photo credit: Hello I’m Nik
good afternoon, cyberspace!
You guys, I’m going to be blatantly honest with you. I’ve been having a really hard time getting posts written up lately. As I believe I briefly mentioned last week, it’s not that I have a creative block when it comes to blogging. I’m actually more excited about being a blogger right now than I have been in quite some time. But for some reason, every time I go to write one of the many posts I want to get scheduled, I just sort of. . .fizzle out of inspiration and drive.
Lately, my writing has been feeling sub-par at best. Every word I write feels wrong or forced somehow, and each time I think I’ve finally hit the right track, I end up backing over myself and deleting the paragraphs I’d spent the last fifteen minutes working on.
In fact, as I’m writing this right now, it’s Monday night. Mere hours before the deadline for this week’s blog post. And yet, even though I’ve been working on a blog post all day for tomorrow — a delightful little romp about what it’s like having a bird bean as a friend — something in my heart is telling me that that is not the post I should be writing.
Something is telling me that I need to be writing about the struggle I’m currently facing.
So guess what, peasants? Today we are going to talk about the struggle
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
For those of you who aren’t already aware, I’ve been working on a book for nearly two years now. Come November 1st, everlost will be celebrating its second birthday, and I — after having spent two whole years of my life solely dedicated to this specific novel and cast of characters — will hopefully be working on a brand new story for NaNoWriMo.
And I’ll be honest, guys — I’m really looking forward to this new novel. I’m looking forward to creating new characters and joining them on their quests. I’m looking forward to first drafting again. I absolutely ADORE first drafting. I love vomiting random and weird words all across the page and being simultaneously confused and excited about where the next sentence will lead me. I love knowing just enough about the book to structure a solid outline, but still leaving a solid chunk of gray space so as not to know exactly where the story is going to go.
I love being surprised by my stories, and first drafts are just that. Surprises.
But even with all this excitement for a new story plaguing my thoughts, I can’t help but have a part of me wonder if I’ll ever actually finish everlost, or if I’ll always be working on it and tweaking it and rewriting chapters and polishing it up so that maybe someday it can finally be the book that I see it being when I close my eyes at night.
Even with all my hopes and dreams for my future as a writer, I can’t help but sometimes wonder if they’ll ever actually come true, or if I’m simply chasing delusional fantasies that I’ll never fully be able to grasp.
Sometimes I feel like no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never be fast enough when it comes to drafting. I’ll never be clever enough or deep enough or creative enough.
Sometimes I feel like, in a world filled with writers that are finishing drafts and having their work critiqued and getting publishing deals and agents, I’m a fraud. I’m just a person who says I’m a writer, who tries to be a writer — I follow the right people on social media, I’m part of a Writer’s-Group-That-Has-No-Name (pretty sure our name at this point is “We Really Need A Name, Guys.”), and I have a half-completed book that I’ve been working on for two years — but when it boils down to it. . .I’m a failure.
And that, my friends. . .that thought right there? That is a lie. I know it is a lie. My brain tells me it is a lie. But no matter how hard I try, that lie remains. It poisons my thoughts and creativity and tells me I’ll never be good enough. And you know what? It’s probably right.
I’ll never be a good writer when I stack my words up against those of another. When I look at myself through the lens of someone else’s abilities, I’ll never be able to compete. Someone else will always be faster or stronger or more descriptive or wittier or more poetic or just overall a better writer than I can ever hope to be, and that is okay. What someone else is doing with their writing doesn’t matter. At least, not in the jealous sense that I tend to view it in. Because when I go to write — when I sit down and am faced with the blank page or a severely messed up plot hole — all that matters is that I strive to be the best writer that I can be today. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or poetic or fast another writer’s work may be. All I need to know is that today, I am a better writer than I was yesterday. Today, I set a goal for myself, and whether or not I reached it, I know that at least I tried.
Today, I wrote a word. A sentence. A paragraph. And maybe it will be scrapped tomorrow, but for today, I at least tried. And for today, that is all that matters.
And I’m not telling you guys all of this because I want you all down in the comment section screaming at me that I am a good writer and I’m most certainly not a fraud and all that jazz. I’m telling you this because I’m hoping that at least one of you can relate. I’m hoping that maybe, if there’s someone out there right now struggling to put words to the page because they don’t feel like they’re ever “good enough“, that they’ll be able to read this post and realize that they are not alone.
