We all have days when we sit down to write and the words flow fast and furious while our fingers race to keep up. But what about the days we approach our writing time with eager anticipation only to find that we have nothing to write? Our story is stuck. Our prose is flat. Our imaginations dry. It does little good to sit and stare at a blank screen, hoping the muse will show up and get our fingers dancing again. At times like these, a shift in process helps me. Here are my favorite five methods to get me back on task:
• Write a blog post – Chances are there’s a topic you’ve been meaning to write about – something helpful or interesting to share with others. Perhaps a story in the news has captured your attention and made you angry—a new trend that you find alarming or outrageous. Focus that anger and passion into a piece about it. Whether or not it ends up in your blog—it will still serve the valuable purpose of helping you solidify what’s important to you. It may even end up becoming a short story or a novel.
• Become one of your characters – Put on the hat of your protagonist or one of your favorite characters and look at the world through his or her eyes. Pen a letter from one character to another or write a letter from your character to you. Have a conversation with your character (preferably not in sight of other people). The point is to just have fun with it and in the process discover something new about your character.
• Edit an earlier chapter. I’m still in the throes of my first draft, however, each week I need to read 1,000 words to others in my writer’s workshop. I am now systematically going back to the beginning and revising the early chapters so that I don’t humiliate myself by reading my first draft. I may still have to go back and change those revisions depending on the turns the book takes—but—when I finish my draft I will have a decent amount of chapters polished enough to begin the process of sending out query letters and will have some sample chapters ready to go.
• Do some research. Open up a new document and make a list of questions you need answered. Use the time to find some answers to your outstanding research.
• Use a writing prompt. Download a writing prompt app on your phone or look up some prompts on the Internet ahead of time and stash them with your writing materials. Set the timer for 15 minutes and write non-stop whatever comes into your mind. It may feel awkward and forced but this free association can often yield literary gold.
Whatever it takes to keep you from closing your laptop and continue writing is a step in the right/write direction. Setting and committing to your writing schedule—in times of feast and famine—is the single most important ingredient to your success as a writer. Have some methods that work for you? Please add them in the comments.