If your love for writing, much like our ebbing summer’s sky, has lost its glow, its colour, & warmth—try these tips to ensure you fall in love with writing again, no matter the weather outside.
Just as we feel displaced as writers if we’re not writing, if we’re not regularly engaging with the act itself, if a specific story or project won’t move forward, the mystical link that tethers us so lovingly to our writing — keeping us focused, and our enthusiasm, and dedication high — may slacken, become a little weathered by all the other necessities, and distractions of life, making it all the more tricky to grasp and grip — to sit down—to write, and keep writing.
“The sensation of writing a book is the sensation of spinning, blinded by love and daring,” wrote Annie Dillard in her meditation on the writing life, On Writing. “At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”
Despite the uncertainty, we write. Despite the brain-frazzling complexity of writing a novel, play, or other grand script, we return again, and again but no matter this inherent need to write, the love we have for it can diminish, and our passion also wax and wane. If your writing’s been left unattended, and inkwell dry, you too may be feeling a touch untethered but instead of resigning your fate to a capricious muse, try these tips to reignite your passion for writing, and fall in love with it all over again.
Tuning into Your Writing
“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else,” said author Gloria Steinem, articulating what it is to be a writer, to love to write. Although this may resonate for you too, some days the words just don’t sit right.
They might stall, and slow, and stop, or perhaps life’s hampering the process, distracting from your creative flow, making it a little disjointed or chaotic, and therefore harder to slip into that state of creative grace.
Sometimes the characters in my fiction talk so ceaselessly, I’ve scarcely time for anything else. Other times it’s as if the transmission’s dropped out. The station is still there but I can’t quite hear it, the connection too but the signal’s weak. Not that every day needs to be wildly creative or even hugely productive (though it’s obviously far finer if it is). Some days, we need a little extra to tune in.
Create Movement with a Quick Free-write
When things become a little stagnant or stuck with your writing, create movement. Physically, as that’s always good for body, mind, and spirit, and creatively too. Free-writing is one of the finest ways of all to loosen any literary tension, to create movement, and momentum, and reconnect you with your love of the process.
Although I’ve written on free-writing before, so enamoured by it am I, the simple act of using a timer, keeping your pen moving, and writing without judgement, without consequence or concern of criticism, liberates your writing more swiftly, and with more ease than any other practice.
Write without censoring, without concern of quality, and keep your pen moving. Allow this act of writing to free you from this place, and reconnect you to your love of writing. “Giving yourself permission to write crappy stuff really does make it possible to write something interesting,” says Sarah Selecky, fervent advocate of free-writing, author and creator of the Story is a State of Mind short fiction writing course. “I learn this every single day as if for the first time.”
If you’re feeling unable to write because you’re thwarted by your inner critic, by perfectionism, writer’s block or creative doubt, try a quick free-write (click here to read my post on how to use free-writing).
Prefix your free-writing with a phrase, for example in non-fiction you could say: “What I’m really trying to say is…” For fiction, you could write, “What needs to happen in this scene to move the story forward is…” or “The mood of this scene is…”
Do a free-write with a question as your starting point, for example: What does this character want/need? How does [X] make this character feel? How does the action convey these feelings and desires?
You can also try writing as if you are your protagonist or character; literally give your character the pen, and write.
Alternatively, pick a creative writing prompt, set your timer or Pomodoro, and write.
Probe Everything with Your Creative Antenna
Writers’ brains are always ticking away, whether pondering our prose or letting our inspirations incubate, we seldom switch off. “Your antenna must be out all the time picking up vibrations and details,” said author Jan Morris in The Art of the Essay in the Paris Review.
When receptive to our endlessly inspirational world, with eyes wide, and heart [and notebook] open, ideas come far more freely, and if your inspiration and ideas are flowing, your writing will soon be too. Probe every ounce of experience with your creative antenna. Pick up distant radio signals from the storytelling planes of your mind.
Notice the details, the subtleties, the contrasts too. And write it all down in your notebook—this is key.
Whenever feeling a lack of love for your writing or story, refer to this notebook. Carry it every where. It’s the most fertile ground for your book.
“Small things are so fascinating and precious that I can’t bear to let them go. So I write them down as they strike me,” says novelist, screenwriter, and author, Helen Garner. “I don’t invent a book out of thin air. I need a bed of detail for the thing to be based on before I can start to make something up.”
Forget Yourself to Find Your Flow Again
“Learn the notes and forget about them,” said Catalonian cellist, Pablo Casals, when asked on how to play music well, and it’s the same with your writing. If your love for writing is being hampered by a hefty dose of self-criticism, writer’s block, or writer’s doubt, forget yourself to find your flow, your momentum, and get the words on the page or screen.
“Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper,” said John Steinbeck in his six tips for the aspiring writer. “Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.”
Shoot it all, as Annie Dillard once said, step out of your own way, and write unfettered by these concerns because you know you can edit later, and you know that to get the work done, it’s a much more fluid, joyful, and productive approach to pour your writing onto the page, find your creative flow, and then edit, rewrite, and refine, and refine, and refine.
It’s this momentum you are looking for to fall back into your work, your story, your writing. When you let go of any preconceptions or judgements of your work – and write freely in flow, and without censor, keeping your body loose, mind clear, and heart open, you are no longer caught in criticism or ridged in your approach but flexible, receptive, open to discovery but above all else, enjoying it again.
Let Go of Perfectionism, Relinquish Worry
If the reason you and writing aren’t on the finest of terms stems from the need to only write immaculately, or from anxiety, fear of failure, and worry about your work, no matter how much dedication, drive, and butt-on-seat-and-writing mentality may you have, the words can remain caught.
Defiant. Refusing to flow freely, as if they too have been silenced by this fusion of internal criticism, insecurity, anxiety, perfectionism, and doubt. Then, instead of your pen dancing across the page or fingers tapping the keyboard to the joyful hum of your Remmington, they hover, uncertain.
Though nothing is certain, much as us humans like to pretend it is. So embrace the uncertainty. Embrace the mystery, your own vulnerability too. Embrace the fact that you do not know where a story or piece is taking you, or even if it’s taking you at all. “Perfectionism stops us in our tracks far too often in writing and in life,” says Elizabeth Sims, contributing editor at Writer’s Digest, and author of ‘You’ve Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams’.
“Writing, I realised, is not the problem. The problem is worry itself. Once I learned to relinquish worry, my writing flowed freely. I stopped being my own stumbling block.” Whatever stands between you and your love for the process — the reason why you love and long to write at all — can be broken through but like a chick breaking through the egg’s membrane, you need to give a little push.
Write What you Love
If the story or piece you are writing is a poor fit for you, it’ll always be tricky to muster motivation to write. More crucially, if you aren’t in love with it, if you aren’t thinking, incubating, and interrupting your friends to scribble something down or disappear to type up an inspiration — ever-partway in your fiction no matter how far from your desk — then stop and switch to something you love.
Aside from the obvious joy and fit for you as a writer, readers will always know if you’ve enjoyed writing something. They sense it through the slender gaps in your words. They hear, and pick up on the struggle but writing isn’t meant to be so tough. Of course it isn’t easy either and that alone keeps many an unfinished manuscript stuck in a box.
“Write the story you’d most want to read. Don’t write a story just because you think it might be a bestseller or that it would make Great Aunt Edna proud. Think about the books you love, the ones you really lose yourself in. If those are mysteries, then don’t try to write an historical romance or a quiet literary novel,” says author and Writer’s Digest contributing editor, Chuck Sambuchino.
“It might not be anything genre-specific that you love, but a certain voice, or type of story, or kinds of characters.” Look to what you love to read. Imagine the book you’d most love to read, and then write it. “Start a list of all your crazy obsessions, the things that get your heart pumping, that wake you up in the middle of the night,” says Chuck Sambucino.
“Put it above your desk and use it to guide you, to jumpstart your writing each and every day. Everyone’s got advice and theories; people want to pigeonhole you, put you in a genre with its own rules and conventions. I think the work comes out better when we leave all that behind; when the only thing to be true to is the writing. Write what you love.”
Persist. Persist. Persist.
“The real challenge is that writing requires patience—patience for yourself, patience for your work, and patience for other people’s response to your work. The way to cultivate patience is to persist. That is the great open secret, right there in plain sight,” says Elizabeth Sims.
“Inborn talent is lovely to have. Good fortune is a fine thing. But over those things you have no control. You do have control over your persistence. Every day you choose what you will do. You choose what is important to be done, and you do it.”
Nothing creates a finer space in which to reawaken your love for writing than through the act itself. Consistent action, even the humblest daily action, is far finer for your writing, for your craft, dedication, your love of it, than an erratic process.
Even if you don’t feel like writing, the act of beginning changes everything. “I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes… and somehow the activity of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so,” said author Joyce Carol Oates.
Figure Out What Only You Can Say
“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works,” as Virginia Woolf once said. Only you can write the way you write, the stories you write, the images of your mind translated into prose on the page.
Only you can write in your particular style, with your distinctive voice, cadence, timbre, and tone. Only you can fuse your unique blend of experience into your writing and creative offerings. Only you have your unique message to put out into the world.
“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer,” says Barbara Kingsolver.
Connecting, Coaches, Critique Circles & Comrades
Another way to rekindle your love of prose is to connect with others who write. “Writers can strengthen their skills on their own, but it’s a lot of hard work. Reaching out to other writers will shorten the learning curve considerably,” says Angela Ackerman, co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus series, and co-creator of Writers Helping Writers.
