There are days you want to write, when you have time, resources and an idea. The magic three. But when you write, the words don’t come. Trite clichés such as wading through treacle spring to mind.
What do you do when every three words has to be wrung from you? When you focus and concentrate and type dammit and yet when you learn back in your chair, you’ve made progress to the extent of ten words. And they’re not good words.
How to get through this? What technique can you use to keep writing, even when writing is … so… hard…?
Here are some of the methods I use to keep going, even when I feel like I really, really can’t.
Firstly, calm down. You’re here, your pen is in your hand, words will come. Maybe they’ll be crappy words, but you are training your writing brain to show up and, as Pressfield says, Do the work.
What, you might ask, is the point of knowingly writing awful words?
Well, and I’m drawing on wisdom from having written a lot of them, it gets them out of your head and onto the page where they can’t, usually, do any harm.
Crappy words can be improved by editing. A blank page can only be improved by adding words, even crappy words, to it.
So if the words don’t come out nicely, let them come out any old how.
But oh my reputation, cries your ego. What if someone knows I’ve written crappy words?
Simmer down. You’re not perfect… I can’t think of any writer whose work could possibly be one hundred percent perfect, because every writer is human. Including you. So elbow your ego in the ribs and start typing.
Use placeholders. If the crumminess is in the middle of a larger work, and you’re stuck on just this bit, mark put the problem in ALL CAPS and move on. If you’re not writing because you can’t think of a character name or whether that road in NYC goes east or west, just type CHECK LATER and keep on. Do not stop to research. Do not give up and go and do world building. Keep writing. We all love research and world building, but that’s not getting the writing done.
Accept and embrace your awful words. I have been trying to fix a novel structure for months. I mean months and months. I’ve tried maps, outlined with numbers, doodles, you name it. I’ve studied structure and I’ve ripped parts of my story out and I’ve ditched characters and scenes and still the wretched synopsis sounds like Blah blah blah.
But then I thought, I’m going to try to write a terrible synopsis. This will never be seen by an agent. Or anybody. This is going to be awful.
I sat down and refused to get back up until I had something awful in front of me. Finished and awful.
I imagined a class of five-year-olds and started typing. How to explain this happened and then this happened to the five-year-olds? Not with fancy words, that’s for sure.
I’m still not happy with my synopsis, but I set the bar so low that I could not fail. It needs work, but I have more than the nothing I had before. Next time I’ll try eight-year-olds.
So decide to be bad, and crack on.
What do you do when the words don’t come? Share your top tip below!
Come back tomorrow for what to do when you’ve finished a piece of writing.
Also published on Medium.