The Virgin Writers: I'll Do It Tomorrow
The Virgin Writers have been going through a big period of change. Cheri recently started a new job, becoming reluctantly re-acquainted with the thrills and spills of the morning commute. Esme has moved to the other side of the globe, returning to Australia. Not surprisingly, neither of us have written much.
This isn't about writer's block (although neither of us are really sure what that actually is yet — that’s a whole different post.) This is about feeling too tired, stressed, and overwhelmed to write. A few days turns into a few weeks. "I'll do it tomorrow," becomes "Shit, I haven't done it in a month."
We thought we'd review the ways that we've jogged ourselves out of a dry spell in the past. And yes, we’re hoping that writing this will help to pull both of us out of the ditch. Here we go:
- Do something completely different. If you are writing a novel, stop and write short stories. If you write short stories, stop and write flash. If you write flash, try some poetry. If you write poetry, write a Broadway musical. And if you write musicals, try a novel instead. We think this works because it releases the pressure we put on ourselves to be "good." It reminds us of the fun of trying something new and encourages us to be playful. When the stakes are lowered slightly, the effort doesn’t seem as huge. Taking a writing class in a completely different form or genre is a dependable way to kick start this.
- Expose yourself to art. Go to a museum for a day. Visit the classics or get lost in the modern exhibit. Surround yourself with classical music (or Country & Western if that’s more your thang). Take a walk through a sculpture garden. However you approach it, the key is to do something that will silence the analytical mind, something that will force you to just let go, to enjoy for the sake of sensual enjoyment, and will allow the wordless part of yourself fill up again. It may sound like another way to avoid the blank page, but sometimes it is important to remember in all the toiling at the keyboard that writing is art. Like other artists we need to cultivate and replenish our creative energy.
- Make an appointment. Tell someone you respect that you have something new to show them. Make a date for coffee or lunch to do this. Do it today. Do it in the next five minutes. Commit to show them something, even if all you have to bring is your grocery list (or a draft of your blog post). We all work better under a little pressure. A self-induced deadline can be just the thing to get yourself unstuck.
- Feel it.Fire up a new doc on your laptop or get three empty pieces of paper and a sharp pencil. Write whatever comes to mind, anything at all. A letter to to a friend, a to-do list. If you can't think of anything to write, just write the same phrase over and over again.Some recommendations for phrases to repeat:
Now what? Now what? Now what?
I am bored. I am bored. I am bored.
Kumbaya my lord. Kumbaya my lord. Kumbaya my lord.
This isn’t about discipline. This is about recapturing the tactile pleasure of writing again, the physical sensation of it. As you begin to sink into it, the muscle memory will kick in and you’ll start to remember how good it feels. Generally by the time you've written about a page, you’ll stumble over something else you want to write.
- Don't write. Okay, sometimes you just ARE tired. Sometimes there really IS just too much going on in your life. Stop berating yourself. Acknowledge what is happening and give yourself a writing vacation. We’ve all been there. Here is the important part — mark the end of the vacation on your calendar. Revel in your no-writingness (you deserve it, really). When the time is up, try one of our tips, get off your duff, and get back to it.
So there, we’ve gone and written something and the dry spell is officially over. Whew. Wish us luck?