Wednesday, August 7

How to Be a Writer When You Can't Write / IWSG

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a safe place for insecure writers of all kinds.


HEALTH UPDATE: My surgery went well, and tomorrow is my 4-week after mark, but I am still restricted with what I can do for another 2 weeks. First, no signs of malignancy! But when I saw my doctor for the followup, the first thing he said was, “Wow. You were the real deal!” He added that what he had to do was very extensive and that he wished he had brought me in for surgery sooner. There was a LOT of endometriosis. Everywhere. There was so much that my organs were a bit misplaced, so when they got done, my organs shifted back into place. He said my uterus “sprang” back. They removed the "chocolate" cyst from my right ovary, and they also had to do something with my colon and remove something from the outside of my intestine. So, yeah... lol 

~*~

There are times when you may struggle to write, not because you lost the ability to physically write, but rather that you’re suffering from writer’s block (the condition in which an author loses the ability to create new work or slows down creatively) or writer’s burnout, which is more extreme than being blocked and involves a disconnect between you and writing; the love is (hopefully temporarily) gone, replaced with physical and mental exhaustion…sometimes even emotional exhaustion.

During these instances, writing at all can be more than a struggle but an outright challenge. I find that it’s best to not push myself or put pressure on myself to create, but not being able to write makes me feel worse and further burns me out. Depression can also be a significant factor, as it usually is with me. That’s how my writer’s burnout started. Soon, the burnout was feeding my depression and vice versa in a vicious cycle. The important thing for me was to continue to feel like a writer even when I wasn’t actively writing on a story.

Below are several tactics that have been useful to me that you can try.



5 Ways to Be a Writer When You Can’t Write:


1. Read

This is just about the easiest thing you can do when you can’t write for whatever reason. When we read, we are taking in words—lots of them. And those words are inspiring us. They can help us heal, invigorate our creativity, and spark new ideas. Read anything that interests you, and it certainly doesn’t have to be fiction, and I would also recommend that you do not read anything in the genre of the current work-in-progress you’re struggling with. Doing so could increase your anxiety, especially if you start to compare your work to the books you read. Instead, read outside your preferred genre(s).

Read non-fiction if you’re a fiction writer.

Read children’s books, middle grade, or YA if you write for adults only.

Definitely read books about topics that interest you, even travel guides.

Read and explore.

Turn the pages of books.

Reading is a big part of being a writer, so bust out that library card or go to a used bookstore and let books be your medicine.

2. Research

This is pretty similar to #1 Reading because you can consume many books in your research quest. You can research subjects that once captivated you when you were younger. For me, I had loved anything to do with mummies and Ancient Egypt. And when I had writer’s burnout, I read several books about Wicca.

Seriously, no judgement!!!

Research anything.

The bonus is, you could end up getting a great idea for a story or a character inspired by all of that research.

You can also try doing writing-related research. Check out books about writer’s block, inspiration, and creativity. But nothing too heavy, like books about marketing or publishing, that can load on the pressure and make you sink lower into yourself and your stress.

3. Write a Sentence

Just one sentence. Flip to a random page in an encyclopedia and point at one of the pages. Whatever word your finger lands on, write a sentence using that word. This doesn’t even have to be a sentence for your current work-in-progress, either.
Or you could use a random word generator like RandomWord.com and write a sentence with a new-to-you vocabulary word every day.

Try weird word lists and write a sentence with a whacky-sounding word or words that have funny or strange definitions.

Any writing counts!

4. Journal

Write about your day, your struggle to write, your worries, your fears, your hopes and dreams. Try to write a full journal page a day. Remember, any writing counts. You can even use your journal pages to write through plot or character issues.

5. New Hobby

Sometimes the best thing we can do is to take up another hobby altogether. This new hobby can bring you back to the page renewed or inspire a story that revolves around that hobby or a character who enjoys that hobby. Most of all, you can have fun.

If you can take on a hobby that has to do with your current work-in-progress (I once took archery lessons for a story I was writing), all the better.


Whatever you have to do to feel like a writer, do it, especially if actual story-telling is difficult at the moment. The most important thing is that you believe in yourself and tell yourself you’ll get back to where you used to be—happily creating.

And you will get there again.

You will.


QUESTION: What do you do when you struggle to write?



78 comments:

  1. Gracious Chrys you've certainly been through it. Here's wishing you a speedy and careful recovery.
    I found out that after years of writing about various events in my life some months after I lost my son I felt I didn't want to write, thankfully that was short lived...I hope.
    Take care and look after yourself.
    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you not wanting to write is short-lived, too.

      Thank you, Yvonne!

      Delete
  2. Glad to hear you're on the mend!

