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4 Things for When Writing is Hard
Writing has been harder than it used to be these past weeks/months/years. I won’t get into all the reasons why because you know them! You are probably dealing with them too!
Acknowledging that, yeah, it’s hard, here’s what I do to try to get through/break through.
1. Take care of some admin stuff.
Obviously the writing is the most important part, but my writing life also involves some necessary non-writing activities. Submissions, residency applications, grant applications, etc. All of these are in service of either getting the existing writing out into the world or making space and time for new writing. And because they use a very different part of the brain than the actual writing, I try to knock them out during dry spells.
2. Do something for another writer.
For most writers I know, literary community is important. And it’s built by reading other writers’ works in progress and giving them notes, reading their published stuff and recommending it, reviewing books, interviewing writers, etc. All of this takes time, and that time is an investment in relationships, which is great in and of itself. But in my experience it often also helps me get back on track with my own work — giving notes, especially, because it forces me to articulate my own views about what a story or novel or essay can do. Sometimes thinking about someone else’s predicament for a minute can help you solve your own.
3. Watch a lecture or reading.
Even before the pandemic, some writing events were posting recordings online. Now it’s pretty much the norm that if you register for a virtual event, you’ll get the recording afterward. I can’t attend as many virtual events as I’d like because of kid bedtime, but I sign up for tons of them and then bookmark the recordings to watch when I need a little inspiration.
4. Read something really, really good.
This one should go without saying and yet —. Reading a book I am loving is an energy multiplier, while sticking it out through a book I’m so-so about is an energy diminisher. We know this, and yet it still surprises me when picking up a new book is all it takes to get out of a writing slump.
If this all sounds like advice, it’s mostly advice to myself. If you think it’s hard, that is because it’s hard, but we can do hard things. One more time, with feeling.