that you can play at your own pace and lose hours in, if you choose to. Mass Effect and Dragon Age are also great series with super compelling stories (like a book or movie you also play) and these have all been out for a while so they won’t break the bank. If you want to focus more on getting the bad guys, maybe try a first-person shooter like Call of Duty or Halo, or even break out the old Mario Bros and just give it a whirl. You might be surprised at what shakes loose, but be mindful not to get so wrapped up that you forget to get back to the writing keyboard.
8. Make Lists
All that stuff that bounces around in your head all day? You know, the grocery lists and the To-Do lists and that paperwork that needs to be filed and the package you need to send out and the reminder to not forget the thing you most certainly have already forgotten? Grab some paper, or open a note on your phone or computer, and write it all out. Just like a desk or a closet, your mind can get cluttered and overwhelmed with things that may or may not be important – pull it all out of there, put it on a list, and set that list to the side so you can focus on it when the time comes. Now, it won’t be standing in between you and the story when you’re focused on that. Again, this sounds kind of simple and maybe unnecessary for some, but this whole list thing has really helped me tremendously.
9. Tidy Up!
This one, I hate to admit because cleaning is not high on my list of favorite things to do, but it really does help. It doesn’t have to be museum-quality, but clearing and de-cluttering your workspace can have an enormous effect on your productivity. For me, I think it is because those bits of clutter and mess divide my attention, even subconsciously. I see a mug that needs to go to the sink, and there’s a part of my brain that reminds me of it every time my eyes pass by it. “Hey! Hey, listen! Hey! Don’t forget this thing you need to do!” it says, like a little Navi chirping over my shoulder. Add too many of those tiny things, and you end up with a mind that is off in all different directions when it should be focusing on the page in front of it. So, put on your big kid pants and clean up a little. (It’s okay if your roll your eyes and sigh heavily like a teenager whilst doing so. No judgment.) I promise, it helps.
10. Take Care of Yourself
Take a shower, wash your face. Get comfortable. You may need to get dressed like you have somewhere to be, or you may need to throw on some clean PJs to hunker down at the keyboard. Learn your body and what puts you in the best state to throw some words down. I’ve learned that I’m more productive if I’m dressed for the day, have something to drink nearby, and maybe have a snack in case hunger strikes. A big meal makes me lazy, so I keep it light while I’m trying to get work done. It may take some trial and error, but if you pay attention you’ll find the magic combo that works for you.
These are my best ones, but I’ll definitely add to the list if I think of any more. I know writer’s block can be so frustrating for those of us who experience it, so I hope this post will help some of you out there get through it. And if you have any suggestions for your fellow authors out there who may be struggling with the same, please leave them in the comments!
Anyway, off I go to get back to this book. Thanks for reading!