Sometimes, you’ve got an hour or two free – but you don’t feel like writing. All the advice in the world on becoming inspired or getting self-disciplined just isn’t helping you. For whatever reason, you know your ability to string together a new article or story is temporarily absent.
This needn’t be a problem: there are lots of writing-related activities that you can usefully get on with whilst waiting for the muse to reappear. Here’s just seven of them:
1. Grab your notebook and start brainstorming
Sometimes, a lack of ideas can cause you to get stuck. Maybe you want to write, but you’re not sure what to start on. Find your notebook and a pen, and start scribbling. Mind-map, write a list, use pretty colors – it doesn’t matter. Just get as many ideas down as you can. Once you’re past ten or twenty, you’ll start reaching the creative, original ones.
2. Read some great writing advice
Daily Writing Tips is a good place to start. 😉 But there are lots of other blogs out there devoted to all aspects of writing – and hundreds of different books that could help you. Look for something aimed at writers in your genre (poetry, science-fiction, article writing, academic journals, etc). Don’t just skim through a load of advice, though: take a note of any points which make you think “aha!” and scribble down ideas of how you can apply them to your own work in progress.
3. Organise your writing files
This is one writing chore I always put off: organising my files. If you have bits of your novel in a dozen different places on your computer (emails to yourself, Word documents, notes in your journal software, bits you keep online in Google docs…) then get it all sorted out. If you’re a freelancer and write for dozens of different markets, start a folder for each. That way, you’ll know exactly what you need to invoice for at the end of the month.
4. Create a portfolio of your writing
If you don’t already have one, start a portfolio of your writing. Get together some of your best pieces from the past few years (published or unpublished) and, ideally, put them into one folder on your computer. If you have the online rights to them, you might want to put them onto your website or blog. Now, when you’re writing to editors and agents, you’ll be able to respond straight away if they ask to see samples. And if you’re applying for college-level courses, you’ll have some great examples of your work to include with your application.
5. Research some markets
If you’re aiming to be published, you need to do some homework to find out which magazines, websites or publishing companies might be interested in your work. There are lots of ways to do this. You could search on Amazon for books in your genre and see who published them (Amazon lists the publisher on the book details page). Or you could use one of the many websites devoted to writers’ markets – try Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau for short stories and Ralan’s Webstravaganza for a huge listing of markets. Also check with Writers’ Market or, if you’re in the UK, the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook to make sure that company is accepting submissions.
6. Send out some short stories or articles
For those of you who know the markets you have in mind – send them some of your work. Proof-read that story languishing on your hard-drive, print it out (double spaced, nice white paper), write a cover letter to the editor, include a self-addressed envelope with return postage, and pop the whole lot in the post. Many markets accept emailed manuscripts, but check the submission guidelines first.
7. Read some great fiction
Finally, if all else fails, just put your feet up with a good book. Choose an author who you love, and luxuriate in their prose – but keep half your mind on figuring out why exactly you love their writing, and spotting what techniques they use. Alternatively, pick up something you wouldn’t normally read, and cast a critical eye over the ways in which the style differs from your usual favourites. You’ll almost certainly learn something.
What writing-related activities do you get on with when you’re lacking the energy to write?