Because you do NOT have to be like all the other writers out there in the world to be amazing. You don’t even have to be like one of them. You are your own unique bean, and trying to cover that up by adding the flavors that work for other writers will only ruin your own carefully designed individuality. Embrace yourself. Your process. Embrace the fact that you are a writer, even if the words aren’t coming right now. Even if your story feels like trash and you’re wondering if you’ll ever actually finish. Even if you haven’t written in a while because you’ve let the fear and the panic and the unknown trip you up.
You are a writer, and you will get through this, and you are going to write some of the most amazing stories that will ever be written someday.
But someday will never come if you don’t start today. Even if the words are like pulling teeth, write them. Even if the story doesn’t feel like it’s going where you want it to go, go back to the drawing board, create an outline, restructure your scenes, and write them. Even if you’re worried and fearful that your story will never be finished, forget the nagging voices in your head that are filling you with fear and write the book.
The writing process may be dark right now, but as a friend recently told me, the story always gets a whole lot darker before the hero finally rises up and conquers the final battle.
So grab your wooden sword, my friend (a.k.a. your favorite purple pen, OBVIOUSLY), and raise it high towards the skies. Because we are writers, no matter what anyone else — or even our own minds — might say. And no matter how terrible the words may be right now, we will continue to write them.
Because we are writers. And therefore, we shall write.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
What? You honestly thought I was going to slam you all with a chipper ol’ pep-talk and then just leave without actually giving you any sort of worthy advice on how to keep writing the words when you’re in a rut? WHY, MY GOOD DEAR SIR. ‘TIS LIKE YOU DON’T KNOW ME AT ALL.
See, I’ve been struggling with my writing for quite a little chunk of time now, and through this process, I have learned a total of two things that you can do when you’re in a writerly rut. You can either a) procrastinate for hours on end as you wait for the writing bug to come back and bite you again (HINT HINT: it won’t.), or you can b) actually just write the words, no matter how terrible they are, and force yourself to get back in the creative groove.
And nine times out of ten, I will always choose option one. That is. . .I used to always choose option one. But lately — after many, many days of staring blankly at my laptop screen, wondering what on earth is wrong with my writerly soul, wondering if somehow I had lost my muchness — I decided to actually just put my fingers to the keys and write. Even if I had no idea where my characters were going to take me. Even if I had no idea what on earth Thao’s inner monologue was going on about. Even if the words I was writing were utterly awful. I just kept writing. I kept reworking sentences. I kept doing what it is that I love. And even though I knew that what I was writing would probably have to get scrapped someday, that simple little act of just writing has been oddly freeing. It has taught me to keep working, even through the hard days. It has taught me that you really can’t wait for the words to come to you. You have to reach out and snatch them for yourself until eventually the creative faucet kicks back into high-gear. And sometimes — without you even realizing it — some of those “terrible” words you’ve been writing are actually really, really good.
But I know exactly what you’re thinking. It’s totally easy for some unrelated person to scream at you to JUST KEEP WRITING when they’re on the opposite side of the screen, seemingly having the time of their life with the writing process. (HINT HINT AGAIN: i’m not.) It’s totally easy for someone to tell you what to do, when they don’t have to do it themselves. They’re not stuck in your headspace. They don’t know the struggles you’re going through. They don’t understand that sometimes you just don’t feel like writing the words. Sometimes all you want to do is chuck your manuscript out a ten story window and see if it lands in a manure pile.
So how on earth do you keep writing? How do you sit down day after day after day simply so you can bang your head against your desk because once again the words aren’t coming? How do you keep going so that someday the proverbial faucet will switch back on and grace you with the prose of the seven gnome lords?
Well, my friend, you’re in luck. Because since I have been going through this most terrible ordeal myself recently, I have comprised a small yet strong list of techniques that I’ve picked up from various sources over the past few weeks that you can try* to both help you stay focused long enough to take back the words, and also to help you feel creatively inspired again.
Because we all know we could always use a little extra dose of that good ol’ inspiration. . . Aha.
* i’m sure this is completely obvious by now, but i’d just like to mention that these are purely my opinions on what works for ME. obviously not every method is going to work for everybody, but if you find yourself in a rut and don’t know where to even start, these are just some suggestions to help you get started on your journey to finding your own breakthrough methods.
i. timed word sprints
Even though I’ve basically seen this technique splattered everywhere across the internet (ESPECIALLY during NaNoWriMo season), it took me up until just recently — after I had been binge-ing Abbie Emmons’ YouTube channel (or her blog? i honestly can’t remember which platform or post it was on now. . .) and saw her mention how writing sprints were helping her stay focused when writing — to actually realize just how helpful it is to set a timer for a solid block of time and simply write. Or edit. Or whatever it is you’re trying to do in your manuscript.
