7 Tips on Overcoming a Writing Rut

Despite my best intentions, I find myself getting stuck in ruts wherein I dither in emotional oblivion instead of writing. This week, I finally pulled myself out of a month-long rut. I wrote down a list of the concepts that helped me to move on, and I posted it on my PinBoard as a reminder to my future, stuck self. I am sharing these tips in the hopes that they will help you, too.

Tip #1: writing is your first job

While in the middle of my rut, I started thinking about getting a job that paid on a regular basis. I thought to myself, “I can get a job, pay some bills, and then write in my spare time as a second job.”

Then I thought, “No. Wait. Writing is the work that you want to do. Even if you decide to get a job that pays, it will be your second job. Writing will be your first job because it is more important to you than any other work that you might get paid for, unless it also is writing work.”

Whatever it is you do for work, let writing be your first job.

Tip #2: Value your writing

While thinking about getting a job somewhere, I realized that I had downgraded the importance of my writing as though it would be less important than anything I might do for someone else. If something is important to you, you value it. When you value it, you find the time to bring it to the forefront. I think it’s just the way our minds work.

I owe myself the courtesy of valuing my writing at least as much as I valued all the work I ever did for employers in my past careers. And so should you.

Tip #3: do your Morning writing

Writing three pages every morning is championed by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way. The goals are to clear your mind and use the space to explore creative possibilities. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t even get myself to write my three pages each day, let alone work on my novel.

While I was in my rut, I had stopped writing every morning. Once I returned to it this past Sunday, I immediately felt relief. I use those three pages to lay out whatever is on my mind. In the process, I find myself asking questions that challenge my preconceptions. The answers usually lead to problem resolution, satisfaction, and even a positive outlook!

Write three pages every morning, and you just might find yourself moving in new directions.

Tip #4: Don’t judge your writing – just write

My inner critic tells me that whatever I might create just won’t be good enough or even any good. So why bother? whispers the devil on my shoulder into my ear. When I am going downhill, I have no good answers to this terrible question. I listen, and I stop. Now that I am on the other side, I know there is really only one possible answer:

Because I want to write. If I want to judge, I should go into law. If I want to write, then just write.

Tip #5: Set a daily word count

Thanks to Chuck Wendig’s post called his Zero-Fuckery 350 Word a Day Writing Plan, I decided to set my daily word count goal at 350. As he says, even if you only wrote those 350 words on 5 days a week, you would still have a 91,000 word novel in a year. When you set and meet small, reasonable word count goals, you can celebrate a little when you make meet your goal. Giving yourself a little pat on your back once a day for meeting your goals can do wonders for your morale and enthusiasm the next day, too.

Tip #6: Goals are your guides

Whether it’s a word count goal or some other kind of goal, your goals are meant to guide you, not punish you. If you have difficulty meeting your goals, maybe it’s worth considering whether it’s a lousy goal. If it just needs some tweaking, then change it to suit your needs and abilities. If you set a goal that hinders you instead of helping you, get rid of it. Take the time to consider what kind of goal you would need in order to get yourself moving.

When you have goals that guides you, your work is enhanced. There’s no better goal than that.

Tip #7: You are your teacher

You can get all the books you want, read all the articles you want, and talk to all the experts you want. However, If a teacher’s suggested work method is difficult for you or holds you back, this does not meant that you are not a failure.  You are own best student, so be your own best teacher.

If a system or work schedule or goal isn’t working for you, you can decide for yourself what you want to do. If applicable, find a different way to approach the same task. Whatever it is, you can make it work for you.

When we stop and ask what it is that we really need and want, the best answers often come from within ourselves.

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