“I tell my students there is such a thing as ‘writer’s block,’ and they should respect it. You shouldn’t write through it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.”
It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas. I put a new Christmas bedspread and pillow shams on our bed.
- Awesome photographs of nature’s power.
- For the musicians and the music teachers: young composers get to hear their works performed by the New York Philharmonic.
- Beautiful zentangles.
- Ways to beat writer’s block.
- For the writers: flabby characters? Put them through some exercises.
- Have you taken your Christmas card picture yet?
- Ways to use your books to decorate for Christmas. (I am seriously thinking of turning my TBR pile into a tree. The books are already stacked on the floor…)
- In case you need to laugh, here’s a story about what to do when your husband says you can’t buy any more towels.
- Some ingenious Christmas tree tools.
- We all know what we should be doing in order to live our best lives. Read this to get it all in one place.
- Interview with illustrator Jim Starr.
- Christmas movies to stream.
This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.
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?
Thank you to Jason Kincaid from Descript for the following article:
If you’re a writer — of books, essays, scripts, blog posts, whatever — you’re familiar with the phenomenon: the blank screen, a looming deadline, and a sinking feeling in your gut that pairs poorly with the jug of coffee you drank earlier.
If you know that rumble all too well: this post is for you. Maybe it’ll help you get out of a rut; at the very least, it’s good for a few minutes of procrastination.
Here’s the core idea: thinking out loud is often less arduous than writing. And it’s now easier than ever to combine the two, thanks to recent advances in speech recognition technology.
Of course, dictation is nothing new — and plenty of writers have taken advantage of it. Carl Sagan’s voluminous output was facilitated by his process of speaking into an audio recorder, to be transcribed later by an assistant (you can listen to some of his dictations in the Library of Congress!) And software like Dragon’s Naturally Speaking has offered automated transcription for people with the patience and budget to pursue it.
But it’s only in the last couple of years that automated transcription has reached a sweet spot — of convenience, affordability and accuracy—that makes it practical to use it more casually. And I’ve found it increasingly useful for generating a sort of proto-first draft: an alternative approach to the painful process of converting the nebulous wisps inside your head into something you can actually work with.
I call this process idea extraction (though these ideas may be more accurately dubbed brain droppings).
Part I: Extraction
Here’s how my process works. Borrow what works for you and forget the rest — and let me know how it goes!
- Pick a voice recorder. Start talking. Try it with a topic you’ve been chewing on for weeks — or when an idea flits your head. Don’t overthink it. Just start blabbing.
- The goal is to tug on as many threads as you come across, and to follow them as far as they go. These threads may lead to meandering tangents— and you may discover new ideas along the way.
- A lot of those new ideas will probably be embarrassingly bad. That’s fine. You’re already talking about the next thing! And unlike with text, your bad ideas aren’t staring you in the face.
- Consider leaving comments to yourself as you go — e.g. “Maybe that’d work for the intro”. These will come in handy later.
- For me, these recordings run anywhere from 20–80 minutes. Sometimes they’re much shorter, in quick succession. Whatever works.
Part II: Transcription
Once I’ve finished recording, it’s time to harness ⚡️The Power of Technology⚡️
A little background: over the last couple of years there’s been an explosion of tools related to automatic speech recognition (ASR) thanks to huge steps forward in the underlying technologies.
Here’s how ASR works: you import your audio into the software, the software uses state-of-the-art machine learning to spit back a text transcript a few minutes later. That transcript won’t be perfect—the robots are currently in the ‘Write drunk’ phase of their careers. But for our purposes that’s fine: you just need it to be accurate enough that you can recognize your ideas.
Once you have your text transcript, your next step is up to you: maybe you’re exporting your transcript as a Word doc and revising from there. Maybe you’re firing up your voice recorder again to dictate a more polished take. Maybe only a few words in your audio journey are worth keeping — but that’s fine too. It probably didn’t cost you much (and good news: the price for this tech will continue to fall in the years ahead).
A few more tips:
- Use a recorder/app that you trust. Losing a recording is painful — and the anxiety of losing another can derail your most exciting creative moments (“I hope this recorder is working. Good, it is… @#*! where was I?”)
- Audio quality matters when it comes to automatic transcription. If your recording has a lot of background noise or you’re speaking far away from the mic, the accuracy is going to drop. Consider using earbuds (better yet: Airpods) so you can worry less about where you’re holding the recorder.
- Find a comfortable space. Eventually you may get used to having people overhear your musings, but it’s a lot easier to let your mind “go for a walk” when you’re comfortable in your environment.
- Speaking of walking: why not go for a stroll? The pains of writing can have just as much to do with being stationary and hunched over. Walking gets your blood flowing — and your ideas too.
- I have a lot of ideas, good and bad, while I’m thinking out loud and playing music at the same time (in my case, guitar — but I suspect it applies more broadly). There’s something about playing the same four-chord song on auto pilot for the thousandth time that keeps my hands busy and leaves my mind free to wander.
The old ways of doing things — whether it’s with a keyboard or pen — still have their advantages. Putting words to a page can force a sort of linear thinking that is otherwise difficult to maintain. And when it comes to editing, it’s no contest: QWERTY or bust.
But for getting those first crucial paragraphs down (and maybe a few keystone ideas to build towards)? Consider talking to yourself. Even if you wind up with a transcript full of nothing but profanity — well, have you ever seen a transcript full of profanity? You could do a lot worse.
Have you made your Creative Goals for 2017? If you’re a writer, here’s a suggestion about how to achieve them:
How do you fight back? See Top Ten Ways to Fight Writer’s Block. Do you have another way? Share in the comments below.