Staying Inspired: How to find words again

I have short listed the four top reasons why I sometimes struggle to write and share with you various ways I have been able to overcome them. If you know why you can’t write, you can take steps to rectify the problem.

I know that many writers sometimes struggle for words. The “flow” just isn’t there. There are plenty of tips given daily to get the “flow” going again, but in this article I want to look at what can cause the “flow” to cease.

I have short listed the four top reasons why I sometimes struggle to write and share with you various ways I have been able to overcome them. If you know why you can’t write, you can take steps to rectify the problem.

Too Much Work

I know that everyone works long hours and then tries to squeeze in a few hours writing after work. But if your brain and/or body are too tired, the writing just won’t happen. What I used to find most frustrating was that the ideas were pounding around in my head but I had no way of getting them out, because I was either stuck in an office or driving to or from work.

My solution – scribble down all your ideas in your lunch break. Make it stream of conciousness if necessary. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just get the bare bones down. Once a week, sit down and type up your ideas and, if you have time, work on the most promising one. Even if you don’t have time to work out an idea immediately, at least once you’ve typed the ideas up, you have it in print so you don’t have a blank sheet of paper to start with.

Are you getting enough sleep?

If you’re not sleeping properly, you won’t function 100% in any area of your life.

I’ve found the best thing to do is to have a nightly routine. Go to bed at the same time, particularly during the week if you have a day job. Have a massage or an aromatherapy session, listen to some music or read before you go to sleep. Do the same thing to unwind every night, so that your body and brain know it’s time for rest. If you can, open your bedroom window to let the fresh air in. Make sure you’re not too hot or too cold. Pray or meditate before you sleep. Practise slow breathing and allow your mind to let go of the day – encourage yourself to sleep.

Remember – no caffine or heavy meals. You need to have finished eating at least 2 hours before you lie down. If you don’t like herbal or fruit teas but need something warm to drink, try just plain boiled water or warm milk.

Aim for 7-8 hours sleep a night. If you wake up and find it hard to get back to sleep, practice slow breathing again and let go of whatever you’re thinking.

Are you getting enough exercise?

If you’re not getting enough regular exercise, your body and brain won’t function to their fullest extent. Getting out in to the fresh air, even it if it is raining, is essential for your entire being.

The simplest way of exercising is a brisk 30 minute walk every day. (This does not include shopping!) Ideally in the fresh air (countryside or a park) and if you can include hills in your walk, even better! That way you’ll get some cardio vascular exercise too. Can’t get out every day? Try and do some dancing or yoga or even resistance training on the days you can’t go out for a walk. Don’t over do things – listen to your body.

I find exercise essential for my creativity. I leave my dance workouts until the end of my working day. That way I can let go of all the things that keep buzzing round in my head and I just focus on my body and how to relieve any tense joints etc. Before I do the workout, I write down everything I need to achieve the next day, and add to it whenever I think of anything else during the evening.

Switching off from writing is very important. Constantly thinking of writing and marketing actually damages creativity. You need to take time out as a writer. Which leads me on to my final point.

Try Something Else

Whenever I have been completely stuck for words, I stop writing and do something else for a bit. It has to be creative. Sitting on the sofa and watching the box set of Twilight is not going to resolve your creativity issues!

Here are some creative things I’ve done in the past that have allowed my brain to relax and for the creativity to start working again: –

Without Words – take a month off writing and reading. Give your brain a rest from words. I found it REALLY hard, but it worked! I really appreciated being able to read a book and write in my journal after 5 weeks of nothing…

Take Photographs – find a theme or just take random pictures. Don’t write about them. Just enjoy taking the picture. Find an object and take ten different views of it. You’ll end up deleting most of the pictures, but you’ll keep a handful that “say” something to you. It’s fun!

Draw – Elisa Choi’s Skillshare online courses are VERY good! I used to sketch a bit in my teens but the talent has waned during my adult years as writing has taken over. However, I found Elisa’s workshops inspiring and I am now a convert to splashing paint onto wet paper! It’s great fun and I’ve created some amazing images.

