How To Keep Writing During *Gestures Vaguely to Everything*
Some of you may notice that this is my first blog post in quite a while. That is because, like many people, I have been having a lot of trouble focusing my energy on the things I normally focus my energy on. Generally, I have been saving what little creative energy I have right now to work on my current manuscript. But since I feel like I’m not alone in my struggles to focus right now, I thought I’d save a little gas in the tank for a quick post here.
The title of this post is somewhat misleading, honestly. Things are chaotic. They have been somewhat chaotic for years now, but in 2020 we saw a huge amount of civil unrest and went through a brutal election cycle, all while weathering a global pandemic. So far, 2021 has been no calmer. In short, I don’t have a concrete answer to the question of how we keep creating during this madness. But, in the past calendar year I have completed both structural and copy edits on my debut, prepared one new project for my agent, and completed first drafts on two other projects. In short: Somehow, I’ve been making this work. So I figured I would at least share the tips I’ve been using with all of you, in the hopes that something strikes a chord!
TIP 1: AIM SMALL
Now, there’s advice you don’t hear every day. Usually it’s all “shoot for the stars!” and “go big or go home!” Well, we’re already all at home, and we’ve been stuck there since last March, so, fuck it, go as small as you want. During times when I’m feeling pretty good (relatively speaking), I’ve kept my daily word count goal around 500 words per day. When I’m not in the best place, mentally, I drop that down even further - for most of October and those first few weeks of November, 250 words/day was my jam.
Here’s the best part: most days, I exceed that goal! Sometimes by a LOT. But knowing that I only “have” to write 500 words before my ambition will give me permission to stop for the day makes it so much easier to get my ass in the chair and get something on paper.
TIP 2: GET MOVING
This one might be a “me” specific one, since exercise tends to be my cure-all for most things. I can’t tell you how many times I have woken up in a depressive episode, planned to take the afternoon off work for mental health reasons, but then worked out on my lunch break and perked up enough to make it through the day. Writing is no different - some days, I just need to get my blood pumping to keep the words flowing!
Weeks when I’ve slacked on exercise are almost always also the weeks that I write the fewest words. That was true even pre-2020, but it’s doubly true now. So, do whatever it takes! Bundle up and go for a walk outside! Do some jumping jacks and a few squats while you watch Netflix! If you have the means, get a subscription to something like Daily Burn, or invest in a treadmill or something. Whatever you do, if you’re like me, remember that a stagnant body produces a stagnant brain.
TIP 3: DON’T COMPARE
This is a good rule for literally all the time, honestly, but it’s extra true right now. Someone else writes 4000 words a day - wow, I’m only writing 500 words a day right now, I suck. Nope. They just have a different process from yours. Or they handle pandemic stress differently from how you do. Or their schedule allows them to write more frequently than yours does. Or, or, or. There’s a million reasons why everyone works at a different pace. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, man. Eyes on your own paper.
TIP 4: BE NICE
To YOURSELF, I mean.
If you’re anything like me, beating yourself up about how you’re “not getting anything done” is just going to bum you out, make you slide further into your funk, and then you really won’t get anything done. If you need a day off? Take a goddamn day off. If your first draft is turning out to be a pile of utter shit? Cool, that’s what edits are for. Just go easy on yourself, life is tough right now. No need to be an ass to yourself and make it tougher.
How about you guys? How has your creativity been faring in the past year or so? Give me a shout on Twitter (@mj_kuhn) or Instagram (@mjkuhnbooks) if you have any tips that might help us all out of this slump!