Many people — especially beginning writers and those who don’t write much at all — seem to think that because creative writing is, well, creative, beautifully-crafted words are simply supposed to flow effortlessly from your pen or keyboard.
News flash: though that can happen, it’s far from a constant reality. Much of the time, creative writing isn’t just hard work, but also daunting. Part of the reason is that people embarking on creative writing journeys often make it personal. Baring your soul and knowing that words that started as yours will eventually be read and scrutinized by other people isn’t easy. It’s only normal that almost all creative writers will be overcome by writer’s block at one point or another, and often even regularly.
How do you deal? Though you’ll have to figure out your own process to find your way back to that creative flow, here are some actually helpful tips.
1. Pick up a quality book, because good writers are also avid readers
No, this isn’t plagiarism 101 — absolutely nobody is suggesting that you read quality literature so that you can lift words, plot lines, and literary devices from those who have come before you. The fact is, however, that immersing yourself in beautiful language that paints stunning images will improve your own writing skills. At the very least, reading good books often is going to raise your mental bar if most of the words that make it to your brain come from quick emails and sloppy social media posts. Being an avid reader will broaden your vocabulary and give you ideas for new ways to play around with words. After all, you can’t get started with creative writing if you haven’t taken a look at some creative writing examples.
2. The meat: Let go of the idea that every word you write has to be beautiful
You want to share your truth imaginatively, passionately, and beautifully as a creative writer, but to be able to do that, you sometimes simply have to get your story across. Don’t get hung up on a word or sentence that simply isn’t right, and don’t let a small question mark in your mind stall your project. If you’re just not feeling the beauty, don’t stop writing. Keep going, and see what happens. You can go back and fix your text up later, realizing that you’ve already done most of the work.
On that note, don’t fall into the trap of believing that your vocabulary always needs to be amped up, and your story clad in complex sentence structures, either. Say what you have to, the way you’re feeling it — and you may, in the end, find that that’s enough.
3. Remember to take care of your basic needs
When you’re in the middle of a creative writing project, you’ll probably come across the advice to commit to writing a certain number of words every day, no matter how you feel. That’s a solid tip, but not unless you also take your basic self-care needs seriously. Nobody can produce their best creative writing fueled by junk food, or worse, on an empty stomach. Nobody who has stared at nothing but their computer screen all day long is going to stay inspired for very long, and nobody who’s typed half the night away and forgot to sleep is going to catch all the typos they make.
Do what grandmothers across the globe would nag you to — eat well, stay hydrated, get your sleep in, and remember to step away from your creative writing to live a little, too. That is, after all, when your best ideas might be born.
4. Take an idea notebook with you everywhere you go
It’s happened to all creative writers — a friend tells you a story that sparks an amazing idea, an incredible plot twist comes to you in the shower, or you read a word that you know would perfectly into your writing in the news one day. Few things are more frustrating than getting this wonderful inspiration, only to find that it has completely left your brain by the time you’d have been ready to use it. That’s why all creative writers should carry a physical notebook and pen with them wherever they go. Yes, even into the shower.