This is the third blog I’ve started writing today. The others have been abandoned, tabs closed, half-finished with no essence of beating heart in them. Writing is like that, often. Sometimes the words come naturally, my fingers pitter-patter on the keyboard in a ten-man wonder of choreography, directed by the seemingly endless streams of creative energy flowing from my brain to my fingertips. Other days, I watch the cursor blinking menacingly, the feeling doesn’t come, and I’m left forcing word after word, without flow or rhythm, jutting around in an awkward silent dance on my own.
But, deep down, I know these days are just as important, that clunky writing is still writing, and that as lovely as it would be for words to tumble enthusiastic and orderly onto the page every day, they won’t. Showing up on the difficult days teaches you to craft their sparkle from scratch ✨
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou
1. Be kind
This is my first tip because before we get into anything else, it’s important to communicate with your body and your mind and to know when you just need to give them a break.
I used to be a bit of a workaholic. I’d feel guilty and hyper-active if I wasn’t doing something ‘productive’. But in early lockdown, I made it my goal to learn how to relax. I’ve learnt to be a lot kinder to myself, to recognise exhaustion and work with my feelings, rather than against them. Sometimes, when you don’t feel like writing, it’ll be because something somewhere else is off and you genuinely need a break.
Working with yourself and giving your body rest when it needs it will make you more productive.
So whilst I’m telling you to work even when you don’t feel free-flowing creativity, I’m not saying to overwork yourself when you need a break. As long as we don’t let our laziness abuse the privilege, sometimes it’s much better to let yourself recharge for a while and try again later. That’s where your honesty and communication with yourself comes into play, it’s your responsibility to figure out when you need a break and when you need a push. The more you open up that channel of communication, the easier it becomes to figure out.
2. Learn to word vomit
I’d like to have found a nicer way of phrasing this, but this title fits a little too well. When I really feel like my words are stuck, I try to take all expectations off of my writing and I just start typing, trying to stop as little as possible. I don’t worry too much about punctuation or word choice (*gasp*), I just start trying to ramble and see what ideas come tumbling out. I’ve found this method to be really helpful and often I just have to do a few rounds of editing to get a piece up to scratch. Sometimes I even find my flow halfway through!
3. Make a plan
Stephen King, writer of an ungodly amount of awesome books says “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Sometimes we shy away from things simply because we’re not sure what to do with them or because they look too daunting to approach. Writing out a plan, even if only in vague bullet points will help you guide your writing, breaking it down into smaller parts to bypass the intimidating blank page and focus on one small chunk at a time.
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4. Take a break
There’s no shame in taking a break! Sometimes a walk, quick catchup with a friend, a snack or a tea break will be just what you need to shake your mind out of its funk. I’d really recommend getting outside if you can, the fresh air can rehydrate your brain from that groggy, sleepy feeling a lack of motivation can bring.
If you’ve been overworking a little recently, take a proper break. Like I said earlier, it’s important to listen to your body and rest if you need it. If you don’t, you’ll end up burning out and trust me, that is not a nice experience. Rest is as important to productivity as working is – the balance is what you need.
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5. Change what you’re writing
Maybe it’s not writing but, what you’re writing that’s the problem. Sure, this doesn’t work if you’ve got a piece with a deadline, but even just switching to something else for a little while can help you find your flow again.
Alternatively, if you find your writing reserves are well and truly dried up, spend your time editing old writing or brainstorming ideas for new pieces. Doing so will mean you’re still exercising your creative muscles, but without the pressure to produce from zero (let’s face it, that’s a pretty big task).
6. Rekindle your inspiration
Why are you trying to write? What inspires you to write? Refer back to your ‘why’ and see if you can draw any inspiration from it. Read back over some of your past work, read other people’s work who you admire, come up with new ideas, anything that’s going to bring some fun back into writing for you.
Set yourself up a cute writing station, burn a candle, put on some good music, make yourself a coffee – your surroundings can really help.
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7. Make the habit
Writing is a difficult hobby to have and a difficult one to stick to, but once you get in the rhythm of it, it becomes second nature. Back when I worked in Marketing and spent most of my 9-5 writing, I could spit out 1,000-word blog posts three times a day, but if I leave it a couple of weeks without writing, I can struggle to get past 500 words.
Make your effort consistent. Rather than forcing yourself to write for ten hours in one go, write for an hour a day, every day. Making a habit out of writing will help you improve your consistency, your ability and find your flow easily. Not to mention being a great way to keep your motivation up.
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I’ve always been a writer. Since I was a kid, it was something that no matter the form it took, I’d come back to over and over again. I love the written word. But there are always difficult days where writer’s block comes knocking, no matter how much you write or how good of a writer you are. These are the tips I’ve collected over the years for how to write when you just don’t want to. I hope they help.
Write to your heart’s content. Love, Ella-Rose xx