I’m never sure what to write for the “author’s choice” guest posts, so I reached out to my Superfans group and someone asked this question:
What do you do when you hit a “wall” to get your creativity going again?
I thought that could be helpful to any other writers out there. So, here goes:
For me, I’ve found that hitting a “wall” means that I’ve messed up somewhere in the story. It’s like my subconscious is stopping me from going any farther into the story. I have to go back, look at what I’ve done so far, and see what needs fixing.
It took me a looooong time to figure that out. I used to force myself to keep going, and my productivity would slowly get worse and worse and the wall would get thicker, taller, bigger, until I wanted to quit. But, that’s just me and my experience. I know right away what to do now. I take a break, re-read what I’ve written so far, talk to my developmental editor about how to fix whatever isn’t working, and then I get back to work.
But that won’t work for everyone, especially when you’re first starting to build your creative life.
Figuring out what’s building that wall up and why it’s there is the key to tearing it down. Sometimes it’s nothing to do with the story. Sometimes life is crazy. Sometimes there are just too many stresses, anxieties, and things happening to leave enough headspace to be creative.
The key there is to minimize everything that’s going on in your life—to quiet it—so that you can focus on being creative. And if you’re not under a deadline, maybe think about giving yourself a break to deal with all the things life has thrown at you, until you have that quiet space in your mind.
But life is always kind of chaotic. Things happen. It’s hard. This is your passion, and you don’t want to give it space or time. How do you keep writing through all the ups and downs of life?
You do what you can to quiet everything else when you’re writing. You set a goal for how long you’re going to write and where you will write it. Whether it’s taking a walk before you sit down to write or go to a spot in your house that relaxes you or another place outside your house that you find peaceful. Find a spot that you will consistently go to. It will key your brain into—this is time to write. Then, set a timer. Put away your phone. Turn off your WiFi. No distractions.
This is your writing place, and this is your sacred writing time. Set the timer for 15min. Don’t stop until it goes off.
Was it easy? Okay. Set it for longer. Was that painful? Okay, keep it at 15min every time until it becomes easy. Then, set it for longer. Aim to write at least a little bit every day. Even if it’s just setting your alarm fifteen minutes earlier so that you can get that little bit in before your family is awake or before work or before school. It doesn’t have to be hours at a time. If you write one page per day, in less than year, you’ll have finished a book. 250 words per page. For 300 days. That’s 75K or a full novel.
The thing to keep in mind is that creativity is a muscle. It gets stronger the more you use it. If you start out thinking that the words are supposed to be flowing out of you during your writing time, then you might be setting yourself up for failure. You can’t go from being a couch potato to running a marathon. So, why do you think that you can go from writing nothing, to spending four hours solid writing and get 100 pages written in one session.
That’s not a thing.
Writing takes time. It takes consistent, constant work. Letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence you will get there.
And if you sit down to write and hear a little voice in your head telling you that you can’t do it, that you suck, that this is a waste of your time, that you should give up now, or any variation of that, then you’ve met your Inner Editor. Every single writer has one, and all of them—all of them—are complete and utter assholes. Tell them to shut up. Ignore them. Keep going.
At first, finding that creativity to break through your “wall” can be really hard, sometimes seemingly impossible. You’ve got life in your way, distractions galore, and that jerk of an Inner Editor is back, taunting you again…
Writing is hard. Full stop. But the more you do it, the more you keep at it, the easier it gets. The more creative you get. The faster the words come. The better your writing becomes.
Until you reach a point when you find yourself in front of a wall, and it’s not tall, thick, impenetrable anymore. It’s a thin fog you can walk right through.
You can do it.
Just keep writing.
Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd–from Star Wars (prequels don’t count) to Star Trek (TNG FTW), she reads Quenya and some Sindarin, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural. Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.