A mental block, lack of inspiration, dwindling motivation and a change in priorities can all make writing feel like a bit of a chore. Even if you love to write, everyone can hit a wall and lose their enthusiasm for it sometimes.
If you’re struggling to find that excitement or encourage yourself to write regularly, I have some suggestions that might be useful. These are things that have helped me when I feel stuck for ideas, or that have motivated me to take a consistent approach to my writing, whilst also keeping it enjoyable and fulfilling.
These tips could help if: you want to write more this year, want to create a consistent writing routine or habit, or you’re lacking inspiration and want to get back into writing creative pieces. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different so these are just ideas that you might be able to tailor for your own needs.
Try to understand your writing habits.
What makes you pick up your pen, or laptop? When do you feel most inclined to write? When do you enjoy the process of writing? These are some of the questions to ask yourself in order to gauge what your own writing habits are.
By understanding your habits and preferences, when and why you feel drawn to write, you’ll be in a better place to remove barriers that are stopping you from writing regularly and help to create circumstances in which you want to write. Ultimately, you want to make it as easy as possible for you to want, and feel able, to write.
For example, I tend to write most when I feel inspired. I struggle to ‘just sit down and write something‘. Whilst it feels great to write when inspired, that’s not something I can always depend upon. However, thinking about my habits helped me to recognise that I like to zone in on a topic when I do feel inspired, so I set myself goals to write about a particular subject by a specific deadline. It means I’m not solely relying on random sparks of inspiration to guide me, and encourages me to sit and regularly write because I don’t have to worry about what, or when, to write, because I’ve already set that out.
Work to what suits you, rather than against it.
In line with the previous point, ask yourself when and where do you prefer to write, or when do you feel ‘works’ best for you? Perhaps you’re a morning writer and like the peaceful time before everyone else is up to get some words down. Maybe you feel most inspired in the evening, right before bed. You might enjoy writing on the sofa, in the garden, at a desk or at the kitchen table. Whatever it is, try to roll with that, rather than thinking you have to work in a specific way for it to be a ‘proper’ set up.
You could commit to regularly (perhaps start with once or twice a week) spending an hour writing during your preferred time, in your preferred location to try and build the habit into your day. I like to use the early morning to sit in the living room with a cup of tea and focus on writing before the day gets busy, so I try to do this a few times a week.
Take note of when you feel most inspired.
Start to notice the times when you feel inspired or come up with ideas. For me, I always come back from a walk with a fresh perspective or new ideas I’d like to follow up on. I also like talking to other people about writing, as it really helps me to solidify ideas if I can bounce them back and forth.
If you’re feeling unmotivated or uninspired, what can you usually rely on to help change that? Maybe it’s reading poetry, talking to a friend, going for a run, painting, or having a long bath. Try and find something outside of writing, or rather staring at a blank page, to get you started.
Read, read, read.
This is an obvious, but important point. You need to read far and wide to really understand what you want from your own writing and to develop your knowledge and style. Even if you want to write within a particular genre, its important to read other works and to read broadly within that genre.
Reading work by other people will help to inspire you, whilst also leading you to consider what you do and don’t want to do with the piece/s you’re working on. You will learn so much about style, tone, structure and language, and your own writing, by reading more.
See what’s going on in the writing community / genre you’re interested in.
Take a look at what’s being published, and the independent work happening in your writing community or preferred genre, so that you can get a feel for where you fit within that space and to understand more about the context in which you’re writing.
Get inspired by what others are creating and imagine how and where you might see your own work published or what it might look like as a finished piece. Ask yourself, what are the steps I need to take to get there? Then, start planning them in!
Following on from the above, if you’d like to get your work published online or in print, take a look at some of your favourite publications, or research new ones, to see what types of writing and topics they are calling for.
If you’re stuck for ideas, this can provide your with a particular theme to explore. If you choose to submit to the publication then working towards a deadline is another great way to keep focused and write more consistently.
Take part in a writing course or event.
Of course, it is in no way necessary to take part in a writing course but you might find the structure and sense of community useful.
It doesn’t need to be an expensive course or an extensive amount of time. I recently took part in a 9 week ‘pay what you can’ course with Lucent Dreaming and it helped me to explore different forms, understand my writing style and what I want to achieve, and it gave me a weekly focus. It was also really interesting to hear from other writers about their work and processes.
A writing course like this, or even one of the many free or low cost events online (check out what different publishers and projects are putting on) can provide you with more knowledge and inspiration. I came away from the sessions eager to write, so it might be a welcome boost if you’re struggling for ideas or motivation at the moment.
Set yourself a challenge or goal.
Your challenge could be something small, such as finding a simple prompt and using it to write a response within one hour. It could be something bigger, such as spending an hour every day for a whole week working on a project that you’d like to complete. If you work better to a deadline, you could ask a friend to review a complete first draft on a specific day, or you could plan to submit to a publication by their deadline.
Sometimes having something to aim for can help to make writing feel more pressing, or urgent, spurring you on to actually sit down and write, rather than saying you’ll get to it and then never actually getting around to it.
Keep a note of your ideas.
Whenever you come up with the kernel of an idea, or have a thought about something you would potentially like to write about, note it down in your phone or a dedicated notebook. Even if it’s just a phrase, a sentence, or the description of something you’ve seen, these little nuggets are great resources for the future.
You never know, it might just be the perfect idea for a new piece, or a welcome addition to something you’re already writing!
Give yourself space.
Don’t give yourself a hard time. Creative writing should be fun.
Unnecessary stress will never make you want to write and you’ll end up feeling worse. If you’re struggling with a particular piece of writing, don’t beat yourself up about it, or focus solely on it if it’s not really ‘happening’ for you. Take a break and come back to it with new eyes.
Why not try writing something totally different? If you’re working on a short story, try writing a poem. You could plan out ideas for something else you’d like to write in the future, to get you thinking about a different plot or set of characters. You also might just need to step back, take a short break from writing altogether and then come back to it feeling fresh and with a new perspective. That is okay too!
What are your writing goals this year?
In 2021, I would love to get something published in print, particularly a short story. I’ve set myself the goal to continue regularly writing so that I am able to submit to publications that I enjoy. It’s really helping me as I have particular themes to focus on and deadlines to aim for.
I’d love to hear about your writing goals whether it’s keeping up with a blog, writing a poem, getting published or taking part in a writing course. Whatever it is, let me know in the comments!