Earlier this month, I decided to dedicate all of March to writing. Whether an article, blog post, bite-sized copy, or free writing, I simply wanted to flex my otherwise atrophied writing muscle. I set a goal: complete the first draft of a manuscript by the end of the month.
It’s now March 15, and I’m nowhere near the completion of a first draft.
I have scenes laid out on index cards (a great technique Robert Olen Butler describes in his book From Where You Dream). I wrote out the first scene. And then a couple of days later, started the next. And then…and then I was stuck. I think reality set in – I wasn’t going to have a first draft by the end of the month. I have bills to pay, and come April, I’d need to start looking for work, and then, when would I write? These thoughts permeated through every crevice of my being, and instead of focusing on the draft, I focused on “real life” issues.
I was stuck.
After kicking myself a few times for not being more productive, I decided it was okay not to write. Once I did, the world seemed to open up with inspiration.
Here’s what worked for me and what might help you in case you’re stuck:
- Give yourself permission to take a break: It’s okay to take a breather when you’re working or thinking incessantly about writing that novel, poem, or screenplay. Especially after you’ve had a stretch of creativity, it’s natural to lose steam. Once you accept that it’s okay, you’ll be much more receptive to the creative prompts that occur naturally in your life.
- Stay away from the computer and social media: I still checked email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. routinely during my creative drought. Although our laptops and social media outlets connect us to our work and other artists, they can also distract us from life and the natural world. Whether we know it or not, we need technological cooling off periods – unplug and restart later.
- Spend time with a friend or family member: I spent Sunday with my family celebrating my brother’s recent engagement. Even though we all live extremely close to each other, we hadn’t had a family gathering in months. Relaxing, laughing, and catching up with my family reminded me of how very fortunate I am to have them. These moments in life with a loved one – the joy, the sadness, the longing, the hope – can trigger the creation of amazing sensual moments in your work.
- Take your dog for a walk: My dog Jack makes sure I go out every morning or evening. I try not to cloud my mind with thoughts during these walks – I simply walk and feel whatever mother nature has in store for me. I listen to the birds, let my body respond to the rain or shine, and watch the seasons in the trees. If you don’t have a dog, go out for a run, or take a long walk to a bagel shop for breakfast. You’ll appreciate what mother nature has to tell you.
- Address a “Real World” Issue and Keep Moving Forward: We all have personal, financial, or even medical problems we can’t avoid. Some are more difficult than others to tackle, but we can try to compartmentalize these issues. Even if you feel like they’re constantly hanging over you, you can take steps to defeating the demon. Take a morning to call your creditors and work out a payment plan. Apply to jobs on the weekends. Take yourself, your parent or child to his/her scheduled medical check-up. But then set these issues aside and write. If you cannot (I’m one of those), use the experience to write your feelings and thoughts about the issue. You might not be able to use fear or sadness in your buddy-cop comedy, but something else, something more profound may come out of these challenges.
I’m sure my list will get longer as I progress through my writing journey. In the meantime, I hope these tips can work for you as they have for me so we can all keep on clicking.