by Ryan Lanz
We’ve all felt it at one time or another. The story loses its shine and you’re left with a half-completed story. Why does this happen, and how do you continue?
For a lot of writers, this is the mid-point of the story, but truly, it can happen at any point. I want to focus on something entirely different from “writer’s block”; this topic regards when you know what to write next, but you just don’t feel like doing so.
“Of course, motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.” – Zig Ziglar
The cursor blinks at you, nudging you to continue typing, but the combination of your eyes drooping and the itch to do something else feels overwhelming. You’ve already procrastinated enough today. Your bedroom can only be cleaned so many times, and you’ve already checked Facebook, Twitter, and your email twice in the past half-hour.
“Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”
You’re a writer. You know how to get the job done; it’s the motivation that’s lagging. Let’s look at some different factors.
Your story no longer excites you
For me, this usually happens just on the other side of the midpoint, roughly 55% into the book. About then, I usually start envying short story writers. It’s when the thrill of the beginning and even the spike of the midpoint event wears off, and I have to begin laying the ground work for the finale, but it’s not yet to the exciting build-up for the ending climax.
Wherever it normally happens for you (and it could change from story to story), it can be a trial. Why does it happen? Here are a few possibilities:
- You’ve already thought of the next story, and you’re more interested in starting the new one than finishing the current one
- You hit a plot snag and aren’t looking forward to unraveling it
- You realize that your story idea might not be as interesting as you thought it was
- Self-doubt creeps in
- Life got in the way of writing, and you’re not as emotionally connected
- Something as simple as: it’s just not new and shiny anymore
The first one gets me every time.
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When life gets complicated, it can be hard to maintain your normal writing routine. You’re worried or distracted (or both!), your muse seems distant, and you’re just not feeling inspired. And if you do try to write, the end result seems merely so-so. Don’t get discouraged! If you’re not feeling inspired to write, Writer’s Relief has simple tips that can help you get unstuck and back on speaking terms with your muse.
How To Get Unstuck And Inspired To Write Again
Read Something New
If you’re a writer, you’re probably also a voracious reader. But if you want to counteract the burnout you’re currently feeling, mix it up and get out of your comfort zone! Read an author or genre that’s new to you. If you usually read science fiction, try a Western or a cozy mystery. If your favorite author is David Baldacci, pick up a book by Brandon Sanderson. Or, if most of your reading is fiction, switch to nonfiction and see where that leads you. Many writers regularly scan the newspapers (remember those?) for ideas and inspiration.
Listen To Music
Music is a wonderful source of inspiration, and author playlists continue to gain popularity. Writers have created inspirational playlists on many popular music streaming platforms, and you can listen in too! You can also create your own motivational playlist to get your muse humming along. You might consider going old school and playing vinyl records, which have resurfaced in a big way. Whether it’s classical music or classic rock ‘n’ roll, try listening to music you normally don’t tune in to—it’s a great way to shake it up, twist and shout, and work it on out!
Start A Collection
Author Ransom Riggs began collecting peculiar vintage photographs, but what he discovered is that the photos spoke to him. They each had their own story to tell, which Riggs wove together for his first novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Ignite your creative spark by starting a collection of something that interests you. A coin collection may lead to ideas about what the money was used to buy or the foreign country it came from. Estate jewelry may inspire stories or poems about the person who might have worn a ruby brooch or silver airplane cuff links.
Take A Mini Road Trip
Countless novels were and are inspired by road trips, one of the most acclaimed being On the Road by Jack Kerouac. But you don’t have to drive across the country to find inspiration for your poem, short story, novel, or blog. Instead, take a drive (or a walk) around town using streets you don’t normally travel. Who lives in the old house on the dead-end street? Why are there so many pink flamingos on that corner lawn? Is that a chicken crossing the road, and where did it come from? You’ll be surprised to discover how much inspiration you can find right in your own neighborhood.
Visit Museums Online
Most museums have online virtual tours available. And you don’t have to limit yourself to art museums! Science, natural history, war, and archeology museums are all great places to find inspiration. So sit back, grab a cup of cocoa, and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Louvre, or The Museum of Natural History—all while wearing your jammies!
Try Crafting Or A Hobby
Another way to beat writer’s block is to engage in a creative, non-writing activity to help your mind reset so you can be more receptive to inspiration. Crafting is a great way to do this! If you need some new material, why not plug in that sewing machine you got for your birthday three years ago? There are lots of easy sewing patterns on the Internet to try. Knitting and crocheting are also very popular right now. When you’re finished, you’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment and perhaps be inspired—and you’ll have a new scarf, hat, or blanket as well!
A new hobby can also help you discover new routes to inspiration for your book, short story, poetry, or blog. How about genealogy? (What? Uncle Milt was a fighter pilot and part-time spy?) Astronomy, jigsaw puzzles, or bird-watching, anyone? To get started, check out the hobbies of these famous authors.
Send Snail Mail
Social media and e-mails have taken the place of mailing a letter via the postal service, but the art of letter writing has not disappeared entirely. Some authors believe it is actually easier to process thoughts with handwritten words. Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman, and Tom Wolfe all prefer writing their novels in longhand. So, if you’re seeking inspiration, pick up a pen and paper instead of sitting down with the laptop.
Mail everyone you know a card with a handwritten note inside, and the experience may reveal some insights or call to mind an event involving that person. You’ll be inspired, and they’ll love getting something from you in the mail!
Want more ways to get inspired and kick-start your creativity? We have a few articles that will help:
Question: How do you get unstuck when you hit a writing slump?
Every Friday I publish a meme meant to inspire the creative people who hang out at ARHtistic License. Here are my favorites from this year:
If you find these memes helpful, feel free to share them on your social media.