Dry spells. They happen to the best of relationships. So what do you do when they happen to the relationship you have with your writing career?
The good news is that 99% of the time, writing dry spells are just temporary. They can last days, weeks or even months, and are perfectly natural in the life of any creative person—but there are a few ways you can get rid of dry spells more quickly, and get back to what you’re working on.
Writing dry spells are just temporary. (Click to Tweet)
4. Address Your Biggest Writing Fear
Many times, what can feel like a simple dry spell actually has deeper, more complicated roots. It’s easy for me to pronounce myself stuck when what I really am is scared—scared of the anxiety writing sometimes produces to perform and constantly improve, scared of the brand-new narrative idea that seems too big to handle, scared of the deadline that’s staring you down like a cobra about to strike.
So, maybe this is you. I’m scared. I admit it. Now what?
Everyone deals with fear a little differently, but I suggest that the first step in defeating any writing fear that’s holding you back is to write it down. (Seriously? Yes.) Once you know that the pressure to scratch out a work of genius is keeping you from writing at all, you can deal with it. Many great resources for dealing with fear and doubt can be found in Bryan’s book, Writer’s Doubt.
3. Writing Podcasts—Grease for Jammed Writing Gears
I’ve only just discovered the wonder that is writing podcasts. A writing podcast never, ever fails to at least spark a little writing fire, maybe an idea, or at the very least, wake me up enough to get me going even when I feel brain-drained from a day on the job, or groggy in the early morning. Here are some favorites:
Writing Excuses, with Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tyler. This merry band of wordsmiths is currently on season 7 of the podcast, and always has an inspiring 15 minutes to tackle real issues of writing, from character building to narrative arc to what to do with your ideas once you have them.
Writers on Writing, hosted by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, with co-hosts Marrie Stone and Nicole Nelson, is a meaty weekly podcast that (in contrast to Writing Excuses] is frequently over an hour in length. Originally broadcast on KUCI-FM in Irvine, California, Writers on Writing features successful writers talking about specific elements of their novels, writing practice, daily routines, and much more. These authors also read snippets out of their latest books.
2. Mime The Habit
It’s important to maintain your writing habit even though your output might be non-existent.
For example, if you have a writing desk, go to it even when the last thing you want to do on a given day is write or read or even be around words. Just sit in the chair, for ten minutes or so. Let your mind wander. Play a little music. Just generally give your mind a mini-vacation as you sit in your writing chair, not writing.
Do this every day until your words begin to come back, and make sure that whatever you’re doing in your writing spot (aside from writing) is something you also enjoy, like putting your feet up, or watching a movie, or even doodling.
Keep your appointed hour, and it’ll be easier for you to get back in the habit when you’re ready.
1. Set One Really Tiny Goal
Most times, a dry spell can be a real crisis of confidence. You may not be fearful, or anxious, but you could be full of disgust, or self-criticism, and experiencing a real confidence crisis anyhow.
When you can’t write, and you don’t want to read, and sitting down at the computer makes you tired, just say to yourself, “I might not be in the mindset to write right now, but I’m still a writer, and I can do just this one thing to feel accomplished today.”
Your one thing could be simple—cleaning all your freewriting documents off your desktop and sorting them into the correct folder. It could be making a run to Staples to resupply your printer with ink. It could be something silly, like writing all the chapter headings to that novel you haven’t started yet. You could simply handwrite a message in a loved one’s card for her birthday, something more substantial than the “Dear [name,]” and “Love, [your name].”
And once you’ve accomplished your tiny goal, make sure you have a tiny celebration! Setting goals and achieving them is how you practice success, so let yourself feel that little bubble of pride.
Then, after you’ve done all these things, sit down, put your fingers on the keys, and see what happens. I bet you’ll surprise yourself.
What is your cleverest strategy for getting over a dry writing spell? What’s your failproof method for falling in love with words again?
Share your insights in the comments.
This post was written by Positive Writer contributor, Shanan Haislip.