Writing Through the Tough Times

In our final novel writing class, several students admitted that the writing hasn’t been coming easy these past few weeks. Some were dealing with family illnesses, some had too many holiday obligations. Others said their inspiration was running low. How do you write when your life is busy or dealing with tough times?
Writing Tip for Today: Productivity during Thanksgiving through New Year’s may slump, especially if you don’t have a looming deadline. When you write freelance, you have to goad yourself to get things written and submitted. And when you or a family member becomes ill, the challenge becomes tougher still. Here are a few ideas for keeping the words flowing:

  • Don’t beat yourself up, but don’t excuse yourself either. Maybe circumstances prevent you from your regular writing schedule–happens to most everyone at some point. But you can jot down ideas for articles or plot points, work through story problems as you’re weeding, washing dishes or some other activity. Play the “What if” game to stimulate your imagination.
  • Tell yourself to dream. I know, this sounds rather woo-woo, but try it. I’ve have some amazing things about my writing come to my through a dream. You may need to keep a pad and pencil on the night stand–dreams evaporate quickly.
  • Keep up with your reading. During a hectic time, you may not be home to access your computer. Take your lap top, kindle or a book to read and analyze as you sit in a waiting room, on the drive to Auntie’s house (that is, if you don’t get car sick!) or on a plane. By analyzing, I mean that you might count the number of narrative sentences until the next dialogue, or examine where the “beats” of setting/time and action occur within a conversation.
  • Become a careful observer of the world. They say a good writer is in the perpetual act of noticing. Notice the way Uncle Jim laughs or how Aunt Sally falls apart because the food’s not ready. Tuck these details away and write them down as soon as you can. These are the little things that help you invent composite characters–a combination of physical and emotional traits from different people.
  • Work on shorter projects or something fun until the holiday stress is over. If everything feels overwhelming, write poetry, short anecdotes or a Chicken Soup essay. Your novel will be waiting for you in long cold wintry January.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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