How has everyone’s week been? Mine has been super busy. I’m surprised it’s Saturday already! Anyone been working on their reading since last week? I managed to get a book and some magazine reading in the past week; it felt really good to be able to read and forget the world for a while.
(I do have a book review, in fact, but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow)
Once again, it is that time of week for some friendly writing advice. A question was asked, a question I am excited to answer as it is something I can well relate to, at the moment.
Last week, Cherise asked:
“I have not been writing regularly at all for almost a year, but I want to get back into it. However, my story-creativity feels like it’s nonexistent. Do you have any suggestions on how I could work my way back up to working regularly on long projects?”
This is a good question, and I feel this problem is something every writer hits now and then. It’s not necessarily writer’s block, but the writing isn’t free flowing either. This is where the writer feels they are digging into the craft without unleashing the true power beneath. It’s like digging in the sand for pirate treasure and finding a few coins . . . but nothing truly significant that makes you go “wow, I just found something really amazing”. The writing is there, and upon writing a little you feel excited, as if taking a breath of fresh air after lungfuls of stale musk, but the excitement doesn’t last because nothing was truly unleashed.
Wanting to get back into it is a start. However, want isn’t enough to make something happen. No matter how much a person can wish for something (i.e. a happier job, weight loss, more money, more excitement), wishing never equals reality. Just as wishing on a star never truly works. During my life, I have come to realize that wishing and waiting is not enough. Wishing and longing is a start, but in order for something to truly happen, you have to take all the excitement and hope and longing that you feel in that wish and do something with it. Take all that energy and let it out!
There is a good side and a bad side with everything in life. With writing, there is so much good, but one of the more frustrating things about writing is that you have to keep it up. Writing is akin to playing an instrument. It is an instrument that needs to be praticed weekly, even daily. The longer you let it sit there, untouched, the more rusty the playing will get. The more you will dread playing it, despite longing to, knowing that if you try, it might not come as fluidly as it used to. However, know this too: even if it isn’t as fluid at first, it will come back to you. Perhaps not right away, but everything is a journey. Playing an instrument, painting art, creating great works of literature, architecture. Every gift, even if it is a gift, takes work and practice.
Knowing this, then, the only good way to get back into writing, and writing often, is to start writing! Not all at once, of course, and this is a journey for me as well. I haven’t written anything of consequence in almost two months now. Part of this is how busy I have been, but part of this is because I am afraid of not only letting myself down, but letting my craft down. Don’t let these fears take hold of you! Start out small and work your way up.
Read, first of all. Read as many books as you can get your hands on. Start taking notes of what you liked while you read: style, character quirks, if you liked first or third or omniscient person more, brief bits of description that made you gasp with delight. Compile little bits of writing that stood out to you while contemplating your own style, your own characters, what you lean toward more in style and what you stay away from. Then find an idea. Grab a prompt, or maybe start with a novel plot you wrote down ages ago and haven’t given any thought to since. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, pick a random scene from your head, a random setting and random character, and then map it out on a piece of paper. Who is this character? What does he/she want? Why does he/she want that? Outline a little, write down anything that comes to mind. The more you discover about this new idea, which is a lot like finding gorgeous, little fire gems inside a dark cave (in my opinion), the more you will want to become acquainted with it.
For example: I am currently working out an idea for a first person paranormal/romance novel. I haven’t written in two months, so I’m sure both my style and my writing technicques are a bit rusty. I am also busy, but despite this all I still really want to write this book. I ache to write, but something–fear? apprehension? creative exhaustion?–holds me back. My wish is to write, though, and tiring of wishing that will get me no where, I take action. I think about the idea while sweeping the floors at work. Boring, but the task of figuring out character motivation keeps me preoccupied. When I’m not busy, I take a notebook and a pen and I jot down random plot bits onto the page…just so I can see it down in ink (another bit of advice. Never think you’ll remember something and have no reason to write it down. Write it down anyway! I have thought up tons of character revelations only to forget later on because I figured I would remember and didn’t jot it down). If I’m stuck, I’ll write questions to myself on the page and then answer them. Even if it’s sloppy and silly, it really does help. When I’m not doing those, I make character profiles: their hair color, fashion statements, personality traits, any information on their past and their desires for the future, odd items that are sentimental to them. Anything you can learn about your character is worthwhile for the actual writing later on, because strong characters make up 30-40% of a novel’s strengths.
Writing takes time and effort. I think every writer knows that. For having taken a while off from regular writing, it won’t come effortlessly as it used to (if it ever used to). My advice is to take it slow, mess around with plot and character ideas, and slowly ease your way back into it. Mess around with the first chapter, if you have any ideas for one. Get back into the flow of writing something…write random scenes just because you can! And most of all, have fun with it. If you’re not having fun with it, with writing or whatever you know you love doing, then something might need to be reassessed.
Finally, writers cannot always depend on that “burst of inspiration” for writing fuel. If a writer only writes when inspired, then regular writing cannot happen. Writing is as much of a job as it is a pleasure. It is an occupation of sorts. As much as writers’ block might hurt, I believe it is all in the mindset. Sometimes you have to push writing. Set goals for yourself! Chain yourself to that computer (or notebook) and tell yourself as much as your brain might protest, and as much as your body yearns to go to the beach or the mall instead of sit there staring at a blinking cursor, that you need to write X amount of words. Give yourself a goal and a reason to get there (i.e. write 5,000 words by the end of this week and then I can go to Target and buy that new book everyone has been raving about). Inspiration is great, don’t get me wrong, but if you don’t choose to actively get yourself somewhere, inspiration will only take you so far. Inspiration is the the motor, but your sheer will is the fuel to help it run. It might be painful, at first. Your brain might rant and rave and your fingers rebel, your thoughts refuse to come, but you need to make that decision to start writing and stick with it no matter how hard it is, at first. Nothing is ever easy, and writing is no exception.
The saving factor? Writing is so, so, so worth it.
I hope this helps! Look out for more weekly advice (and writing prompts) next week, as well as a book review tomorrow… If anyone has any specific advice they’d like to hear about, just let me know in the comments!
Until next week, my challenge to you? Keep reading!