If you’re a writer or wish you were a writer, but can’t seem to get in the mood to do it, here are ways to get in the groove.
- Write regularly. Set time aside. Block it off in your planner or calendar, then keep the appointment you made with your muse. It’s the classic ass-in-the-chair treatment, and it works. Doesn’t matter what you write or how good it is, just write something, even for just fifteen minutes. You’ll be surprised. I force my students to keep a daily writer’s journal, and they agree, the more they write, the easier it gets, and the more prolific they become. Writing begets writing, because it’s self-rewarding; the act almost always uplifts me, despite the common belief that creativity and depression go hand-in-hand. It’s just not true. I figure if you’re called to create and you create, it’ll make your day.
- Hang out with other writers. One of the best things I ever did was start a group of writers who were at about the same stage in their careers as I was. It took awhile to find them, but we’ve been meeting once a month for about ten years now. It made a huge difference in my self-respect and my productivity. Having fellow writers who get what I’m going through made me feel like less of a lonely freak. Hearing about what they’re working on and struggling with gives me new ideas. We help each other trouble-shoot. We challenge each other and egg each other on, comfort each other and celebrate together. Being with other writers helps me accept the more discouraging circumstances of our art and keeps me accountable. Over time, our group is building a shared history. I used to be more depressed and do much less writing before we started meeting, and the same is true for them. Now we all belong to a meaningful creative community.
- Be well in your body. Do all the smart-person things, like get enough sleep, do regular cardio, drink enough water, get quality nature-time, and cut back on the alcohol so your brain is primed to write. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it all works, but it’s hard to work it into your schedule. Here are two quick body-chemistry hacks I discovered. 1) Lower your glycemic index. High-sugar diets can cause depression and brain fog, which is often blamed for “writer’s block.” 2) You probably already know, but caffeine is a great writing drug. It’s a known stimulant that helps you focus on creative tasks and may even spur the language center of your brain. I’m a happy, faster, more confident writer when I’m a healthy writer (and have a cup of coffee).
- Meditate. Remember to spend time each day in an attitude that’s nonjudging and nonstriving. Granted, that attitude can be difficult when for the ambitious in today’s crowded, clanging, multi-media market. I can’t seem to stick with yoga or group meditation, or even lone meditation, but I have found moments of daily mindfulness crucial to my writing wellness. For a few minutes throughout the day, I down my phone, close my laptop, and empty my mind. Sometimes I play with the dogs, or turn off the radio and roll down the window of the car, or rest my hand on my cat when she’s purring cat and just . . . sit in the moment. Focus on ambient sounds. Focus on the textures against my skin and the weight of my feet in my shoes. Meditation can improve your health, your mood, and your creative work. Just as I require of my students, I keep a writer’s journal too, and in it I just free-write, which is a kind of moving-pen meditation. It opens me to uncanny insights into my life and work that I wouldn’t have achieved any other way, and it puts me in the mood to get some good writing work done.
- Send your work out. Even if you’ve been rejected thousands of times, (and eventually we all hit four or more digits, so you’re in good company), whenever you send a proud new piece out where hasn’t been before, it’s like tossing a bottle with a message to the sea. You never know who might pick it up. So lick a stamp, hit submit, and give yourself a little dopamine fix. It takes time, so make time for it. Put “Submit” on your calendar if you have to! Although submitting my work isn’t playing a lottery, (it’s a skill that practice improves), it’s an act of hope, an openness to connection, a sign of faith in myself. Even if I don’t quite believe it when I do it, my spirits will lift just knowing my work’s out there and that I took a chance on myself. So I tell my students, the odds of rejection might be hatefully high, but the more you write and submit, the more you increase the odds of publication and the better and happier you’ll get at this game, not so much by publishing, but by practicing. Just by being a writer. The happier you are, the stronger your staying power.
What works for you?