Week Two of NaNoWriMo started with my writing dried up like a raisin. All wrinkled, leathery and no promise of sweet on the inside. What do you do when your writing stops flowing? When your characters stop talking to you, can you get back your groove? How do you manifest inspiration when your motivation and love for your story begins to sour?
All artists face this, I think. The original idea excited and full of promise bubbles up and over. If you are a painter, you can see the finished painting flawless and profound in your mind’s eye. A musician hears the sweetest notes moving the audience with emotional resonance. A writer sees the finished piece with every word crisp and in perfect order.
Most of what happens from the kernel of an idea to the actual product varies from artist to artist, but there are enough similarities for us to discuss common pitfalls and possible solutions.
Beginnings are sweet. You have an idea. You sit down. You create. Simple, yes? Except maybe after you get going you find you don’t like your story anymore, or the characters aren’t doing what you expected them to do, or you read a few lines of where you left off when you ended the last writing session and decide your writing sucks. What are you supposed to do now?
Because it’s still November, and I am only 16k into my book, I am going to be brief. What follows below are a few tips I have used and seen other writer's talk about, and encourage.
- Do your own words sprints. Set your phone's stopwatch for 15 minutes. Track your word count. I am actually more prolific in short bursts most of the time. Average between 500-600 words per little sprint. It's like taking small bites.
- Track all your writing and how long it takes you. I like to be efficient. If I am upset or over tired and it takes me an hour and half to write 500-600 words, then I am wasting my time. I need to back off and come at it again later.
- Stop mid-sentence. I've heard many writers talk about this. I just cut it off. Seems to help my brain sink back into "writing" mode when I come back to the work.
- Leave the house. I can't actually do this on my own, so it takes some tactical planning, but I try to get out at least once a week for writing.
- Unplug your laptop. I like this one. I unplug my laptop and see how much time I have left on the battery. That's how long I have to make my intended word count.
- Do something else creative. I am learning watercolors. I slap silly colors all over expensive paper. I'm having a blast. I don't do anything with the painting. I just do the act. I decorate with stickers, I color pages, I listen to music, etc. I am a big believer in refilling your creative well. We take out pretty large withdrawals when we up our word count. We need to put a few deposits back in. Cook, decorate, whatever makes you feel good.
- I realize everyone is on the "mindfulness" kick for health reasons. I subscribe to the "if it works, don't knock it" camp. I do short meditations. Call it prayer or whatever you need to. I do between 10-30 minutes of quiet mind breathing. You wouldn't believe the noise in my head. Getting still is quite the workout for the brain. The little grey cells work overtime for NaNoWriMo. It's like preparing for a race. I need to eat well, hydrate, and stretch my brain muscles, so they are ready to win!
And whatever happens, KEEP WRITING!!!
One word at a time, baby. We can make the finish line!