When You're Stuck As A Writer by Rusti Lehay

When You're Stuck As A Writer by Rusti Lehay

First, answer these questions for yourself:
  • If you used to have a routine that worked for you, what was that?
  • What are the main things that are stopping you from reinstating that habit?
  • Do you need a new routine or habit due to retirement, career, or work schedule changes?
Second, I must confess I refuse to acknowledge the idea of writers' block.
In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert suggests you indulge in an affair with your art. This comes from her sage advice not to make your art pay for your life. That will take the joy out of your creative time. However, stealing time to be with your mistress or your mister, a.k.a. your art, can reinvigorate you on a regular basis. Treat this captured time with your mistress as a sacred ritual and treasure every moment.

To begin anew with the writing routine, draw a very simple three-box chart with coloured markers or crayons. Above each box, write “I promise to write for at least five minutes.” For now, you’ll leave each box empty inside. Choose three days that will be unobstructed for the times that you choose. Some of you will be morning or evening writers or coffee shop afternoon writers. Set out your tools or prepare your desk if you’re writing at the computer. Make sure your journal and favourite pen are where you will first go in the morning, whether for coffee, tea or water. Nestle into your writing spot or your office chair. Fulfil the promise you made to yourself. If you need to use a timer, go ahead. It’s best if any timer you use is separate from your phone, which is always full of distractions.

Remember, you can always write more than five minutes. Assure yourself that you only have to keep your pen moving or your fingers tapping for five minutes. Once you’ve done your five minutes or optional extra time, you must raise your hands up in the air gloriously. Imagine that you’ve just won a gold medal. Now celebrate with a large woohoo!!! This activates the dopamine in your own brain as a reward. This is a vital part of fulfilling the promise to yourself. This is superior to a temporary dopamine hit from buying an item, even if essential. Most people find that the joy of a purchase fades away quicker than dust motes under a cloud obscuring the sun.

The next important step is to be honest with yourself. If you have a vicious or harsh internal critic, immediately put your writing away without looking at it for a minimum of five days. After a long dry spell of not writing, I promised myself to leave the phone in the kitchen at night and not touch it in the morning until I had written. It took me about 16 days before I liked anything I had written. As this was more than six years ago, I do not remember if my internal critic showed up or if writing simply felt like work after so long being away from a writing routine. I do remember that I often went to my journal those mornings empty-minded. I now swear by routines, making regular writing a muscle memory, and the words just flow.

After you successfully meet your promise of writing for three days, you can renew your promise, three days at a time. If you need a break between, take no more than one or two as long as you promise to renew until you reach that magic number of a cumulative 21 days. I can almost guarantee you will be well on your way to a writing routine if you’ve never had one or a renewed vigour for your writing.

What do I mean above by empty-minded? Now, I never go to my writing time
unprepared. Gather some prompts that inspire ideas or match your guidelines, plot, storyboard or memoir goals, blogs, or whatever you want to write regularly. Facing theblank page can be a little bit like the divine being before the earth was populated with all the wonders of today. To assist with those first prompts, I will leave you with some of my favourite trigger prompts I have used more than once.
  • Two or three things I know for sure…
  • What historical event would you like to have witnessed?
  • Packing for the future ( Lorna Crozier poem title, great prompt )
  • Awakened by silence…
  • Imagine the moment of your conception
  • Write a letter to yourself from a character in the past when they are your current age. For example, if you are writing from your mother, imagine her writing a letter to you when she was the age you are now. (I promise this has often resulted in one or more epiphanies, deep forgiveness, and healing for me.)

If you want to know more about cultivating a writing habit or squashing writer’s block, reach out. Click here for an expanded Habit Creation Program to create a writing routine. There is also the Monday Writing/Co-working Space. Click here for a short video where I talk about bending prompts to your will and subject matter.

Rusti L Lehay, a global editor and book and writing coach, created over 40 articles guiding writers to authordom. Witnessing writers find and speak in their own voice to serve the real boss, the audience, not the editor, is one of Rusti’s greatest joys. She offers bi-monthly online writing STAY-Treats and monthly lounges and teaches weekly creative writing classes. Her primary mission is to inspire, provide value and make writing fun and easy.

Learn more about Rusti

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