Wednesday, May 2, 2012

When Writing's a Chore: Things I Do To Trick Myself

Do you ever have those days where writing feels like a chore?

I'm having one of those days. Not with my WIP actually, but a journal article I'm supposed to be writing for my PhD. After working so hard on editing my book, I got a serious case of writer burn-out. I'd sit down in my chair, and my mouse (all on its own of course) would move away from the journal article and click on my email, my blog feed, my pinterest, some random/awesome website comparing U.S. Politicians to Game of Thrones characters . . . anyway, you get the picture. And then I remembered: Do one of those things to trick yourself into thinking you want to write!

Change of Scenery: 
This doesn't necessarily mean I pack up and head for a coffee-shop, though that's great too (Sidenote: I wish there were more coffee shops set up for that in Australia - in my mind it's the country's only major shortcoming). What I often end up doing is moving from the desk to the couch or the bedroom. Often that can snap me out of whatever I was doing and into "Girl, Focus!" mode.

Change of Clothes: Ok, so growing up I lived in dress-up clothes. There was a new outfit for every mood, or sometimes every song if I was listening to music! Now, if I'm feeling unmotivated to write, I'll switch from pjs to professional or vice versa. Just the change itself usually helps get me in a better mindset - either more relaxed or more energized.

Pleasure by Association:
 I think I did this for a long time without even really realizing what/why I was doing it. Basically I'd schedule my writing to coincide with something nice. For example, my husband and I would sit on the couch and work on stuff together - different projects obviously, but at the same time. When he wasn't available, I'd get myself a nice cup of tea or a sodawater and lime and settle in. 

Music: So I can't very often listen to music with noticeable lyrics while writing, but things like RJD2, Ratatat, Four Tet, Mum, Little People, or Sunlounger are all great. And sometimes I'll do a pre-write pump up song with something embarrassing like Haddaway or something actually good like Teagan and Sara or Florence or Feist. 

Remember that Feeling?! I try to remember the euphoria of writing when everything's going right, and remind myself that it could happen again, today maybe, if only I would just start writing!!! 
Of course this one doesn't work so well for journal articles. I don't think I've ever felt euphoric writing an academic article. 

Take a Break:
 If I'm really stuck, I take a break from writing for a day or two, or even just a few hours. Besides, pretty much all my best story ideas come while doing the elliptical, going on a hike, or washing the dishes. 

More resources on dealing with writer's block:

Writer's Block || Fear is the Mind Killer || Writer's Block? Plotting Day! || How to Beat Writer's Block || Overcoming Writer's Block || Writers Digest Links || Writer's Block: Does it exist? How do I get over it? ||

Also check out tips from other authors the first Wednesday of every month at the Insecure Writer's Support Group!!

So what do you do to get yourself out of your writing slumps?


  1. Great ideas! I'm especially fond of a change of scenery and music :)

  2. These are great! If I feel burnt out, I have to listen to music and write until I'm into a scene. Last night, I tried to write a very emotional scene so I youtubed saddest scenes in movies, cried and than really wanted to write the scene. lol. Whatever works right?

  3. Hi Carissa, I wrote about distractions, today. I decided to make a list of things that if they come up, it is ok. My list of built in excuses that I will allow to distract me from my writing. But, If it's not on the list, I need to get back to work. I like your ideas.

  4. Great advice - love the idea of changing clothes - I had never thought of that. And I like the idea of timing it to coincide with something pleasant. I like working side by side with my husband too.

  5. You have some great ideas here, I think I'll try some of them out!
    -MJ here from the support group

  6. Hi Carissa! I'm a new follower via the IWSG. For me, music is the greatest motivator. I don't listen to it while I write, but rather before I write, to get me in the mood. I actually have songs that work as a playlist of sorts. The lyrics inspire separate chapters or even characters and their story arcs. I could NOT write without music.

    Having said all that, I was recently blocked while trying to start up my 2nd book. Then my publisher voiced interest in a sequel to the book I have coming out in October. It was like being struck by lightning. The ideas came screaming into my brain and I couldn't get them down fast enough. I find jotting down all those ideas into my iPhone very helpful. All those notes are coming together right now in an extensive outline. The outline will serve as a roadmap and keep me on course and on schedule.

  7. Music always jazzes me up!
    Thanks for joining the IWSG. We post our fears and insecurities the first Wednesday of every month.

  8. I joined the IWSG. I am really very insecure about writing. Your tips are great. I am keeping a white board, where I write about my goals of writing and the final date to achieve it. That way I can keep track of where am I. Also join in blog challenges to write blog posts.

  9. Great post. I often write while my kids are doing homework - sometimes I take them to do their homework at the coffee shop. They have to be quiet so I can work, but really it's the opposite (don't tell). I reward myself for tiny little accomplishments too.

  10. These are all great! I like to get out and exercise too, that really helps clear my mind. I'm in a little bit of a writing slump right now as I just finished a WIP and it's out with betas, so I'm going a little nuts without a project, lol! But I tried to write earlier and thoughts just didn't flow. Good luck getting your article written.

  11. Carissa, I know this feeling for my dissertation work, too! I think study partners are a great, so you don't feel like the only person doing homework on a weekend!

    Good luck on both the writing fronts for the end of the week!

  12. Great post. And I totally forgot yesterday was the IWSG. Hope I don't get booted. LOL.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Following back. ;)

  13. I use all of your methods-! I also like trying a new food or listening to new music-- anything to get my senses to jump-start!

  14. Great tips - I definitely have those moments! I will have to try some out. & I'm with you on not being able to listen to music with lyrics. While just thinking about my story I can but when actually writing it is too distracting!

  15. This post alone means that you get a follow back. This is awesome advice, I've never tried the changing of clothes thing, but I think I might now!

  16. This was really great, lots of useful advice. I've included a link to this post in this week's The Funnily Enough.

    Moody Writing

  17. I think these are great ideas. I love the wardrobe changes! I have gone and done something else to get back in the mood for writing. However, at this time in my life nothing could get me to do any academic writing. NOTHING!!!! Good luck and great post!

    Stacey aka Diligent Writer

  18. Great post! About the only thing that can break a writer's block / burnout is a good, brisk walk. And if it doesn't work, I do it again. And if all else fails, I've burned some calories. :) Hopping over from the IWSG. :))

  19. I thought I was the only one who couldn't listen to music with noticeable lyrics. It can be so distracting. Love the blog.

  20. I like this post. I change machine - I write a lot of text each day on my blackberry keyboard. I go from this to notebook and back when the going gets tough. Changing activities helps - blog to book - to back again. I also have learned to "love" that "brain-drained" feeling when I'm all out of words for the day - usually late afternoon - I'll go shopping, or eating, or sleeping - I've earned it by then. I'm also realistic - I'm not always looking for the perfect draft - I'll bang it down and then rewrite it later - for me it's the initial wordcount that counts. I agree with you - academic writing suck sometimes - most of my formal publication is academic - and it can really grind my gears sometimes - some academic projects I've done I didn't enjoy for a moment - that's the difference between that kind of writing and ALL the others I do. Nice blog. Charles - from The Gonzo Lecture:



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