Get Inspired: Time to Strategize for Writing Success
Are you finding it hard to write? We live in deeply unsettling times, and it's easy to get distracted by all that's going on in the world. Here's a brief list of ideas to jumpstart your writing and help you get out of your own head for a moment:
1) Apply to a writing contest. Years and years ago, I won a local short story prize, and it gave me the confidence I needed to keep plugging away at my writing. Here's a great list of opportunities. Key West Literary Seminar (the literary nonprofit where I work) has extended its deadline for the Emerging Writer Awards, to Sept. 15. (You won't believe the prize!)
2) Write morning pages. Crack open Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way (again). It will help you slow down. One thing at a time, people. One foot in front of the other.
3) Spread some love. Make a list of your top ten authors. Go onto Twitter and look each one up. Send them a Twitter love letter. Spreading goodwill and compliments will give you a boost.
4) Give yourself permission to suck. Read this. Do it, now!
5) Practice writing. Follow @artwritedaily on Instagram and indulge in the pleasure of responding each day to a beautiful piece of artwork, and reading the inspired writing. It's good fun and will grease the wheels.
6) Read. What is your favorite book? Re-read it.
7) Highlight the good stuff. Dig up the notebook in which you wrote down reactions to a piece of your writing that's been workshopped. Type up the positive feedback into a document, print it out, cut out each bit of praise and hang them near your workstation. Each time you lag, lift up your head and read something great about your work.
8) Create loving routines. Are you superstitious? Even if you're not, find something you like and develop a daily ritual around it, before you start writing. For a while, I loved singing this loudly before launching into working on my book (even though I'm not religious). For a while I lit a candle every day. Sometimes I do jumping jacks. Pick your kooky routine and do it!
9) Congratulate yourself. After a day of work, write down all the things you achieved that day. Each and every one of them. Then congratulate yourself on how much you're able to do.
10) Focus. To keep off social media, I use a variation of the Pomodoro Technique. Seriously, I've been getting more writing done in half an hour using this technique than in four hours staring at the computer.
11) Inspire yourself in unusual ways. Collect images that inspire you. Cut them out of old magazines, gather postcards, print out images like this and this and this, find photos you love and pin them up on a corkboard. Each time you're frustrated, look at one of those pictures and take a deep breath.
12) Get away. Plan a trip to a writing retreat in Tuscany for a month. Just kidding!
13) Dream. Do think ahead to a time when we can travel freely again and consider how to set yourself up for a week-long writing residency. Maybe you can take a week off work, just one week away from your many responsibilities, and put yourself and your writing first. Here's a list to get you started. What's the harm in planning ahead? If one of these opportunities appeals to you, write it in your calendar and apply when it's open again.
14) Sip excellence. Find your four or five favorite books and keep them next to your desk. Every time you need a little jolt, take a cool delicious sip from a book you love and admire. It will cool you down while warming you up.
15) Take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep eight hours (ha!), read widely, be kind to others and to yourself.
Katrin Schumann's second novel, This Terrible Beauty, recently came out and her debut, The Forgotten Hours was a Washington Post and Amazon Charts Bestseller. For more information and to sign up for her newsletter, go to www.katrinschumann.com.
Katrin Schumann is the author of The Forgotten Hours (Lake Union, 2019), a Washington Post bestseller; This Terrible Beauty, a novel about the collision of love, art and politics in 1950s East Germany (March, 2020); and numerous nonfiction titles. She is the program coordinator of the Key West Literary Seminar. For the past ten years she has been teaching writing, most recently at GrubStreet and in the MA prison system, through PEN New England. Before going freelance, she worked at NPR, where she won the Kogan Media Award. Katrin has been granted multiple fiction residencies. Her work has been featured on TODAY, Talk of the Nation, and in The London Times, as well as other national and international media outlets, and she has a regular column on GrubWrites. Katrin can also be found at katrinschumann.com, and on Twitter and Instagram: @katrinschumann.See other articles by Katrin Schumann