    Excellent post, Chrys. Depression/block/burnout can be such a vicious cycle, one that's often hard to break. Small steps, like you mention here, can and do help, even if it often doesn't feel like it at the time. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Madeline!

      It can be, and it is hard to break. I am still learning. :)

      Delete
  3. So glad to hear that your surgery went well and that you're recovering nicely!

    Reading is a key tactic for me, especially in genres I don't normally read in. It sparks my imagination for sure.

    Cheers - Ellen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reading in other genres is a wonderful way to boost creativity. :)

      Delete
  4. So glad your surgery went well! With my new job last year, I couldn't do much writing during the week. So I READ everything. It also helps to walk away from your writing for a time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really does help to have writing breaks, even throughout the day if you're able to write all day as I could do.

      Thanks, Jennifer!

      Delete
  5. Hi Chrys - so glad things are improving for you ... I know you can't - but I'd take a walk to get away and a change of air. I don't write books ... but I can change posts on occasions ... I do like to be flexible ... one advantage of my type of blog. I really should read more - great tips here for us all - cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I should maybe sit outside for a while to get some fresh air. I've been thinking about doing that.

      Delete
  6. Hello Chrys - glad to meet you and to hear you are on the mend. I've been seeing my writing life differently these days. I think, for me, it was an attachment to the idea of being a writer that got in the way of my just writing. I'm in my late sixties and this self-cherishing myself as a quotation marks writer was well entrenched. My best method is to keep going with my meditation practice and give up the struggle. If I write huzzah! If I don't at least I'm aware of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Jan! Nice to meet you, too. Thank you for you comment! I've been attempting to learn how to meditate. I need more practice with it, but I am glad it helps you!

      Delete
  7. That's wonderful they were able to take care of it. I bet your innards feel better now.

    Creativity begets creativity, so another outlet is always a plus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do think my innards are happy, just a bit achy yet when I move about.

      Delete
  8. Gee whiz, Chrys, so so glad you are on the road to recovery. Take your time with your healing...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, take your time with healing.
    I've been reading a lot and yes, I've also been writing.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm glad your surgery went well! Those are all good pieces of advice for how to cope with burnout. Redirection is very important when there's a serious problem with anything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Carrie-Anne! Redirection is often just what we need to do.

      Delete
  11. As always, you have some great advice for dealing with writerly challenges! The reading comes naturally to me—I do it all the time, though I have found lately a tendency to spend too much useless time on line when I should be enjoying a good book. I haven’t precisely had block or burnout, but life has gotten in the way a lot the last year, and my writing has been shoved to odd moments. Getting my momentum back is the hard part now. Editing is working, writing new stories, not so much. Maybe I need to do more research! (In fact, that’s a good idea. I need to revisit some of the research I did long ago for the story I’m trying to write for the IWSG anthology).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rebecca! And I am glad you figured out that doing some research is just what you need to do right now. Enjoy!

      Delete
  12. glad to hear your are doing so well. i love all your helpful tidbits.
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete
  13. I always find that doing something else creative that is a bit more instant in gratification helps my writing. Writing is a long haul that you don't always see results right away, so having something I can do and instantly see the results is a good boost to my creativity and makes me feel motivated to write.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm glad to hear you're on the mend. Great advice as always. Take care.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    ReplyDelete
  15. Glad your surgery went well Chrys. Take rest.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Yikes! About your surgery. I am so glad you're feeling better.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Glad your surgery went well!
    Maybe part of the reason I can't write is that I haven't been reading. I spent a really long time reading a really long book that I wasn't enjoying, and I kind of lost my passion for reading. Maybe I should shake things up a bit and try something new.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sarah!

      Reading a book that you're not enjoying can certainly suck out all the joy and stifle your creativity.

      Delete
  18. So glad you're in recovery!

    Great list, as always. I always journal, so even when I'm not writing on my WIP, I'm doing something. Also, I love the "write on sentence" advice. I've used random writing prompts when I'm feeling dry. Sometimes it triggers an idea for a scene or a character. As you said, it all counts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lee!

      One sentence is sometimes all we need. :)

      Delete
  19. I'm glad to hear you're doing better. Wow. Sounds like it was way worse than they expected. Glad you got it done before it got even worse.

    Excellent post. I'm so guilty of letting my emotions get in the way of my writing. These are great tips for staying out of that dark place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! It was way worse than I had even expected.

      I'm glad you liked the tips. :)

      Delete
  20. Those really are great tips. I've certainly done all of those things when I've been blocked/burnt out.

