Last week I did a little piece on writing muscle. It’s the stuff that gives you the strength and stamina to churn out your work, whether it’s a 3,000 word short story or (heaven forbid) a 700,000 word trilogy. Setting yourself a daily, weekly or even monthly goal when it comes to wordcount is a policy adopted by almost every professional writer, and with good reason – as with any form of exercise, discipline and commitment are two key tenants.
But it’s all very well talking about a commitment to writing. Things get much harder when you factor in the creativity element, for be under no illusions gentle reader, ours is a supremely creative business-art. And there are a myriad of things which can kill your creativity. Personal circumstance, tiredness, other workloads or just plain old sloth. How do we meet our writing goals and flex those wordcount muscles when we just can’t find our creativity?
There are a number of ways to beat this problem, and hopefully I’m going to be dealing with each it turn over the coming weeks. The first one I’m going to address is the principal which underpins them all – write something you enjoy.
I know what you’re thinking. Of course you enjoy that short story/ novel trilogy you’re writing. I think it’s pretty rare to find people freely writing about something they dislike. After all, one of the first litmus tests we set ourselves as writers is “would I enjoy reading this.” If you can’t even say that of your story then you really are dedicated to pursuing only the latest genre trends (good luck with that).
But there comes a point though when even the greatest story we’ve ever told begins to weigh on us. The thought of spending another minute writing (or rewriting, for the seventh time) that scene is enough to make us spew, or at least go one a procrastinatory cleaning spree. Things are more fun when they’re fresh and original, and after six solid months of working on the same plot and the same characters it can become hard to get excited all over again, day in day out.
Don’t despair though, because there are still things that can great the old creativity mill a’turnin’ again. The first exercise I’m going to look at is a simple one – the fanfic.
There’s only one thing on the internet more numerous than works of fan fiction, and that’s opinion pieces on fan fiction. This isn’t going to be one of those. I’m not going to go into the yays or nays of writing for-fun stories using other people’s characters and settings. I’m simply going to hold it up as a tool to break your creativity deadlock and get a bit of bon viveur back into your writing experience.
We’ve already talked about how a writer should read at least as much as they write. And because you’re a reader, chances are you’ve got plenty of stories you enjoyed and plenty of characters you hold dear to your heart. Yes, other people created those stories and characters, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to enhance your writing experience as well as your reading experience (note, do not try and sell work featuring other writer’s stuff, I DO NOT want to see this article being used in court cases ANYWHERE. Unless you intend to pay me).
So is your current writing project boring you? Are you sticking up posters around your neighborhood with images of your creativity, entitled “missing?” Remember when I said that in order to increase your writing capacity you need to hit your word count goals, whatever they may be? Well that’s a truth, but I never said those words had to be from your current number one writing project did I? If you feel down, mix it up. Write a little fanfic piece using your all time favorite character. Put them in a weird situation, write the story you wanted to read about involving them. Writers work best when they really enjoy what they’re writing, so if you do enjoy straying off now and again into fanfic fantasy land then really, don’t sweat it. Everyone* does it, and only the stuffy old dinos who think self-publishing is for failures or ebooks will never catch on rail against it. I’ve written plenty of stories set in the Games Workshop fantasy universes, or featuring Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe. And okay, whilst I haven’t been bigtime published, I’m fairly sure that isn’t due to taking a writing holiday by using other people’s stuff.
Writing can be a lot of pressure some times, but everyone needs a break. If you can take one whilst still writing, well, you’re going to an in-shape author athlete in no time. Write away.
*aka plenty of people on the internet.