Writing? How can I possibly put words on the page when the world is on fire?
If you're asking yourself this question in the wake of political unrest in the US right now, you're not alone. I've seen many writers this past week asking exactly the same question.
While it can be difficult to recenter and focus on your manuscript, we can all agree that the work doesn't stop just because the world isn't cooperating. To be successful writers we have to be able to take feelings of fear, anxiety, and anger and channel them into our work as opposed to letting them keep us from our writings.
If you're struggling to do this, it's okay! We've compiled a list of inspiring ways that you can redirect your muse and get back to writing sooner. Check these out:
1. Recharge Your Muse
It's time to do the one thing they tell writers not to do. Watch TV. Why? Why not! Being stuck inside whether it's from quarantine or from working at home means that you're probably dying to go outside, travel, or do anything other than stay home. Watching a new show on television may be what you need to give your muse some new ideas and to feel more inspired. Don't mindlessly tune out though, pay attention to plot devices, character growth, pacing, etc.
2. Shift Your Mindset
It's not uncommon to make New Years Resolutions or goals in January. We typically want a fresh start and that usually means "doing better". Creating goals is great, but take it one step further this time. Instead of writing "I want to finish my book." in your journal, write "I will finish my book by the end of September. I will do this by writing 30 minutes every day." By putting a deadline and an action attached to your goal, you are giving yourself both the blueprint and motivation to meet said goal. The greatest writers aren't great because they struck gold. They're great because they are disciplined enough to sit down and do the work.
3. Use Visual Aids
There's a reason visuals are so powerful. It can be inspiring to see your dreams and goals mapped out in front of you each day, so consider creating a vision board. Put things relating to your story, quotes about writing, pictures that speak to you- whatever makes you tick. You can also post motivational quotes around your desk and other areas of your house to remind yourself of why you're writing in the first place. Being constantly reminded can help boost your moral and in turn encourage you to get your daily words in.
4. Use Rage Momentum
We can all agree that we're angry, and understandably so. But instead of throwing our remotes at our TV's or channeling that anger into video games or our next work assignment, perhaps it would be better spent elsewhere. Anger is a powerful emotion and some evocative writing can come from it. Write about what you're passionate about. Use those turbulent thoughts to write that emotionally-charged scene between your characters. Write what you were afraid to write before and let that rage drive you forward. When the momentum is finished, then go back and edit what you wrote. It'll most likely be messy but the raw material will be there waiting to be polished.
5. Imagine A Worst-Case Scenario
These days it's easy to image the worst. But what you might not have realized is that you can use these anxiety-riddled thoughts to come up with your next bestseller. With tensions running high you can use that energy to come up with a worst-case scenario that you can then turn into a story. Push the boundaries of this idea and stretch it until it seems insurmountable. Then have your hero or heroine take on the task and watch the ideas flow.
6. Bring Out Your Inner Child
Sometimes you have to escape and go back in time. Remember when writing was fun? Well, it can be again. Removing the rules and deadlines can be inspiring in and of itself. If you're an excessive planner this can help you get out of your head and can encourage spontaneous thought. For those of you who are pantser, this activity can refresh your muse and bring back some of that creative energy you may be lacking.
7. Share Your Thoughts
Leaning on your friends and family is always comforting. It can also be helpful when it comes to writing and a great way to connect with those you may be missing over quarantine. Ask your family members to read your story. Have a group chat over Zoom or Skype as a focus group to give you feedback of your work. Brainstorm with your friends over how to make it better. Any way you can share your work with those you love can be rewarding.
8. Get Fed Up
At some point you have to tell yourself enough is enough. Whether you draw the line at a couple weeks or a few months, there comes a time when you have to give yourself some tough love and snap out of your writing block. The truth is the world will always be crazy, there will always be a disaster or trend to distract you, and it can be guaranteed that life will always get in your way. You as the writer have to learn to overcome this obstacle and let nothing stop you from writing.
9. Connect & Create
You know what it's like to write for yourself, but have you ever considered writing for someone else? What we mean is writing for your audience and their needs. We often get caught up with how many readers we have, what our follower count looks like, and all the other sales numbers associated with publication. That being said sometimes that creates distance between a writer and their readers, which means it's time to reconnect and remember that you're writing for real people. This can change how you write (and how you feel about what you're writing). When you know that what your writing means to someone, it can motivate you to continue and to do better.