I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to get very easily distracted, especially when I’m supposed to be writing. Books, social media, my ukulele, that spider crawling across the ceiling. . . All of these things provide ample distractions for me when I should be writing, and when the words aren’t coming like they’re supposed to, that distraction is amplified by a million. However, if I simply take two seconds to set a timer for five to ten minutes*, it’s like my brain automatically clicks into “it’s time to write” mode, and I find myself fully immersed in my story for that entire block of time.
I mean, yes, the words might not be coming like the swine flu in the fall, but knowing that I’m writing against a clock forces me to try and write at least something for the next ten minutes. And when you’re trying to get your creative faucet to turn back on, having that challenge to write at least something is all you need to keep pulling the words out.
* and obviously you don’t have to set the timer for five or ten minutes! you could easily bump it up to fifteen or even thirty, but i often find that it’s easier for me to stay focused when I have small, bite-sized chunks of time I’m supposed to be writing for. if i find myself on a roll, i’ll just keep on resetting the ten-minute timer for hours on end. XD
. . .BONUS RESOURCES. . .
- Abbie Emmons’ vlogs. . .watching a bunch of youtube videos MIIIIIGHT end up being a bit more of a distraction than a help, but if you’re looking for some good writerly advice and inspiration, I 10/10 recommend checking out Abbie’s channel. She does writerly vlogs every Wednesday, and she’s always posting creative content on how to improve your craft and be more productive. And even though some of her productivity methods don’t exactly work for me and my slightly all-over-the-place self (i cannot even express how much i wish i was an aesthetic planner-person. . .), I really enjoy picking up tips and tricks on how I can sort of bend the rules to make my life and goals just a little bit more manageable. Her channel is one of my favorites, so you should definitely check it out if you need some creative inspiration!
- NaNoWriMo’s Sprint Timer. . .when the clock hits zero on this timer, there’s a loud cat meow that signals it’s time for you to end your sprint. ’nuff said. (also, i’m just linking to the NaNoWriMo home page, because you have to actually sign up to the site in order to access the timer. HOWEVER. why on earth would you NOT want to sign up to do the NaNo? YOU SHOULD TOTALLY DO THE NANO, PEASANTS.)
ii. write your woes
I’m pretty sure it’s scientifically proven
(though I have literally nothing to back me up on this ahahahahahahahahahaha *distant screaming*) that most creative blocks and ruts come from having issues in your life that have absolutely nothing to do with whatever you’re writing.
Bad days, difficult relationships, problems at work, issues at home, wanting to eat candy but having no candy. . .all of these things play a major factor in blocking our brains from being creative. We might not think we’re thinking about them when we’re writing, but they’re still there, nagging at the very backs of our minds as we’re struggling to write the words.
Thankfully, however, there is a relatively simple fix for this. And that is word vomiting.
Something that has helped me in the past — and is also helping me right now simply by writing this blog post — is pulling out a clean sheet of paper or a new word document, and just vomiting all over the page about ALL OF THE THINGS that are going on in my life that may — or may not — be the cause of my writerly struggles. And I know it may seem kind of useless to just rant endlessly about the things that are bothering you, but believe you me, my good sir, this actually really helps. It’s like by putting all the bothersome things down on paper, it frees up the space in your brain that was taken up by all the negative and allows you to now use that space for all your creative endeavors.
And that’s not even mentioning the fact that a good ten minute sprint of word vomiting is actually surprisingly helpful for getting you warmed up for a full day of writing.
However. I will also say that this method is a bit of a tricksy slope, because it’s also
probably been scientifically proven that whatever you write down stays with you longer than whatever you don’t. So even though it’s good to take a five-minute rant and brain vomit all of your woes out onto the proverbial page, I would also suggest, if you’re having trouble finding your love for your story, to take a few minutes to. . .
iii. write your joys!
If you’re struggling with loving your story for the wonderful creation that it is — whether that’s because you feel like you’ll never finish, or you’re in a creative rut, or you’ve just burned yourself out so much that you want nothing more to do with the book that has caused you so much frustration — my one piece of advice is taking a few minutes out of your buys schedule just to write about all of the things you love about your story.
