Has your writing gotten stale? Are you having trouble moving ahead with a project you are working on – or wish you were working on? Maybe you need a little help getting out of your rut. Here are some techniques to refresh yourself and your writing.
If you’re suffering from writer’s block, it’s probably because of some anxiety or dilemma about what you are writing. Spend some time writing about what you think is causing the problem, and brainstorming ways past the problem. I do this when I’m planning a new scene or trying to bring a character to life – I just write about what I want to achieve, or why I’m having trouble achieving it, and often find that a solution comes to me quickly. This kind of journal writing is low-risk (no one but you will see it), and often frees the mind to explore possible solutions without anxiety. And it gets you writing. Block gone!
Sometimes writers just run out of ideas. But ideas aren’t something we manufacture out of thin air — they come from our creative mind applying itself to a given task. One often neglected way to stimulate our creative mind is to feed it some good reading material. Read just for your own entertainment and amusement – a great way to stimulate your writer’s imagination. Or, if you find you are making writing progress, but find your writing flat, clumsy, or uninspired, try reading a book or article on the craft of writing, and use the advice to polish your current work-in-progress. Sometimes we spend so much time writing we forget that great writers are always great readers first.
Not only is imitation the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s also a great way to learn from other writers. Pick something by a writer whose work you admire and try to imitate it as closely as you can. Do you like their fun, punchy style? Try it! Do you admire their moving examples? See if you can come up with some of your own. Maybe you like the way a favorite writer gets right to the point. Try revising something of your own to be similarly direct. Great writers and other artists have honed their skills by deliberate imitation for thousands of years, and you can, too.
Working smart is better than just working hard. Smart writers remember that creativity often happens when we are not trying to force ourselves to write. So take a ramble – not in your writing, but in the great outdoors. Go outside, pick a pleasant path, and just walk at a leisurely pace, enjoying the scenery and letting your thoughts run free. This is my favorite way of getting out of a writing rut. I always return to my keyboard not only refreshed, but refocused, as if my unconscious was working on my writing problem while the rest of me was enjoying a pleasant perambulation. Other physical activities, such as crocheting or mowing the lawn, can also allow your mind and your body to un-kink, leaving you refreshed and restored.
While we’re on the subject of letting our unconscious mind help us out, I’ve got to mention my favorite one, sleeping on it. When I’m having trouble getting my thoughts straight – or coming up with ideas– right before I go to sleep at night, I just remind myself of what I want to tackle in my writing project the next day and, almost always, I wake the next morning with a fresh idea that I can’t wait to get to work on. Sometimes I keep my Kindle tablet beside the bed so that I can jot ideas down before I even get out of bed. In fact, most of my best ideas and solutions to the most tedious problems spring to mind right after a good night’s sleep. I bet it will work for you, too.
As it happens, there will be no meeting of the DFW Catholic Writers Group in May – the fourth Tuesday meets at the University of Dallas have finished with the end of the spring term, and the usual second Tuesday meeting at Half Price Books will not take place this month.So why not use the extra time to refresh yourself? Then come to our next “second Tuesday” meeting, June 14, at Half Price Books and show us what you’ve been working on. We look forward to seeing you then. Here are the details of time and place. We hope to see you there!
This post originally appeared on the DFW Catholic Writers Group blog.
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