Recently I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of writing, and to be honest, I’ve been struggling. After finishing the last school year on a high after completing the first draft of my novel, I’ve returned to the new year feeling, frankly, a bit flat. The origin of this dip in motivation is unknown – although I think it may have something to do with taking such a long break away from daily writing. Having two months off seemed like a good idea back in June, but as someone who thrives on routine (when it comes to getting work done at least), I seem to have fallen into a literary rut. My usual tactic of bum-on-seat and start typing (there really isn’t any other way to be honest), fell by the wayside over the kids’ seven-week long holiday. Despite trying to keep up with weekly blog posts and attempting morning pages (more on that another time), I feel out of practice when it comes to getting words onto the page. More and more I find writing is like playing an instrument – you have to practise it regularly to hone your skills and keep the juices flowing. Now I find myself struggling to get back into the habit, against the pull of self doubt and procrastination – the writerly equivalent of those evil horror movie twins. It turns out there are lots of things I can do to avoid writing when I want to (anyone need their freezer defrosted?). Thankfully, though, when these periods arise, I do have an arsenal of motivational weaponry up my sleeve…
I find listening to podcasts invigorating when I’m going through a flat spell. For motivation, I choose shows with cheerful, lively presenters and guests with the ability to inspire. Some of my favourites include Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons, Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn and Sarah Painter’s The Worried Writer. All of these have stacks of episodes filled with golden nuggets of writerly wisdom. One of the best things about listening to them is the reminder that everyone faces the same challenges (or in other words, from time to time has to face down those evil twins).
When I’m in a rut of any kind in life, walking is my saviour. My daily outing with my dog gives me the dose of fresh air and endorphins my body craves. When I return, I generally feel refreshed and fired up with a bit of creative energy. In fact, while I was writing the first draft of my book last year my daily walk was where I plotted out my scenes. The dog didn’t seem too impressed by any of them but I tried not to be put off by that small detail. As long as I keep throwing the ball he seems pretty happy to be my creative walking buddy/mobile canine muse.
Firing up the old Amazon Music playlist is another way of getting myself into gear writing-wise. There’s nothing like a bit of Kate Bush belting out Wuthering Heights to get me in the frame of mind to work. Personally speaking, anything by Gary Barlow also has the same effect, as does Abba, Dire Straits or a bit of Paolo Nutini. Your own personal playlist will be different but the motivational aspect should be similar. P.S. – this tip also works for getting you in the mood to do housework.
Once you settle down to write, though, you might want to turn that speaker volume down.
I find a little bit of free writing – on any
old rubbish subject helps to get me back into the swing of writing after a hiatus. For me, getting some random thoughts down on paper is like a warm up for creaking bones that haven’t been exercised in a while. If you’re stuck for something to write, open a book at any page, read a random sentence and use that as a jumping-off point. This was one of the tips I gleaned from the writing retreat I attended back in May and it hasn’t steered me wrong.
SHINY NEW IDEA AVOIDANCE
It’s easy to fall into the ‘shiny new idea’ trap when you have a project to finish. When you’re ploughing through re-reads and line-by-line edits that brand new story idea suddenly seems like the best option for all concerned. Tempting as it might be, don’t fall into the shiny idea trap – take a deep breath and try to summon your finishing energies (not my strong point, you’ll know if you read about my website tweaks). A few months down the line and that shiny idea will also mean re-reads and line-by-line edits – not nearly so twinkly after all.
ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE AND THE POMODORO METHOD
I know – it’s boring – but a regular writing routine is really the only way of getting a writing project finished. The idea of writing only when inspiration strikes is romantic but – in my experience at least – a sure fire route to getting very little done. I advocate sitting repeatedly in front of a screen or notepad willing words to arrive and trusting the process. I’m also a fan of routines and rituals and believe that automating the writing process (in that you always do it as close to the same time as possible – e.g. after the school run), is a really good way to go. I’m also a fan of timed writing sessions and the Pomodoro technique – a method whereby you write for 25 minute timed sessions, take a short break and then do another session. I like the short, focused bursts during these timed sessions – but do make sure you turn the Wi-Fi off. Once you’ve done a few of these sessions, you can take a longer break, go for a walk or even listen to a podcast (if finding time to write in the first place is an issue, do read my tips on maximising writing time).
SOCIALISE/CHANGE THE SCENERY
If you’re still struggling, it might be worth having a change of scene and taking your writing gear to the nearest library. Holing up at a local coffee shop is also worth trying – the promise of caffeinated beverages can never be a bad thing. Or what about joining (or starting) a local writers’ group for a chance to swap ideas – and perhaps manuscripts – with like minded people?
But anyway, who I am trying to persuade here? I have a second draft to get on with.
If all else fails, remember – bum on seat and type.
What about you, what are your top tips for writing motivation? What do you do when you get stuck in a writing or blogging rut? Have any of my suggestions helped, or have you already used them? How do you get out of a flat period? I’d love to hear your thoughts!