Have you ever sat down to write, looked out your window, and thought, Damn, I really want to be outside?
Well, that’s how I feel today.
In Estonia we get an average of sixty days of sunshine a year. Most of them are not in the fall, unfortunately. So you can imagine I’d much rather be out walking around in the sunshine than writing a blog post. With that in mind, today I’d like to play off Chris’ post about writing after absences. What can we do, as writers, when we can’t seem to focus on our work?
A change in scenery
I know this seems a bit hypocritical, given that I’m still indoors (I’m going out as soon as I finish this, I promise), but getting out of the house is crucial. Get out of the office. Go for a walk. If you only see the sun once every two to three weeks, don’t sit inside and stare at it from the window. When it’s cold, it’s not easy to write outside, but you can get a lot of ideas by walking around. Or, if it works for you, you can go to a café or a library to write. There are a lot of options.
Do something else
This may also seem like a counterproductive form of procrastination (and it might be), but when I can’t focus, I do something totally unrelated to work. Watch an episode of a show that inspires you or read a novel. I know that when I read a good book, it makes me want to write my own all the more. But if you go off on a separate path for a while, be sure you come back to what you were supposed to be doing.
Cut yourself off from distractions
I love my friends on Skype, but once I start talking to them, it’s impossible for me to get anything done. Even though we may have many writing friends, writing is still a solitary venture. You and you alone are writing your novel. You and you alone can get the words on the page. If sprints with others work for you, then by all means, do them. But if you’re like me and you need quiet, then take a break from the online world for a while. It’ll still be there when you get back.
Just start writing
This has been my biggest problem lately. Once I’m in flow, the words comes quickly, but I can resist starting the actual process for days. That’s a problem, especially when I’m on a deadline. So what can you do? Write. Start writing. One word after the other. Make yourself do it. No matter what. I did this yesterday for my thesis and broke my two-week cycle of resistance. By the end of it, I had 1400 words. That’s 1400 words I didn’t have before and I feel better because of it.
In conclusion . . .
We’re going to hit bumps in the road when we’re writing. It’s unavoidable. But taking steps to make the transition easier can help. Work to the best of your abilities, but don’t be afraid to take breaks — to get out and enjoy the autumn sunshine or to read a good book. Sometimes those are the things we need to give us the push to get things done.
Yikes. For some reason your post is showing up eight times in my reader. I like reading your stuff, so I will get more chances. Ha.
Eight times!? That’s . . . odd. Maybe WP is having issues? But, you know, eight is my favorite number. 😛
All great ideas. My best writing time is EARLY in the morning (5-7 amish), so I try to get my most important writing done then. Especially, first drafts of my WIP. The only other suggestions I have when I can’t focus is EXERCISE (like more intense that walking around) and JOURNALING. Moving my body, or getting “stuff” off my mind helps.
I’m the exact opposite. I write fiction best in the late evening, when the house is quiet and people are sleeping. Although I prefer writing my academic stuff during the day. Thank you for your great suggestions! Exercise helps with a ton of things, and I should do more of it. Journaling is also something I should do more of — I’ve gotten out of the habit, unfortunately.
Michelle – I don’t think it matters if we’re morning birds like me, or night owls like you. It’s just important to know our natural body clocks and to write accordingly + to use other tricks that work for you like exercise or journaling. Wonderful, post. TY!
Yes. Well said, Marcy! Thanks again!
I love all the suggestions here. During the past few months, I’ve found that listening to the right music has helped. For me that’s instrumental jazz, usually high energy like Dixieland or big band, but I know that varies depending on the person (or soemetimes the kind of writing). But your “just start writing” advice is what works best to get me unblocked. Thanks for the great post.
Ohhhh. I can 100% agree with music. And thank you so much for pointing it out! Sometimes I can get distracted with trying to find the “perfect” song for what I’m trying to write. But when I find it, I can really lose myself in what I’m doing. Instrumental pieces are a favorite of mine, too. I should check out more jazz. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!
I have always felt as though there is a delicate balance between writing and living. Too much of either messes with the equilibrium of both. There have been many times that I have “wanted” to write, but simply did not have the creative energy to pour on to the page. It is in these times that I trust my creative muse to guide me well.
So long as I have a good reason to take a break (as opposed to using it as an excuse or validation for my laziness) I can accept a deviation from the planned daily writing routine. It all boils down, for me at least, to integrity and honesty with myself.
Now, I need to get back to writing – thanks for the jolt of inspiration 🙂
Oh, yes, exactly. That “want-to-write” feeling has been a constant companion of mine for about a month now, but I’ve been resistant, resistant, resistant. I think I’m a bit afraid. I have deadlines looming and I get stuck on one piece because of it, thus causing my overall work to suffer, especially if it’s not what I feel like writing at that particular moment. The best I can do is try to listen to what my writer brain “wants” and do that, otherwise I won’t write a word.
Good for you though. I know you’ve said before that you write daily, but I think you’re justified in taking a break every now and then to get out and enjoy the life around you. Writers need the world to write worlds. So we can’t ignore it! 🙂
Yes, I love that … writers need the world to write worlds … you should copyright that one 🙂 To be honest, my resistance level to writing has been on the rise lately also. I’m not sure why, but the suggestion you gave is one that I think I subconsciously worked into my routine. That being, listen to what the writer brain wants and do that. With the short burn blocks of time that I have been provided lately, I turned to an avenue of writing that requires a little less time, but perhaps a lot more vulnerability and emotion – poetry. I have never really wandered to far into this pool, but it was something that my writer brain was asking for so I placated it 🙂 I think I am glad that I did – Thanks again for your inspiring words and keep writing 😉