Tuesday, February 14, 2017

7 Ways To Recharge When Your Writing Tank Is Empty

We all get blocked. Maybe we're not stopped, but we've slowed down. We were aiming for 1000 words a day and we're hitting 200. Writing feels hard. We're struggling for words, even though we really love writing and have great reasons to be writing. It's not writer's block, it's just an empty tank.

You need to refuel.

1. Read.

Reading is the number one way I recharge my writing battery. Hands down, it is the more effective thing for me personally and I love doing it. However because I am so busy, I rarely make time for it.

I think the top three best things you can read to get you out of a writing funk is to re-read something you really love, read books about writing craft, or read something well outside if your normal comfort zone that still looks good, a new author or genre, for example.

Re-reading something I love always makes me excited to get back to my own writing. There are four trilogies that I go back to over and over when I want to be inspired and they are: The Tamir Triad by Lynn Flewelling (I've probably read it a dozen times, all up), The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, The Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S Pacat and The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie (along with other books in the same world). I also regularly re-read China Mieville's short story collections. You will undoubtedly have your own favourites.

Books on writing craft often give me new ways to look at writing, or ideas I can implement to fix the weaknesses in my own writing, which immediately makes me want to go back and work on that.

New books, books out of my comfort zone, often introduce me to new ideas, tropes and styles. Which is always good, as it expands your mental writer toolset. For me, this is the highest risk option, because it is hard to find books I enjoy and I can just as easily get annoyed.

2. Exercise.

If I am using exercise to clear my head for writing, its important I only listen to instrumental music so I am forced to be alone with my thoughts. For this reason, doing manual tasks like gardening, washing, sweeping, etc also count as 'exercise'. The important thing is your hands and body are busy and your mind is not distracted by TV, games, facebook or anything else.

Getting blood into the brain is also good for thinking, so getting your pulse up can really help. But mostly I think it is the 'busy hands, distraction free' element that is helpful.

3. Go somewhere new.

You don't have to leave the state or country, just go to a nearby town you've never visited and walk up and down the main street. Go to that shop you pass all the time and never go inside. Go to national parks near you and check out the facility. The important thing is, that you go to places you have never been before. It's amazing for creating new connections in the brain.

As an added bonus, if you do this once a week or more, it will make the year pass much less quickly. Novel experiences break up our routine, which stops the brain from condensing our memories of time so much.

4. Talk about it with other writers.

Being part of an active writing community is, in my opinion, one of the best parts of writing. The people I choose to be around are friendly, supportive, intelligent and interesting. Not all writing tribes are and you get out of it what you put in.

However when you are stuck, being able to meet for coffee or chat online about your project, feelings and obstacles can be very cathartic. Find a tribe, support them, be nice to them, listen to them and they will do the same for you.

5. Create something else.

Writing is an act of creation. There are thousands of ways you can create things and sometimes if you are a bit depleted in the writing front, creating something else will help you feel energised again.

It could be art, sculpture, cooking, gardening, music, video games, web design, making something practical, wood working, sewing, knitting, the list goes on. You don't have to be good at it, you don't have to make something you could sell. Joy comes in the act of creating itself. And learning new skills helps your brain make new pathways. It makes you smarter and happier.

6. Finish one of those unfinished jobs.

If you are like me, you have a huge list of things that need to get done. Crossing them off can give you a huge rush of accomplishment and a massive ego boost that you can then channel into your writing. Choose whichever job has been sitting around the longest and get it done. Buckle down. Finish it.

You will feel amazeballs.

7. Journal your feelings.

I journal a lot and I am so grateful to my friend Scarlett, who inadvertently got me back into it. It doesn't matter what in my life is stressing me or frustrating me, I write about it in my journal. I am 100% honest. I let myself ramble and say a bunch of nonsensical shit. I say things I would never, ever say out loud. I say things I don't mean, just so I can get negative feelings out of my system. Sometimes I say I want to punch people in the face or I wish something horrible would happen to them--I don't really want that. I'm just angry or upset with them for some reason.

I write about my writing the same way. I let all my fears and rage and hopelessness out on the page. I say a lot of stuff I don't really believe, so that those words are out of my head. All that negative self talk has to GO SOMEWHERE. Put it in a journal, so it's not in your head anymore, repeating itself like some demented parrot.

Think of words and thoughts as a real, tangible thing. As taking up space in the world. You can't make them disappear. If you think negative things, they will stay in your head until you put them somewhere else. It's like food. You eat it and if you don't poop it out agian, it's still in there, festering in your gut. Some of it its turned into heat and energy and that leaves your body too. Food never just vanishes.

Poop out the gross words in your head into a journal. You'll be glad you did.

And hopefully, you'll be able to go back to writing.

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