If you’re having trouble writing these days, you’re not alone. Every writer I know is having trouble producing new work—me included. But I’ve put together some strategies that have been helping me, and I think they will help you too. Here are seven ways to keep writing in difficult times.
- Write in Smaller Chunks
In ordinary times, we make big writing goals, and then we break them down into manageable steps. In difficult times, you can do the same thing, but make the steps even smaller. Nope, that’s not small enough. Make it smaller yet. Some of my friends are committing to writing 100 words a day. Others are writing fifteen minutes a day. That’s all they can do, and that’s all they need to do.
- Write to Prompts
If working on a novel or memoir seems too hard, try writing prompts. They are great writing practice, they will get you thinking differently, and there are no stakes. With a prompt, you can write well or write badly, as long as you’re writing.
- Try Editing
Sometimes, you can’t write new material, but you can edit old stuff. There can be great comfort in polishing your work. In times of stress, it’s calming to make order out of chaos.
- Don’t Forget to Read
If all else fails, and you can’t write a single thing, try reading. Turn off the news, stop scrolling social media, and just read. You could pick up a book about the craft of writing, or just read in your genre. Being familiar with books in your genre is an important part of a writer’s toolbox, so reading time is part of writing time.
- Take on This Identity
Do you call yourself a writer? Why not? If you truly take on that identity, and you know deep in your bones that you’re a writer, then the act of writing will become second nature. You take care of your children, right? Why? Because you’re a parent. You don’t think about it too much, or stress about it, you just do it. You walk your dog because you’re a dog owner. Maybe you cook because you’re a chef or you drive a bus because you’re a bus driver. In the same way, you write because you’re a writer. So take on that identity and allow yourself to write in a more matter-of-fact way.
- Find a Buddy
Even if we can’t meet face to face, we can still can still reach out for support. I like to have virtual write-ins with a friend. We’ll agree on a start time and then text each other to say, “Okay, go!” After an hour, we’ll text again, to congratulate each other for a good hour of writing. All you need is a little bit of time and one writing buddy.
- Remember This is Temporary
Do you remember the last time your writing was going really well? When you were in the zone, and the words flowed effortlessly? That was a temporary state. It was fun while it lasted, but it eventually ended and you got stuck. But the good news is, being stuck is temporary too! It won’t last forever. A writer is always bouncing back and forth between stuck and unstuck. That’s just the nature of the creative life. A lot of us are feeling stuck right now. None of us will be stuck forever.
I hope everyone is safe, healthy, and well-stocked, and that we’ll all be back to visiting our favorite bookstores and libraries again soon. I’ll post again on the 1st with my next scheduled book review.