Writing when times get tough


22 March 2024
Finding it hard to write, right now? Be kind to yourself – and have a look at these ten tips for keeping your creativity alive in difficult circumstances

1) Don’t worry if you’re not writing right now

Don’t add to your burden by being anxious about not writing. Your writing is patiently waiting for you to return to it, but it will do just fine without you until you are ready to come back to it.

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2) Keep a journal

Record your thoughts and impressions by hand, in a private diary. Write out your fears and worries and any thoughts that occur to you. Don’t edit yourself, just write in your journal as a way of talking out your concerns. Remember too that these are unique circumstances for you and the insights you discover as you write may well be useful later on in a writing project.

3) Start a new project

Goign through difficult times may suggest changing styles or genres. You may find your mindset has altered and the writing project that you were working on may not be a fit in the same way. So start something new. Maybe you could record your observations of the times you're going through. Or be prompted to write in a new style. Flash fiction or poetry might be appropriate ways of recording snapshots of thoughts and impressions while we’re in the middle of a situation and don’t know what the end will be.

4) Write little and often

Perhaps your concentration is shot. No wonder, when you're struggling and trying to keep on top of everything. So find five or ten minutes here and there and write a few lines where you can. It will all add up.

5) Social media is your friend

Keep in touch with fellow members of the writing community through the online networks. Use Twitter and Facebook and Instagram to chat to people. It’s the ideal place for writers to share their thoughts and ideas and feel networked to the wider writing world. We may be isolated in our personal circumstances but we can reach out to each other and make sure we’re not alone. Check in with your people. Search out online communities and get involved – remember you can lift up the spirits of someone else just by saying hello. Share your ideas, what you’re working on, tell each other how your day’s going.

6) Tackle a project you haven’t had time for

For some people, the way to deal with a tough challenge in life is to match it with one of their own. If that's you, roll up your sleeves to tackle that passion project that you’ve always promised yourself you’d write ‘one day’. The one you’ve said you’d write ‘when you’ve got time.’ Well, now perhaps it's time to make time. Use it. Make it count.

7) Inspiration everywhere

In hard circumstances, remember to give yourself a break. Make sure that every day, you do something for you.  Teach yourself to look in a new way. Listen to a new playlist. Get out a pad and draw something. Read a book from your TBR pile, do an online course, look at art, start researching your family history. Go through WM's Handbook and Competition Guide and even if you don’t enter them, select five that take your fancy and have a go at writing pieces specially tailored for them. Meditate. Think of yourself at 16, 21, 35, 57, 73, 94 and write down what you remember of yourself at that age and what you hope you’ll be doing when you get older.

8) Finish something

You know that writing project that you started and didn’t finish? Those short stories that have beginnings but not endings? The poems that petered out after an initial flash of inspiration? The novel that needs redrafting? The synopsis you know you should write? Is this the time to tackle these tasks and give them the attention they need?

If you want a bit of helping getting your synopsis sorted out, read this.

9) Get some exercise and practice self-care

Exercise clears the mind and helps ideas flow. If you're able, get out into a green space and walk. If you’re happier indoors, find an online exercise class, or dance class, and do that. And try to spend a little bit of time each day in a calm space where you can practice mindfulness if you’re into that, reflecting on what you’ve done and processing how you’re feeling.

10) Remember that everything changes

And that whatever happens, words make a difference - to the people who read them, and the people who write them. We need books, articles, poems, stories, ideas – creative people doing creative things that make the world a better place. You can play your part in that. Get your work ready for the readers who will be grateful for it in the future. Believe in the power of your own words. Keep writing, and share the love.

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