“Critique partners can help identify your weak areas and offer strategies to improve. They also will know of resources which might help.” Angela recommends The Critique Circle, and also sites like Critters Workshop and Agent Query Critique Partner Wanted board.
Working with a writing coach is another way to connect and inspire your love of writing. I highly recommend Lauren Sapala, whose unending inspiration continues to truly my fiction on so many levels; and Stephanie Lennox, author and creator of The Authorship Program, who offers coaching on all aspects of being an author, from process to print.
Find someone who relates to, and truly resonates with you. We all have such a unique blend of traits, styles, and facets, much like the characters in our fiction have endless facets. “It’s impossible to NOT become passionate again if you surround yourself with passionate and hard-working people, filled with their own inspiring dreams, goals and aspirations,” says Stephanie Lennox.
“Social activity is another great way to renew your passion, not just for your manuscript, but for life for general.” Reach out and connect with other writers, on social media, in critique groups (online and in person), writer’s conferences too. It can generate the momentum you need to move forward, and if you’re moving forward, that love and passion for your project can only increase.
Understand First Draft Writing Vs Editing
“Words do not stream from a writer’s fingertips perfectly in order, each word exactly as it will be in the final draft. Writers will usually create a first draft, a splurge of words and ideas that definitely will NOT be seen by others,” says author entrepreneur, Joanna Penn.
“They will then spend time rewriting, editing and polishing until the manuscript is ready for public consumption. I’ve also found this is true for blog posts and articles as much as books.” You don’t have to have everything in glorious perfection on the page.
In fact, that’s often the opposite of what you need because unless you grant yourself a little liberty when writing, a little freedom to write wild and messy first drafts, it will be tricky to move forward, and if your progress slows or stops, that will affect your motivation and drive to write, and therefor your love of it. Write without concerning yourself with whether or not you think it’s good writing.
“Only by giving yourself permission to write poorly will you write anything at all,” says Elizabeth Sims. “Once you have something down on the page, you’ll find it easier to keep going, to find the groove, the flow. When you give yourself permission to write poorly, you are implicitly saying, “I’ve got the skills to make this better later if I decide it’s no good.” You’re reinforcing your own inner strength.”
Establish a Writing Routine
“If you want to keep up your writing momentum and avoid slipping away from writing again, you need a strong writing routine, one that involves writing consistently and regularly,” says author Ali Luke. “That doesn’t necessarily have to mean writing every single day, but it does mean having at least one writing session a week and trying to stay connected to your work between sessions.”
There’s power in creative routines, and after a time, it becomes automatic. Not every day can be a wonderful writing day, and professional writers accept that but they show up regardless to do the work. “I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not,” says novelist Barbara Kingsolver.
“It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” Try these 15 Secrets to Achieving Your Creative Goals Every Day, and these 8 Ways to Guarantee a Productive Writing Day.
“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten—happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.” ~ Brenda Ueland
If Concerned on What Others Think
Sometimes what precludes you from writing, and the love of writing, isn’t any
of the above but a deep fear and vulnerability about what others might think of your writing. If you’re overly concerned with other people opinions it can prevent the act itself, or at the very least ead to your writing feeling a little stayed or stuck.
If unsure of yourself, it’s hard to be yourself, and yet, in our society that seems to relish its own satiated consumerism and falsity, we have developed a taste for the true, the transparent, and authentic but nothing makes you or your writing more authentic than being true to yourself, and writing from your
heart, from your gut, from the core of you.
Although holding ourselves back in our writing can be a form of self-protection, much like self-criticism can be a form of self-protection, it masks our true thoughts, and in turn, our deepest creative expression. “When you start to worry about what others will think, that is the writing that will affect people the most,” says Chuck Sambuchino.
“The only way to achieve that is by going to your most vulnerable places.” Own your own story, and write without censoring, without even thinking about editing, much less publishing, the eventual opions of others. As poet Allen Ginsberg once said, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
“Writing is both an act of power and surrender. Passion and discovery. It is a tug at your soul that continues to pull you forward, even as you go kicking and screaming.” ― Laraine Herring
The Wisdom of Not Knowing [Your Story is Smarter than You Are]
“All writers share a common epiphany on the writing path… when our writing has strengthened to the point where blissful ignorance rubs away and we begin to realise just how much we don’t know,” says Angela Ackerman.
“Some stop right there on the path, their writing spirits broken. Others take a micro-step forward, progressing toward the most important stages leading to growth: acceptance and determination. Once we come to terms with what we don’t know, we can set out to learn. Taking on the attitude of a Learner is what separates an amateur from a PRO.”
