No new creative writing ideas. The words seem to be on strike. You read what you’ve written and are completely dissatisfied and suddenly you don’t feel like writing. You know that there is a better way of writing something it just won’t come to you. Or you’ve written a few pages and have no idea what to do next and worse still, you are suddenly B-O-R-E-D with your story and you have this overwhelming urge to abandon it.
In Becoming a Writer Dorothea Brande talks about a brand of writers who “occasionally cannot motivate their central action adequately, and the story carries no conviction.” She calls these people The Uneven Writer.
Every writer goes through any one of these (or all of these, as the case maybe) and you know it is part of the job. You can take a break and revisit your writing after indulging in one or all of these. Here’s what you can do to remain inspired, to remain committed and to finish what you’ve started. The idea is to stay in the zone.
How to be a better writer even when you are not writing
A mentor of mine once said, “Any day give me a reader who doesn’t write than a writer who doesn’t read.”
You knew this already. Well, yes. It really helps to read. Pick up a book of your choice and get started. Focus on the words, read out aloud, pay attention to word choices and tell yourself, er…yes I can.
Most books on craft will tell you to read because reading is sort of like charging your creative batteries.
Stephen King writes, “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
The reading experience helps you learn. Just like any other art form, painting or music for instance, you learn first from seeing how it is done. So, when you don’t feel like writing, read. Make a “to read” list for yourself based on the themes and stories that would interest you.
Read author blogs where they write in a candid fashion. Now go back to your writing. You’ll see it under new light. Trust me.
2. Watch Author Interviews
Whenever I am a little short on that elusive ‘inspiration,’ I go and watch author interviews on YouTube or author speeches on Ted Talks. I particularly enjoy listening to acceptance speeches of Nobel Laureates (in Literature) and that really aids the creative process. You get to understand what motivates the literary greats to write.
One of my favorite quotations from Nobel prize speeches is from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s lecture delivered on 8th December 1982. He said, “To oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death.”
Whether it is the beauty of lyrical language or the display of wit as displayed by V.S.Naipaul or that feeling of patriotism you are sure to feel when you read the Presentation speech made while awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature to Rabindranath Tagore, you will feel the creative energy needed to be the better writer you want to be.
So, go ahead. Logon to YouTube and listen to every author’s interview there is to watch! You’ll find everybody there! For the fun of it I also go and watch that dramatic moment when the Nobel Prize is announced!
Here are some author videos:
V.S Naipaul – Nobel Banquet Speech
Conversations with History – Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk:
Moment when Nobel Prize is announced:
(Wait! The speaker will speak in English!)
Be Inspired. Learn. Write Better.
3. Join a writing community
A writing community could be both a physical community, much like a book club, or it could be an online community of people who share thoughts and opinions on writing and in some cases even their own work. There are plenty of online communities especially on Facebook. There are dedicated Facebook closed writing groups where writers constantly learn from each other. I am part of a group where members write flash fiction everyday – 100 words.
On the days I don’t write, I read. You can also query the author, a peer and try and understand the other person’s writing process. It’s wonderful to have your work read and commented on. Also it is fun!
You can share writing tips, writing prompts, writing exercises and on the days you don’t want to participate you can linger and lap up all the knowledge. With physical writing communities, you get the advantage of meeting and interacting with like-minded people. Discussing books and slicing and dicing writing techniques really help.
4. Go to Literary Events
Yes, all the literary festivals. Attend the panel discussions and the “In Conversation with the authors.” See how those are moderated. Listen to the questions and listen to the responses.
Questions are normally about the author’s body of work and would tend to include questions on the writing process and the reasons why the author chose to write a particular story, his motivations and his experiences.
Authors share their aha moment where they tell you that they saw a certain incident that sort of culminated into an entire story. Go back home and mull over incidents that spoke to you, incidents that caused you to think deeply.
These interactions with the authors will help you query your internal self and you will tap into those sources to write, to write better.
Have you encountered another way that you think will make us all better writers? Leave your creative writing tips as a comment! We’d be thrilled.