    Hope you remain on that road to recovery!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hope you're feeling better! when I get stuck on something, I tend to write something completely different. I always have a couple of projects to work on so when I get stuck on one, I can work on another. I'm also a big fan of writing flash fiction from a prompt when I'm stuck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's awesome when you're able to move from one project to the next. :)

      Delete
  22. I'm glad to hear that you are healing. This was a timely blog post for me to read. In fact, I wrote a little bit about this topic (although not as eloquently) for my IWSG post today, as well. It seems like any major break in writing can bring on a block. I think it's like Newton's 1st law of motion, "An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force."

    ReplyDelete
  23. Glad to hear that you're recovering. Great tips on what to do when you can't write. Reading often inspires me and gets me back into the mood.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I have the feeling that a chocolate cyst should not be served for dessert.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
  25. Whoa! What a thing to hear from the doc. -- I mean about organs shifting and stuff. Great to hear the no malignancy! I wish you well and a continued speedy recovery.

    I need to start the "just one sentence" deal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Heather!

      As Dory would say, "Just one sentence, just one sentence." LOL!

      Delete
  26. Reading and getting a hobby sure can work. Or just stealing some nephews and playing with them lol I give them back though, so borrowing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can relate to the stealing nephews and playing thing. That does help. :)

      Delete
  27. Yikes, so glad you got that stuff out now and feel better. I hope the healing process continues well. Happy IWSG!

    ReplyDelete
  28. So happy for you that the doctor took good care of your problems. That was a lot.
    here's to staying healthy. Thanks for the tips about getting back to writing.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I don't even want to contemplate how many entries in my journal say something along the lines of "I don't know what to write about". It's amazing how writing about not being able to write helps you write.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Those health things are so scary. I hope your recovery is progressing on schedule.
    I know what you mean when you say "a writer who couldn't write." That's what's happening to me. But I veered off into making book covers, and I think my book covers is another kind of storytelling. Each one of them is somewhat like a 'visual story'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Olga! It seems to be.

      Oh yes! I dabbled in making book covers, and they can really spark your imagination and motivation to get back to writing.

      Delete
  31. Glad you are healing. Wow, that was a lot of problems.

    I've been stuck in Burnout too long. I get good ideas, sit down to write, and allow myself to get distracted. I love it when I accomplish even a flash fiction, then its months before I write anything again. I miss the days when I could not wait to open my computer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry you're struggling. Over time, how we respond to writing and what works can change. It takes adjusting to the changes and not giving up to continue to write.

      Delete
  32. You are a woman of steel, Chrys. So good to hear you're recovering well and strong.
    Your list is fantastic. #1 is the thing I do the most and boy, does it help. Reading poetry can inspire our use of words. I like the idea of taking up a new hobby. But also pointing to a random word and making a single sentence sounds like a perfect exercise to get the brain stringing together words. Thanks for the suggestions!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lisa! You made me smile when you said "woman of steel."

      I'm glad you liked my suggestions. :)

      Delete
  33. So glad you are recovering well! It sounds terrible, but clearly necessary.
    I love your tips for feeling like a writer when not writing. Very helpful.
    I find myself reading and sleeping a lot when struggling to write. When I'm writing well, I don't read or sleep as much, but in the moment, I don't notice it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I sleep more when I'm not writing, too. Maybe because that's when I'm usually in a depressive state.

      Delete
  34. Those are five excellent ideas!
    I sometimes play a video game when I get stuck in a difficult scene. I try to think up a story to go with the game (one different from the pre-determined one). Just giving my mind a break usually makes it find a solution to what I had been working on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds like fun! A great way to be creative.

      Delete
  35. Praise be to God that there is no signs of malignancy. I'm over the moon happy for you. What a relief you must feel. I'm glad you're on the mend and things are quite literally falling into place. However, I'll be staying away from chocolate today. Not sure if I should thank you for that or not. ;p Keep feeling better and better!! Sending healing thoughts and prayers your way.

    Elsie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! It is a huge relief that nothing was malignant.

      Hahaha!!! Whoops. :P

      Delete
  36. Thanks for the great tips! Normally when I burnout I write in my daily journal at the very least just to make sure I keep writing. But I'll definitely keep those other tips in mind! I'm so glad you got through your surgery okay. Hang in there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Journaling is a great way to get writing time in when we're not able to write on our book(s). :)

      Thank you, Steven!

      Delete
  37. Wow, sounds like you really had a tough time. I pray the rest of your recovery goes quickly and you're soon back free to do what you'd like to do.

    Good tips (and no judging)!

    www.thepulpitandthepen.com

    ReplyDelete
  38. Totally agree that writing is more than actually writing. I hope you're doing better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sussu! I am doing a lot better. All healed. :)

      Delete
  39. Take your time healing! You've been through a lot!
    I like your tips!
    Big Hugs!

    ReplyDelete

Please tell me what you think. I love to chat! :)

Follow!

Popular Posts!