And I know that this is — again — advice you hear time and time again by everyone in the writing community to boost your inspiration for your story, but I’m telling you, guys. Don’t just read these words and think, “Oh yeah. I’ll have to try that sometime. . .” GO AND ACTUALLY DO IT. Write out the names of the characters that make you happy. Print off that one scene that makes you feel like you are the most amazing writer on the planet and tape it to your wall. Jot down a word aesthetic that gives your skin the happy tingles and tape that to your wall, too. You started writing this book for a reason, and even though the troubles and frustrations have come and battered your mind and have made you feel like you’re never going to finish or be good enough, please, please don’t let that stop you from remembering why you love this story so much. Please don’t let the hardships of being a writer take away your love for the story that gave you so much excitement that you just had to begin writing it down.
Please. Please write your joys and remember them. Because when it boils down to it, the only person suffering from you not loving your work is yourself.
iv. start a project just for you
Just yesterday I read this beautiful, amazing post by the lovely Christine from over at Musings of an Elf, and LET ME TELL YOU, GUYS. It completely changed the way I’m viewing my writing from this day forth. I know I’ve said it before — and I will probably say it a million times more — this girl’s posts are literal magic. I can’t even begin to describe how much she inspires me, and if there is one thing I want every writer in the world to read, it is that post. So. Go read it and be amazed, peasants.
But basically, the reason I’m linking to this post is because something Christine said in it really resonated with me, and I kinda wanted to share that with you guys. In her post, Christine mentioned that as we get older and start viewing writing as a more of a career, we start to lose sight of the days when we just sat down and wrote, simply because it was fun. We start to lose sight of the times when we didn’t have to worry about whether or not what we were writing was good, because we were just writing it for ourselves and no one else. And I know I totally just butchered that description immensely, so go read the post I linked above, because she explains and paints it so much better than I just did. (and also that post is seriously the most inspiring thing I’ve read in a while, so I really want everyone to read it. just. . .please. please go read it.)
However, I had to give a brief recap of what she said, because that kind of leads us into something I’m going to be trying this week, and something that I really hope you’ll try along with me:
I’m going to be starting a project just for me. Nothing huge, of course. I’m still working full-time on everlost, and I don’t want to find myself sidelined by plot bunnies for a whole new novel when I’m supposed to be editing. But when the words refuse to come, and my faith in my own ability to write is dwindling, I want something that I can pull out from the depths of my writing drawer to work on and say, “This is a project just for me. This is why I love writing so much. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be fun.”
And maybe, through this process of having a short story or poem or novella just for fun, we’ll finally be able to realize that writing a perfect book is impossible, but having fun while doing the one thing we love isn’t.
So that’s my fourth and final piece of advice. Start a project for yourself. Start something that is for your eyes, and your eyes alone. Start writing something simply because you love to write, and maybe we can kick this perfectionism in the butt together.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
And that’s basically all I’ve compiled so far, guys. I know it’s kind of small, and that all of this might seem a little bit disconnected from each other. After all, that was supposed to be a list to help you push through this writing rut, right? (whoa that was weird alliteration. . .) And yet. . .it looks more like a guide on how to re-find your inspiration. However, if you take a closer look at all of the things I mentioned, there is one thing that stays consistent through all of it.
Writing. No matter what, you keep writing. You keep pushing forward. You write for five minutes. And then ten. And then you push on through and write for an hour. You write the story you’re supposed to be working on, and when you can’t physically write that anymore, you start something small on the side just for you. Something that only your eyes will have to see. Something to remind you why you couldn’t help but fall in love with writing in the first place.
I know it’s hard to keep writing when you’re struggling. Believe me, I know. But if you just keep trying, it will get better. I promise you. Someday, if you just keep pushing through, the words will finally come.
TALK TO ME, PEASANTS!
And that is basically all I’ve got for today, folks. I kinda poured a little piece of my heart out into the great and terrible cyberspace today, but that’s okay. Writing this was actually kind of therapeutic. XD
But anyway, let’s get right into the questions, shall we? What are some of the writerly struggles you’ve been facing recently? Do you have any tips or tricks for pushing through the writing rut? Was this sort of pep-talk/discussion-y post thing something you’d like to see more of here on Smudged Thoughts, or would you rather have this kind of smudge just sort of wither away and ne’er be seen again? What are some of your FAVORITE writerly resources (youtube channels, blog posts, etc.) that help get you fueled up and ready to write? and also, as a bit of a jumpstart into learning to love your novel. . .
GIVE ME A TEN-WORD (or more!!!!) AESTHETIC FOR YOUR CURRENT WIP DOWN IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.
Let’s fill that comment section with ALL OF THE CREATIVE JOY, shall we?
As always, until next time. . .
*flings cookies in the air and disappears*