If you’re a writer, it’s safe to say you’ve probably been there – the need to be productive, but the lack of motivation or ideas to begin. I have a love-hate relationship with writing the first few sentences of anything, especially if I’m itching to get something on paper before quite deciding what. I often find myself staring at blank pages, fumbling with various sentences that just don’t read well enough – as well as battling with my own subconscious (anxiety is a b*tch, ya know), I can quickly burn myself out and self-sabotage to the point of closing my laptop in a slump and being unproductive elsewhere.
So how can we diminish these feelings, despite our anxieties?
The following are tips that help me, but it’s important to find what works for you! What works for one person may not help another.
Research shows that music can actually affect your mood. This is evident when people start dancing to upbeat songs, for example. I find that making playlists that pertain to the genre of the piece I plan to write helps me channel the desired mood, and this also helps me to tap into the minds of my characters. As well as this, I have a general playlist of instrumental tracks that aren’t too distracting to write to. If you feel that you would find yourself distracted by singing along to your favourite songs, try piano pieces, or movie and video game soundtracks. It certainly helps me to have some sort of background noise.
If you think that music will distract you altogether, try searching up nature sounds. For example, this video is over an hour long and is just soothing enough to write to.
If you prefer to write in complete silence, find a quiet place in your house to let your mind wander freely. Tell your family or housemates that you plan to write for an hour or so, and ask them if they’d mind leaving you alone for a while.
This method suits both myself and my partner really well. As people who find ourselves overwhelmed by ideas sometimes, it definitely helps to write these ideas down in a coherent manner to avoid them getting lost amongst the hustle and bustle of our minds. I particularly enjoy scrapbooking and making mood-boards of my ideas; this helps me to keep track of idea development and make sure everything is organised. The visual representation of my ideas through scrapbooking also gives me the boost of inspiration I often need to write those tricky scenes.
Try planning out, paragraph by paragraph, what you intend to write about, and then build the words around that. This way, you’ll be getting rid of the hard part – deciding on the direction of the plot, and you can focus wholly on the words and how you’d like to portray the scene.
Get into the habit of writing every day if possible, even if it’s just a paragraph or two per day. This will diminish those feelings of self-deprecation that keep the words from flowing and you might just feel better for being productive! Don’t beat yourself if you end up writing a page of crap, we all have those days. Just be happy for having written something! Crap writing can be revisited later, but not if there’s nothing to revisit.
Don’t be afraid to step away from your work sometimes!
We can’t always commit to a single story. We’re likely to burn ourselves out that way. So don’t be afraid to step away and work on something else sometimes.
Personally, I enjoy fumbling around with writing prompts to see what I come up with. Sometimes it just takes venturing into another plot to make you feel refreshed enough to come back to your main story.
Here are a few websites that I frequent for prompts:
Also, I’m giving 642 Things to Write by San Francisco Writers’ Grotto an honourable mention. This book, as well as others of the same series, have helped me to climb up and out of a fair few fickle phases.
If you don’t feel like writing, step away from the page or the screen for a little while. Perhaps do some of those chores you’ve been putting off so you don’t have to worry about doing them later, read a book to stimulate your brain or play a video game. Immersing yourself in something else will help you to quieten your mind, and you can always come back to your story later with a fresher mindset!
Take Regular Breaks
Writers aren’t immune to the health hazards of being in front of a screen or in the same position for too long. We all need breaks from time to time; it’s important to move around and rest our eyes and minds now and then. Sometimes, our anxieties are exacerbated by tired minds, and forcing ourselves to get the most perfect strings of words on paper can only be a recipe for disaster. Make sure to get outside every so often, even if just for a short walk. You may even draw inspiration from the outside world! I find that taking a notebook on walks proves to help me come up with ideas better than I would if I was cooped up at home all day. That said, don’t push yourself if you really don’t feel like writing. We can’t always have effortlessly productive days.
Make sure you practice self-care! It is extremely important to eat well, get a good night’s sleep – and perhaps a 90-minute nap here and there, and exercise when and where you can. Your body won’t forgive you for eating trash, stewing in the same clothes over and other, and keeping yourself up at night, and all of these can contribute to your writing anxiety. A healthy body can make for a healthy mind and a healthy mind will flow more freely when it comes to writing.
Keep your hygiene in tip top shape too. Going too long without a wash will prove a distraction, and there’s nothing more refreshing than feeling clean and fresh.
Allow yourself to follow these tips to aid in finding your own methods of getting through your writing anxiety. What works for me may not work for everybody, but just know that you can get out of this slump! Most importantly, don’t push yourself. Be kind to yourself and set yourself realistic goals to avoid feeling disappointed by the end of the day. Only you know what you feel you can achieve throughout the day.
What are your tips for getting through a writing slump?
Good luck, and write well!