It happens to everyone, and probably more times than most of us care to admit.
In fact, I’ve been struggling with the same chapter for two days. If you have an end date in mind, these non-productive writing days can be extremely disappointing and a bit stressful.
Because every day is not going to be a perfect writing day, and yet the work still needs to be done, it’s important to create or find a few coping mechanisms that help you push through these tough times. The good news is that they don’t last forever!
#1 Outline. When the words aren’t flowing, stop trying to make them and instead outline your scenes and paragraphs. What do you want to have happen in the scene?Write it down.
#2 Grab a recorder. If the words aren’t flowing onto paper or onto your keyboard try talking them into a recorder. Tools like Dragon Naturally Speaking will actually transcribe your spoken voice into text.
#3 Write anyway. Yes, it’ll be awful and the words you get down on paper will inevitably need some serious revising. However, you’ll also begin to teach yourself writing discipline. Your creative brain will eventually learn that you’re not going to take no for an answer.
#4 Watch television. I know, TV is a real creativity killer, right? Actually, I don’t think so. Find a program that matches the genre you’re writing in and watch it. Use it for inspiration. Of course a well written show is going to be much better for inspiring your creativity than a crappy show.
#5 Listen to music. However, instead of listening to your favorite music, listen to music that your protagonist would listen to. My current protagonist listens to blues and a bit of country – definitely not music that I frequently listen to but when I am working on her scenes it helps to listen to her music.
#6 Skip ahead. Most writers tend to write linearly. That is to say that they start at chapter one and then work on chapter two and so forth. They eat their way through the book. I confess, I do the same thing. However, when I’m struggling to find the words for a scene or chapter instead of giving up for the day, I often skip ahead to a chapter that I feel more confident about. (No one knows the order you write the book in. If you want to start at the end and work backwards, great! You’re the boss.)
#7 Meditate on it. Set your writing aside for ten to fifteen minutes and find a quiet place. Close your eyes, focus on your breathing and ask for guidance and inspiration. Then sit back, continue to focus on your breathing, and allow it to come to you. Meditation takes practice and patience. If this technique doesn’t work for you the first time, or the first dozen times, have faith that it will work eventually.
I want to point out that at no point did I mention giving up for the day. Giving up your writing when it becomes difficult is a very dangerous habit. I don’t recommend it.
Everyone has days where the words just won’t come. Relaxing into the challenge is generally much more productive than stressing about it. Keep putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and try different techniques to pus through the difficult days. You’ll be rewarded with a beautiful completed manuscript that you can be proud of.