I attended a writing seminar recently and signed up for a break-out session titled something like “Writing Fearlessly.” I wasn’t certain what to expect, but the title piqued my curiosity, so I picked up my pen, pad and coffee mug, chose a primo seat and prepared myself to learn how to write fearlessly.
Turns out the session was to help writers struggling with a block. The speaker went on for some time about how writing can be a chore, and how we must force ourselves to write some days. She asked us all to share why we find it difficult to write and recommended a “reward” strategy. She suggested that even if we hate doing it, we should all commit to writing five pages a day, and afterwards reward ourselves in some small way with an hour of recreational reading, a movie, lunch out, a glass of wine, whatever. I was baffled, not because there aren’t days or times when getting words on paper isn’t a challenge, but because I love to write. I generally do not need to be rewarded for writing five pages a day because writing IS my reward. When I’m happiest, most in “the zone,” as the cliché goes, is when I’m exercising my passion, writing. However, having said that, much like everyone else, I’ve been from time-to-time faced with that perplexing and frustrating phenomenon known as “writers block.” So, how do we keep our mojo working if we aren’t feeling it?
Below are four strategies I’ve applied with some success to get back to my bliss:
1) Swallow the big toads. I think it was Wayne Dyer who some decades ago said, “If you have to swallow frogs, swallow the largest one first.” If you have chores looming, or a boring task ahead of you, or something distasteful you must handle, do it before you sit down to write. Often, life happens when we want to write, and sometimes there’s not much we can do about that. But, when possible, kick the life stuff out of the way, meaning take care of any business that interferes with your writing, before you even put one word on paper.
2) Prepare your writing place. When you aren’t feeling it, even after you have swallowed the big toads, take a few minutes to create “sacred space.” Clean off your desk, de-clutter your office, put on a nice piece of music, light a candle, whatever you need to do to make a peaceful inviting place for practicing your craft.
3) Prepare yourself. Take a long hot shower, spruce up like you are going to work a 9 to 5 job, eat a little something, bring your cup of tea, wine, coffee to your sacred space, meditate, say a prayer, repeat an affirmation, hold a good thought, whatever makes you feel good, then take a breath and go for it.
4) Commit to one page only. If it’s not in your heart to write five pages, to flesh out your story arc, create a new character, write a new scene, or do that tedious research related to your non-fiction piece on nuclear fission, just write one page of anything that even vaguely relates to your topic. I once heard someone say “Write only one page a day, and at the end of a year, you’ll have a book.”
Do these four strategies always work? No, not always, but most of the time, they do. How about you? When you’ve lost your writing mojo, how do you get it back?