Travel – Get in the car, on the bus/train or cycle and go somewhere beautiful. Here in England we have The National Trust and English Heritage – plenty of old houses and castles with stunning gardens. Treat yourself to a day out. Take your journal and wander round these places and write if you feel inspired.

Music – listen to music. Different kinds of music. Try out different styles. Discover new albums! Just sit and listen (or get up and dance if you want to!) Don’t try and write to the music, just absorb the sounds.

Read – Reading something you enjoy will allow your brain to relax and trigger off creativity. Don’t use reading as an excuse for not writing. But do read to feed your imagination. Too tired to read text? Find an art or picture book and mooch through that with a glass of red wine or a beer.

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This post is contributed as Guest post by Freya Pickard.

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Write Something Every Day

The books, the articles, the rejection letters, and any success I’ve had—came from one simple concept. Write something every day

People often ask me how I finish a first draft so quickly, or how I manage to write at all. “It’s easy,” I tell them. “I sit down and I write.”

When I was drafting up my first novel failure, long ago, I don’t think I could have completed it without the help I received online. I had stumbled across some website while searching tips and tricks on writing a novel. The premise of the site was this: they would give you some inspiration quote every day, and you finish your novel in 100 days or less. I was still learning the industry, and figured that I would need 80,000 words to get to a finished novel that might be received well. That’s 800 words per day.

When I started, I tried to eloquently tart-up every sentence, and I wasn’t getting anywhere. I knew the steps in the story. I saw the whole thing in my mind, but I couldn’t get it down on paper. One of the first pieces of advice I garnished from my online searches was to “write something every day and keep the story moving forward.” Advice I took to heart. I stopped looking back to the previous chapters and paragraphs, I stopped editing myself while writing. I made a rule that I could read over the last paragraph or two, but then I had to move forward. I told myself that finishing the first draft was the most important thing, and I had the rest of my life to edit it.

Day after day, writing became easier. I stopped using needlessly wordy sentences, and started spitting story content. Up to 2,000 words per day. As the quotes kept coming, I realized that a first draft is nothing more than an outline with every detail hashed out. The sentences were garbage. I also knew myself well enough. If I didn’t finish in two months, I never would. I have this thing, maybe because I’m a Pisces, where I get bored easily, and give up on a new project or hobby if it doesn’t hold my interest.

Word by word, chapter by chapter, I finished that stupid book, picking up writing wisdom in the meantime. I made another rule at some point that I would read one blog post or article on “how to write” every day, so I could hone my craft, and learn “on the job.”

I went to start my edit. I remember very clearly staring at that first sentence and having paranoid thoughts that somebody intentionally sabotaged my work. “This is horrible!” In that instant, I knew what separated the novelist from the aspiring writer. You can take all the classes you want, spend all of your time reading about the art of writing, memorizing grammar and punctuation rules, but all of it will never teach you as much as the act of actually writing a novel. My writing progressed so much while drafting that I could no longer recognize my own words!

I did a full editing pass. Changed everything. Let the story rest. Then I went back to page one, and, once again, looked in horror at the paragraph I had assumed was tight. Start over, another editing pass, and then another. Every single time I went back to chapter one, my writing had improved, so it looked like garbage again. I haven’t looked at that manuscript in years, and frankly, I’m afraid to.

After learning the art of querying and agent hunting, a friend told me that maybe I should start on another book. I didn’t listen right away, but eventually I started a new book, and another, and another. I didn’t care about being published any more. I had stories clogging up my brain and needed them out. Before I published any of my current works, I had amassed several novels in various editorial stages, dozens of articles and short stories, and started freelancing.

Now I realize that all of itthe books, the articles, the rejection letters, and any success I’ve hadcame from one simple concept. Write something every day. Even when I’m editing a big manuscript, I still find time to write. I keep a journal, I post blog articles, I freelance. I do whatever I can to get at least 500 new words on paper every single day. There is no substitute for writing, and just because the querying process has begun, it doesn’t mean you get to take a break. I can look at something I wrote 3 months ago and think of half a dozen things to fix. After a decade, my writing is still improving every day. There’s no substitute for words on a page.

This post is submitted as Guest Post by Martin McConnell