I know it’s hard. This is the time you made for writing, but your writing is not making time for you.
Today, your writer’s mind gave you the finger and stayed home so it could eat potato chips and watch television in bed. Meanwhile you’re staring at the screen, wondering why you don’t do something more practical with your life like accounting or computer programming.
So put it aside.
It’s time to put down whatever you’re working on: the chapter, the blog post, or the online article. You’re only making it harder on yourself by forcing the words to come out.
For writers it can be difficult to recognize when it’s time to set something aside, especially when we have expectations to meet. Maybe you have to submit something for a deadline, or maybe you set a goal to write so many words a day.
When this happens it’s hard to get the words down, and it’s easy to get distracted. The ideas are there, and we desperately want to get them. But we are at war with language.
I’ve struggled with this over the last couple weeks as I worked on an online article. My ideas were good but not great. I played around with them, took some notes, and put them down. I just wasn’t feeling it.
I was getting frustrated and doubts took over. I didn’t think I could make the deadline. So, I took some advice Don Draper gave to Peggy when she was breaking through as a copywriter: think about it really hard, and then don’t think about it at all.
For a week, I completely forgot about the article I needed to write and focused entirely on the chapter for my upcoming deadline. I also read selections from Margaret Atwood’s book, In Other Worlds to tap into my writer’s mind.
It was exactly what I needed.
A few days before the deadline, I tossed out all my ideas and wrote something new. This time it felt right.
Here are a few things you can do to clear some of those mental blocks.
- Work on another piece – Most writers are working on a few things at a time: books, blogs, columns, or articles. If one piece doesn’t seem to take, set it aside and work on something else. The new task will energize you and give you a much-needed mental break.
- Read a passage from a book on the writing – Reading a book about writing is often motivating. It reminds us why we do what we do and reignite the spark.
- Make time for another craft – Having other creative endeavors is a gift to yourself. If you do one thing for too long, you will get burned out. It’s healthy for your creative mind to have other outlets: drawing, cooking, playing music, sewing…anything that will keep your hands moving and your imagination active. Putting your energy into another craft is often invigorating.
- Scrap it – Sound agonizing? So is reading whatever you have so painfully written. If it was a burden for the writer, then chances are it’s a burden for the reader. Save a few good lines, and put it out of its misery.
The most important thing we can do is accept that it’s not working. There are good days and bad. Pause, take a deep breath, and gently acknowledge that you should write this another time.
It may even be regenerative. Your writing mind may need its couch-potato-mental-health-day. And when it comes back, it will be restored and ready to go.