28 Tricks for Tough Writing Days

When you hit a slump, when you have a day where the words aren't coming, try one of these tricks. Or try four. Or try all twenty-eight. | lucyflint.com

Maybe you're in a slump, maybe you don't know what happens next, or maybe you'd just rather not. Maybe your brain is all dried up, or maybe your words ran away. 

For one reason or another, you need a different kind of writing day.

Here are twenty-eight tricks for those tough writing days. Yeah. Just imagine them with a big bow on top, and maybe some chocolate and fancy pens: a little gift from my writing life to yours.

Some are creative adventures, to refill up your imagination. And some are ways to reframe the work itself, and hopefully to get you writing again.

Any one of them could be a nice boost to a writing day. Combine a few, and you'll have a great creative retreat.

Ready? Have fun!

1. Start by acknowledging that it's a rough day. Sometimes I put too much energy into fighting a weird writing mood, instead of finding ways to go forward. (It helps so much if you're not fighting.)

2. Post a few photographs of writers you admire around your workspace. Imagine them saying witty, kind, encouraging things to you. Believe them. Write.

3. Visit a quirky nearby museum. Even if--especially if--you know nothing about the collection. Write about what you see. Give a piece in the museum a role in your story. You never know what you might stumble across. 

4. Write from a different vantage point. Sit on your garage floor, or climb up onto your roof, or toss some pillows into your bathtub and write from there. (I discovered the bathtub as a writing place during a tornado warning. It's awesome. Like a cocoon.)

5. Go write in a bookstore or a library. Write while you're surrounded by other words. Let them cheer you on.

6. Switch genres for a while. Try writing your next scene as a poem, a graphic novel, a play, a children's picture book, an encyclopedia entry, a comic strip. 

7. Seek some sympathy from a writing friend. Maybe you just need a bit of human interaction! Buzz around on Twitter, send an email to a writing buddy, or hang out on writing blogs. (Hi, friend!)

8. Change the music that you're listening to as you write. (Or, start listening to some, if you usually don't.) Try soundtracks, try classical. Try nature noises, or opera. Or some crazy electronica stuff, or whatever else the kids are listening to these days. Switch it up. Get a new beat in your ears.

9. Browse one of your favorite novels. Flip around and just study the paragraphs, the ways the chapters begin and end, the flow of the dialogue. Use the same strategies to help kickstart your next writing session.

10. Take a break and tidy your workspace. Clear out the clutter. Get rid of the dirty dishes (whoops, is that just me?). Moving around is always good, and your mind just might appreciate the clear space.

11. Set a timer for ten minutes, and write a sentence that runs for a page or three. Every time you'd like to put a period, just add a comma, and keep going. (Got this trick from Judy Reeves. Try it--it's amazing what it unlocks.)

12. Play around with hand lettering. Letters are our medium after all! This is a great way to let yourself play a bit, to lighten your grip on the day, while still staying close to words. (If you need inspiring, just go here. Then get doodling!)

13. Spend some time with a quality book about writing or creativity. (Try A Year of Writing Dangerously, Wonderbook, or Steal Like an Artist.)

14. Go write in a coffee shop; go write in a restaurant. Mix up your environment. Eavesdrop like a writer. (And eat some good food, or get some caffeine. See what I'm really up to?)

15. Visit your nearest art museum. Drink up the colors, all the shapes. Find a piece that reminds you of your story. Sit. Write. (No art museum nearby? Behold, the Internet!)

16. Find your favorite line in your current project. Treat it like a famous quote from an amazing writer. (Because you are!) Print it out in a marvelous font, or hand-letter it yourself. Post it. Believe in the power of your words.

17. Take a break and go bake something. Cooking always jars a few words loose in me. And hey, even if it doesn't for you, you've got something yummy coming out of the oven in a bit. I call that a win.

18. Write crap. Really. Aim super low. Overuse all the adverbs we're not allowed to use anymore. (Very! Really! Like, totally!!) Make all the mistakes. Reach for every cliché. Just lower that bar all the way to the ground. It's freeing, and one of my favorite ways to get unstuck.

19. Go on a photograph safari. Take a walk and snap dozens of pictures. Or photograph objects in your house. Get back into your eyes. Look closely at the actual nouns all around you. 

20. Try writing by hand on small pieces of paper. I've had really good luck writing passages on little sticky notes, and I've done a whole novel on index cards. It's a much smaller canvas to fill, and somehow the words come running out.

21. Practice gratefulness. Write a thank you note to a writer you admire, encourage a writing friend, or go be kind to your local librarians. The hard days are a good reminder that there are a lot of us struggling forward, day by day. Go love on someone else who works with words. 

22. Go take a shower. Or go do the dishes. (Or anything else mundane and familiar that requires water.) I have no idea why, but this always works when I'm stuck on a plot snag. (Bonus: things are clean when you're done.)

23. Declare a reading holiday. Take time to just get drunk on words. Brew some tea, get out that novel you've been looking forward to, and read.

24. Take a long walk to get the blood moving, and then flop down and stare at the clouds for a while. Let your mind drift. And then tell yourself your story. Like you're telling it to someone who is sure to love it. Connect back to the heart of it, away from computer screens and word quota charts. Just focus on the story itself.

25. Spend some time curating a list of fantastic quotes about writing, quotes about the power of words, quotes that motivate you. Everyone needs at least a bazillion of these, wouldn't you agree? (You know I love writing quotes! I did a series on thirty favorites.)

26. Wander a cemetery for a while. Read the names and epitaphs, and think about all the lives--all those stories!!--represented there. Maybe it will inspire another scene for you; or maybe that sense of life's fragility will give you the courage to write this story with the time you have.

27. Write out all your plot problems or creative frustration in a journal. Write down exactly what's hard, and consider how to fix it. Interview yourself. Maybe something will break loose or maybe not, but either way: you're writing now. 

28. Or just let your goals go for the day. Relax by watching some movies about writers. (Stranger than Fiction, anyone?) Let yourself off the hook. Get some rest. Eat some healthy food. (Or not.)

And try again tomorrow.