In a previous post I tackled the dreaded topic of ‘Writer’s Block’ and how to beat it, assuming that you belong to the camp of pen wielders who believes that it’s a real phenomenon. I say this because you do get those sorts of people who don’t believe in it, and instead feel it’s all in the mind. I’m not really on either side, as I simply consider writer’s block to be a blanket term for the many creative slumps we naturally go through.
The question then becomes: how do you stay creative, and avoid that feeling of lost hope because you just can’t seem to write anything?
The answer that will make your skin crawl is that there is no one method that works for every single person. However what I can say from seventeen years of my own writing experience is that there is one truth that seems to rise above all the other ideas I’ve come across regarding how to keep on keeping on when it comes to writing.
It’s a very simple idea. Are you ready for it?
Here we go.
The more you write, the more you will keep writing!
If you’re pulling your hair out right now and declaring me to be a fraud and a deceptive squirrel, I’d encourage you to hit the breaks for a moment and hear me out. I mean, I write a lot! And I have my fair share of slumps from time to time as well. Yet no matter what I find my way back to my pen and keyboard in good time.
The ‘secret’ if you will is that your mind is much like a muscle. The more you use it, and tap into your creativity, the more it runs and the juices flow.
The common mistake writers make is that they hit one of those dreadful slumps, and then proceed to keep staring at the same pages and keep trying to write the same thing even though no words are coming out. It’s like hitting your head against a brick wall, only worse, because you feel a crippling sense of ‘I can’t write’ rather than some temporary pain and discomfort (I’m not speaking from personal experience on the brick wall thing…)
In order to always be writing, you really need to always be writing something. You don’t exactly have to write the thing you’re working on all the time. If you hit a slump, or don’t feel like writing that particular piece, it’s perfectly normal! However that shouldn’t mean that you stop writing altogether. Your creative mind always needs an outlet, whether it’s painting, singing, song writing, short story writing, poetry etc.
I try to write something every single day, or at the very least every single week. Whether it’s a couple lines of brainstorming, or a couple of poems, or a few sentences for my novel, unless otherwise impossible I make sure that I write constantly. I may be in the mood to watch a movie or play a particular game, but I’ll tell myself “write first” and then be free to do any of those things without feeling like I should be writing instead.
In fact just last night I wrote for three hours and then treated myself to some gaming without a shred of guilt for aging on my couch. The day before the writing of my novel wasn’t going particularly well, so I wrote some poetry and worked on one of my narration videos instead. This is to say that progress and writing isn’t exactly always a ‘sit down and spit out 1,000 words immediately’ sort of experience. Sometimes it really is a line or two here, an idea jotted down over there and so on.
The point is when you’re having such a slump, try to avoid disrupting all of your creative outlets simultaneously, unless you’re mentally exhausted and just need a break. Try to write for pleasure rather than purpose from time to time. Avoid the pressure of needing to write because you just have to post something to social media. Don’t force yourself to write something you don’t feel like writing at the time.
You will find that the more you are actively creative, the more you will generally remain creative. But it’s also important to understand that you will go through dry spells or periods of time where you don’t feel you’re writing your best work. That’s alright. As long as you are still working at it, every single day or week.
The golden concept to keep in mind is that if you’re not ‘creating’, you are ‘improving’ by just writing. Even if it’s something as miniscule as learning a new word or connecting one more dot in your story, progress is progress.
No matter what you do in life, or how good you are at it, everyone has ‘off’ days or slumps in output. It’s then not so much about the fall, but about how you get back up again, isn’t it?