By being the eternal student, ever-open to, and trusting the creative process, and your story too, you remain curious in life and in writing. Your enjoyment, and writerly skill rests upon your ability to be curious, cognisant, and humble enough to know that not knowing has its own wisdom, for the process, by its own definition, never stops… unless you do, and the process needs your humble curiosity.
“My job is to be curious. Images and scenes come up and I have to trust that they’re there for a reason, otherwise the act of writing feels hostile. There’s so much faith and trust involved in this process. It’s humbling and beautiful,” says Sarah Selecky. “I have to honour and respect my subconscious every day, like it’s a wise elder, even though I might not understand what it’s doing.”
Trust the Process [& Keep Writing]
Just as our creativity ebbs and flows, our own moods and internal rhythms too, much like the ebbing of one season flowing into the next, so too does our love for the process. Keeping an awareness of this interplay, trusting the process, and being self-compassionate when the words don’t flow quite so freely, can help ensure your love for, and act of writing is less affected by the whims of the creative weather.
“It’s important to remember we’re self-generative beings. That is, we are capable of shifting from one emotional state to another in order to determine experience. In so doing, we must not only become aware of what shifts us, but we must learn (actually we must relearn) to trust the process,” says author, speaker, and creative mentor, Robin Blackburn McBride.
Then, with a little hope and dedication, your love for writing rekindles. Sometimes it’s subtle, other times so swift, you wonder what the worry was at all. “Too many people postpone their writing dreams because of self-doubt,” says Write Now coach and author of Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It), Rochelle Melander. “As a writer and coach, I’ve discovered that the more you write, the more you write. The more you practice, the easier the writing will be for you.”
Reignite Your Love of Writing Away from the Desk
Sometimes all it takes is a single creative spark to rekindle your love for writing fiction. An exquisite phrasing, a mannerism you happen to see, or little piece of dialogue you hear, and you soon find yourself writing frantically, perhaps illegibly, into your notebook, with your passion reignited in an instant.
If feeling lacklustre in your fiction take your notebook outside to inspire your prose.
Get outside for some people watching.
Look at their mannerisms and movements; how they’re holding themselves as they interact.
Listen to people talking, snippets of conversation.
Experiment with this by putting headphones in, or ear plugs—the silence will pinpoint your focus on their movements, and expressions, while music is always a potent tool for your writing.
If for whatever reason this is tricky, try YouTube videos or watching films, with or without the sound.
Interviews are also very interesting, especially if you have a character who lies a lot for example, just watch a high court case or evasive celebrity, and how they lie. This can be potent fuel for you’re fiction.
The Finest Way to Reignite Your Love of Writing
Like so many writers, reading is what inspires, and drives my writing, deepening the love of storytelling. Despite this fervent appetite for books, I can be both halted, and enchanted by a single sentence in an instant—the need to then write is as impulsive as the love of it.
“We often spend months labouring and agonising over our manuscripts, resenting the process, when all it would take to remember why it’s all worth it would be a night off, curled up with your favourite book,” says Stephanie Lennox.
As this little section of this ever-expansive post is now expanding said post a little too expansively, I’ve furnished it with its own space on the island that is Inspire Portal: The Finest Way of all to Reignite Your Love of Writing
Remember Why You Love to Write
Even if right now the words aren’t flowing as smoothly as you’d like, remembering why you write, why you love to write, why you started writing at all (if you remember… most writers I know appear to have been born scribbling), and especially how good it feels when writing is going well, helps you take these ebbs less seriously because you know it’s part of the process, and that your passion can return in an instant.
“It’s easy to get so caught up in routines that we forget the things that inspire us; what connected us to our passions in the first place. We suffer from a lack of passion when we disconnect from what we feel is truly important: our intrinsic motivations, the reasons we started, and the essence of why writing was a fun activity to us,” says author and creator of The Authorship Program, Stephanie Lennox.
“In the same way a toy can’t operate without its battery, writers can’t operate without staying in touch with part of the process that inspires and energises them. Passion for writing never truly goes away. You either have it or you don’t. If you have it, it can always be re-ignited. All it takes is the right moment for everything to fall back into place again.”
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Check out this little gem from Ira Glass on the creative process. If caught in writing doubt, find solutions here; also these acupressure posts can help liberate you from creative unease, anxiety, and creative doubt.
For motivation, and productivity too, read 15 Secrets to Achieving Your Creative Goals, and try these ancient techniques to increase drive and energy levels. For more wisdom from the East, here’s 7 Creativity Tips Inspired by Eastern Wisdom.
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Find out more about The Authorship Program® here.
Contact Lauren Sapala here.
Kira Elliott‘s offering a free Free How to Develop an Open Hearted Writing Practice Course, read on here.