Life often gets in the way of writing. Job, kids, illness, crises, earthquakes, droughts, plagues… these all crop up (okay, plague not so often but I still remember what the 2009 flu pandemic Grippe A/H1N1/swine flu did to Paris).

Sometimes it’s major events that cause our derailment… elections, referendum results, a supermoon… These things are real. They consume us. We start to doubt not just our writing ability but our life expectancy and hopes for the future.

What to do to pick yourself up when your writing goes off the tracks? Here are seven steps to help:

#1 Turn off the news feed. You know the one I mean. The one that sees you scrolling, brow furrowed, when you should be doing anything else… like feed your kids dinner or clear the cat’s litter. You know you are hooked on SM when you’d rather just read one more article a friend wrote “This.” under than greet your spouse coming in from a 3-day work trip.

#2 Reread something you’ve written that you liked. Nay, loved. Give yourself a pat on the back for having written. It’s better to have written and now be blocked, than to have never written at all…. Your real enemy is the blank page. So, take action on the major derailing event (sign a petition, write to someone in power to call them to action) but then “wipe your sword” for a minute, as my Mum calls it. Take action and then take some action on your personal goals again. It’ll feel good to do something within your #circleofinfluence.

#3 Let your emotions out through words. Write about a memory or a bunch of memories as a way to access and channel the current emotions you’re feeling. I’m basically saying don’t write a plot based on what’s currently happening around you, but use the emotions to write about past times / events or in an unrelated plot. For example, currently I feel like writing a thriller with a serial killer. So I’m letting myself do that…

#4 Fill up on healthy positive writing thoughts. I love reading the pep talks on NaNoWriMo about trucking on when things look bad. Subscribe to hopeinParis’s newsletter. Follow thegoodquote on Instagram. Watch a funny video about otters or sleeping kittens. Anything to lift your mental state.

#5 Go outside and breathe. Find some leaves to throw into the air and roll on. Check for dog poop first.

#6 Sit at your desk with the WiFi off and set a timer for 53 minutes. Write and only write. This works. If you only write and nothing else, after 53mins you’ll have 1,667 words – hey that looks suspiciously like the required average word count to win NaNoWriMo.

#7 Trust that this will mean something to your writing. If you need to pause for work, for your little ones, for everyone to get better, for a deadly flu pandemic to ease up, for your news feed to die down from its current conflagration… at least know that during this time away from writing you are gathering writing kerpow!!! so when you sit down again to write it will flow like lava (I shouldn’t even joke about lava given New Zealand’s earthquake this week and all the volcanoes in my native country…).

Now, give yourself a hug.

2 thoughts on “7 Ways to Pick Yourself Up when Your Writing Derails

  1. Great post, Lizzie! Now is a particularly good time to subscribe to the newsletter. You’ll receive reflective and thought-provoking excerpts from Down the Stream Gently: Inspiration for Authentic Living, Jane Grey’s forthcoming book.

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