10. CEO Mentality
Even if it's just for fun, one trick you can try to boost your motivation is to think about yourself as the CEO of your writing business. Whether you have any intention of actually turning it into a business isn't the point, but working in this mindset can help you overcome insecurities, make you bolder in your decision-making, and can lead to a bigger return because you feel "official".
11. Do The Math
Don't worry. It's not that kind of math. What we mean is to crunch the numbers. What's it going to take word count wise to meet your goals? How much money will you need to publish your book? What's it going to take to push your author merchandise and meet your marketing goals? It's questions like these that can help light the fire of your writing spirit again. When you map out your goals in numbers and know exactly what you need to get there, it's easier to achieve them overall.
12. Find Your Zen
Feeling too anxious or stressed to write? It's time to step back from the news and decompress. While this looks different for different people, one sure-fire way to boost your writing brain is to engage in either meditation or yoga. Deep breathing can have many health benefits but the one that benefits you most as a writer is that it allows an overactive mind to quiet and relax. By slowing your thoughts and clearing your busy mind you open yourself up to new ideas and to refreshment. This can help you work through that chapter you got stuck on and any residual frustrations you had with your writing prior to starting.
13. Quantity Over Quality
Break away from your word count. Seriously. Forget about them. Write with reckless abandon. Pour your heart out on the page and only focus on writing till you're satisfied you wrote exactly what you wanted to say. The thought process here is that when you limit yourself, you limit your potential. The great news is that nothing bad ever comes from writing too much. You can edit and cut your words down later to meet your requirements but what you'll be left with is the polished version of your intentions versus cutting yourself short of genius because you didn't want to explore your thought further.
14. Reverse Psychology
Maybe what you need is a kick in the pants. Ever try telling yourself you're not good enough to be a real writer? If you immediately got mad when you read that, then you're a writer. No question about it. Now go prove it.
15. Surround Yourself With The Greats
Museums are offering virtual tours during quarantine so you can still browse the works of the Greats from the comfort of your couch. That means there's no excuse for not finding inspiration to write. Sometimes what we need as writers is to witness the work of other artists to feel inspired. Paintings and other art forms are great for this because they stimulate our minds and lead to new ideas that can then be turned into books. Not to mention that they're gorgeous to look at and can provide some relief for that stir-crazy-trapped-at-home vibe we're all feeling right now.
16. Treat Yo Self
Instilling a reward into your writing routine can add an element of whimsy to your otherwise boring work routine. Giving yourself something to look forward to can boost morale, motivate you to meet your goals, and ultimately drive you to keep achieving them.
17. Into The Wild
There's a reason writers like Emerson and Thoreau were obsessed with the great outdoors. They knew the value of fresh air and an environment untainted by man and the same concept still applies. When you're feeling stuck, walking outdoors or sitting in a quiet place outside can reset your mind and lead to epiphanies that could then help you work through your writing problems.
18. Put On The Pressure
Some writers work well under pressure and need that sense of urgency to write. Without a deadline or a pitch to bring on that do or die sentiment, what else can be done to motivate? The answer is time. Setting up a timer can prove to be effective in the same way. Feeling stuck? Give yourself five minutes on the timer to brainstorm ways to get through your block. The ticking down of time should produce some interesting creative results.
19. Chase The Muse
The muse can be a fickle thing, but a good writer knows that to gain mastery you must make it work for you. Using writing prompts is one of the best ways to do this. There's tons of them available online (we even host them here in the inspiration section of our website) and many different types. From genre specific to unusual formats you're sure to find something that catches your writing fancy.
20. Embrace Difficulty
Whoever said writing was easy was clearly not a writer themselves. It's the struggle that defines a writer's journey and often it's what makes their work stand-out from that of their peers. Embracing this hardship can be motivating because it makes it okay to make mistakes, to have a bad writing day, and to pick yourself back up the next day and try again. Knowing and understanding how demanding the practice is means accepting that one must overcome to survive.
Hopefully these 20 tips will help motivate you to start your 2021 writing goals. Happy writing!
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