Have you ever had one of those wasted writing days? In this post, we look at seven ways to rescue a writing day that’s not happening.
Sometimes, with the best will in the world, the precious time you’ve set aside to get down to some writing just doesn’t want to go as planned. Here’s how to salvage your day…
It happens to us all sometimes. You scrape, beg, or borrow some time for your own creativity, but then when you sit down at the keyboard or notebook, you find that the ideas won’t come, the words just won’t flow.
- Perhaps you’re preoccupied by a problem in your personal life.
- Perhaps you’re feeling low or short on energy.
- Perhaps you didn’t sleep well the night before, or you’ve had a row with your partner that hasn’t been resolved.
- Perhaps, for reasons you can’t quite explain, you’re just not feeling it.
- Or perhaps the pressure of making the best use of that precious time is inhibiting you.
Not being able to get into the flow can be extra stressful because you know how hard it was to find the time to write in the first place, and this realisation just adds to the stress you’re feeling right now.
But take heart. All is not lost – especially if you remember that there’s more to writing than just the actual act of writing. It’s also dreaming, planning, thinking; researching, practising, and learning; plus all the hustle of marketing, promoting, and getting paid for your work. So here are a few ways to rescue a writing day that doesn’t seem to be happening…
7 Ways To Rescue A Writing Day That’s Not Happening
1. Watch a film or read a book
If you’re in the middle of writing a book, the chances are that your mind is whirring away thinking about all the intricacies of plot and character you need to solve. Even if you don’t feel able to actually write, simply reading or watching something that informs those creative ruminations can be really useful.
Writing about how people deal with trauma? Watch We are Marshall or Ordinary People. Got a character who was in Vietnam? There’s loads of great books and films to inspire and inform your work. Struggling with an intricate plot? Try reading Michael Frayn or watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or films with crazy plot twists. It’s all grist to your creative mill.
2. Do some litbiz.
By ‘litbiz’ I mean all those admin and marketing jobs that make up the less glamorous side of the writing life – but are still essential if you want to make it as a writer. Do you have some invoices to send off or chase? Some social posts to put out there? A book review that’s overdue? A blog post you promised someone? Got some stories to submit or an email to publishers and agents you want to draft? Today could be the day to tick some of those jobs off.
3. Phone someone who reminds you of one of your characters.
A good way to get into the mind of a character you’re struggling with is to get in touch with someone you know who shares some of their background or traits, and just get to know them a bit better. That might just mean going for a coffee with a friend, or chatting to someone in a local shop, or phoning around a few contacts to set up a call with a police officer or doctor or salesperson, or whoever you need. Pick their brains, listen to how they talk about things. Creating and developing characters is always easier when you can root that work in the reality of someone you actually know.
4. Write something else.
Get out your journal and just start writing what comes to mind, films with crazy plot twists style. You may end up with something that you can use somewhere, or you may just be able to clear your mind of the restless chatter that’s stopping you getting down to your WIP. Alternatively, have a go at a poem or short story or article – something quite different to your main manuscript. Write up an idea that’s been buzzing around your head but you haven’t allowed yourself to think about for fear of losing focus. Because today, maybe a little creative holiday is actually what you need to help you reset your focus.
5. Work on your blurb or synopsis.
Some writers hate writing the cover blurb or the one-page synopsis of their coming book – they often complain it’s harder than writing the actual book! But I think it’s a really valuable exercise. I always try to write the blurb (or a first draft of it) before I start a new novel – it helps me set my compass for what I’m trying to achieve.
A blurb hints at key plotlines and character arcs, but also helps set the tone and themes of your project. It’s something you will doubtless return to again and again, to tweak as things change over time, but you’ll be glad you started early in the process. So too with the synopsis, which is a vital piece of copy to win over an agent or publisher and all too often gets left to the very end.
6. Write something out of order.
Maybe you’re struggling because you don’t what happens next in your book. Or perhaps you do know – but you just don’t know how to approach it. But even if your book is read in a linear fashion, it doesn’t have to be written that way.
Think of a scene that’s coming up later and start there. Make it something self-contained and manageable.
- Write a passage of dialogue between two key characters who meet for the first time.
- Jot down a list of phrases that your MC might say, or a list of things that might happen to them.
- Write a physical description of a character or their home.
- Do the last three paragraphs of a chapter.
- Write a joke or an incident or an observation that feels right for your book.
Write anything that you feel you can.
These sections may well not have a specific home yet within your WIP – they’re just useful units of writing that you know you’ll want to slot in somewhere. But it all helps to keep you progressing. With my current novel, I found I got stuck 75% of the way through – so I went ahead and wrote the end sections, which were much clearer in my head, and worked back from there.
7. Do some exercise or bake a cake.
Staring at a screen and trying to force the words to come rarely works. Sometimes the best way to get the creative juices flowing again is to stop trying so hard and do something completely different instead – ideally something mindful where there isn’t room to keep worrying about your book as well. So – go for a run or a swim or a hike. Cook a stupendous dinner. Play some music. Paint a fence or knock a wall down. You might surprised at the thoughts that come to you – once you stop thinking.
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