One question I get asked all the time is, "How do I write when I'm not inspired or have nothing to say?"
Many new writers feel good about what they do and can work on pieces of writing because they are inspired. But many times they are taken aback when the inspiration fades and they are left with the 'task' of simply finishing a story, an article, a book, or a novel.
It can be quite alarming to feel like a writer, know your writing is good, but dread picking up where you left off on that manuscript!
Rest assured, this is normal.
It's not possible to be inspired, excited and even happy writing all of the time. Sometimes the work just has to be done.
Here are a few tips on maintaining your enthusiasm for writing.
Develop Multiple Projects
Diversify your writing portfolio. Be open to new ideas and commit to 'having a go' at different types of writing. Sometimes, when the idea of finishing a large project is too daunting, a sense of achievement can be gotten by completing smaller tasks - like an 800 word article, or a short story.
When Hemingway was uninspired he wrote short paragraphs - and spent hours editing them to finish up with 100 to 200 word vignettes. This is good practice - and can give you a great sense of accomplishment.
Make Lists and Schedules
We all know the importance of having goals. Without having something to aim at, how can you ever hit a target?
Sure, write down your objective. But go one stage further, break the process of achieving your goal into smaller chunks. Make a list of the baby steps necessary to complete a project. Put them in order and commit to spending ten minutes or half an hour, today, on at least starting your list of writing-things to do.
Dream, Focus, Fantasize
There's nothing wrong with imagining your success, and visualizing how you will feel and what might happen as a result of you finishing a project. It might be that 'seeing' your book published in your mind's eye is exactly the impetus you need to keep writing, especially when the process is slow and painstaking.
Reward yourself every step of the way. Everything from a nice cup of tea at the end your next page to a glass of wine - or three - at the end of a writing session.
Promise yourself a treat on completion of a chapter, or give yourself a holiday at the end of a novel. Consciously associate the reward and the work in your mind, let each inspire the other.
Do What You Enjoy Most, First
Why break your back and your spirit doing the most difficult tasks first? Do the thing you enjoy first and you'll feel happier and more energized when it comes the next item on your list. (You do make lists don't you? It's long been proven that the most successful people in life are those that list their objectives, daily, if not hourly!)
Write Out the Problem
First understand that there's no such thing as writer's block. You're either writing or you're not, there's no middle ground.
A builder who is not doing anything does not have builder's block. He is a lazy toe-rag charging me $95 dollars an hour to drink my coffee on my veranda.
The best way to overcome a writing block is to write down what you think the problem might be - and keep writing until you have written past the block. No other solution works as well as this.
Do Something Else
This is my secret weapon. When I can't think of what to write, I get up and walk around, or go sit in the garden for a bit. Other times I'll cook, or clean the dishes, or Hoover the carpet - it surprises me just how quickly ideas come when I take a short break.
Hm. What would happen if I got a cleaner in? Actually I know. In the past, I've always ended up helping them!
What I don't do nowadays is put on some music or have the TV going in the background. It never really helped and was way too distracting.
I've noticed that I'm very productive when something absolutely has to be done, whether I want to do it or not.
Sometimes a producer or publisher will need to have a manuscript in by a certain time and, against the odds, I'll be able to come up with thousands of words I didn't know I had in me.
Try setting artificial deadlines. Create your own sense of urgency and write, whether you want to or not, right up until the project is done. Sometimes this is the only way to complete the project.
When All Else Fails, Fake It
Whatever your mood, go to your manuscript, start working on it and keep going for ten minutes.
Pretend to be enjoying yourself. Pretend that what you're doing is important. Pretend that your writing absolutely needs to be done - for whatever reasons.
I guarantee that after just a few minutes, you will feel your mind 'catch up' with the pretence - and you will begin to enjoy the writing process.
It's weird how this works - but it does.
If this doesn't work for you - or indeed, if all of the above fails to work for you - it's probably time to consider an alternate career, as Mark Twain once famously said, like chopping wood.
In the mean time,
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Writing Academy
“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.”