If you’re anything like me, you probably had a time in your life where writing was as necessary as sleep. You wrote about as many things as you could as much as you could, and you often found that your fingers couldn’t keep up with your thoughts. After all, it’s an intoxicating feeling to have your brain churning with stories that are for your pleasure alone and to feel that those ideas are good ones.
But again, if you’re like me, that’s a thing from the past. You’re not quite sure where those ideas went or how to get them back. I began to stop writing for fun as I entered college, where writing became more about pleasing my professors than about pure enjoyment.
And to be honest, that wasn’t all bad. We all need mentors to stretch us, to point out our flaws, and to help us overcome them. I’m immensely grateful for the education I received, for both creative and professional writing. But when I sit down to write something just because I want to (instead of a portfolio addition), all my ideas are stagnant. I miss it, and I’m not sure how to get it back.
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” –Jack London
We’ve all heard it before. But what does “going after it with a club” even mean? Here are some of my interpretations:
This isn’t the sappy “make time” as in, remember to jot down a few ideas before going to sleep. This means you make time like the way you set aside time for exercising or doing the dishes. It’s just a part of your day, whether you like it or not.
Some people like coffee shops. Some like libraries. Others like an office. When you do create that special spot, make sure you mark it mentally as yours. Maybe that one coffee shop is a spot you go only when you write, and just being there gets you in the right mood. Having your own “writing spot” is a good brain trick for when you’re feeling stuck.
Just like you have certain warm-ups to do before working out, having a ritual before you begin can be a mental signal that it’s time to start. I’ve heard people read a poem or two before they begin or perhaps wear a certain hat or shirt to put themselves into the groove. Personally, I light a candle or two on my desk. The sight of candles is calming to me whenever my brain begins to wander.
Keep Your Blood Moving
Feeling stagnant? Stand up, do some quick exercises. Don’t use this as a time to check Facebook though. Give your eyes a break. Your brain will thank you.
Write Down the Little Things
Good ideas typically occur to us whenever we’re not at our laptops. I’ve begun carrying a small notepad in my purse with me. It’s great for scribbling a line or thought down unobtrusively. Even though these aren’t earth-shattering metaphors or plot twists, I find it helps to write down any sort of idea. I think it subtly encourages the brain that all ideas are good to grab ahold of, even if you don’t end up using them.
The average person strives harder when there’s a tangible goal to strive for, not just a vague idea. Goals can be small—it could be that you want to just write a page every day. And that’s okay. This is about building habits, not winning NaNoWriMo.
Exercise Your Brain
One of the most notable characteristics of a good writer is one who reads. And while reading in your genre would help the most, feel free to branch out. I was in a Fitzgerald kick after I graduated, and now I’ve returned to some of the fantasy novels I loved most in 8th grade. Anything that can engage your mind and remind you how to create characters and scenes and string dialogue together is a good thing.
Have you ever had trouble writing creatively again? How did you overcome it?