Though this week’s topic is how to keep writing when we don’t have time, I have a theory:
95% of the time, “I don’t have time” really means “I’m procrastinating” or “I’m burnt out.”
I’ve been there too many times to count. And I’ve gotten out of it in traditional and not-so-traditional ways.
1. Change things up and write by hand. I write the majority of my drafts on a keyboard, which is nice because it keeps up with my train of thought. But it’s also way too easy to delete and edit as I go; I end up feeling like a hamster on a wheel, trying my best to move forward but stuck in one place. I have a journal that I write in when the screen feels like a trap. It’s incredibly liberating. The words are there; I can cross them out but they’ll still be there. And usually, once I start transcribing them into digital form, I edit them a bit and feel just good enough about my progress to keep going.
2. Let go of the idea that you need long stretches of time to write. Or huge chunks of word counts. When I really want to get through a draft but don’t know when I’ll find the time, I sneak it in. I tell myself I’ll write every day but give myself permission to write for two hours after I wake or for two minutes before bed. We can all spare two minutes, right? 10 words or 1000, it doesn’t matter. Just get the words down consistently.
3. Write letters from one character to another. When I’m struggling with character development or figuring out someone’s back story, I try to step into their shoes. I get out my journal once again and handwrite letters they’ve sent to one another. This is one of my favorite things to do when I’m in initial draft stages, because it never fails to surprise me. Not only do I learn my characters’ secrets, I also get to hear their voices in new, more vivid ways.
4. Write blindfolded. This might sound crazy, but while writing the very first draft of Chasing the Sun, I wanted to see, feel, and smell what it’d be like to be in Marabela’s place the moment she was kidnapped. Years later, I still occasionally bring out the blindfold when I sense fear standing in the way of my writing. I can’t see the screen or the words, so I can’t edit myself as I go. I can’t get stuck rereading a sentence, wondering what sentence will sound just right next. It doesn’t take very long either; it’s usually a quick 20-minute exercise. When I finally allow myself to look, I’m always surprised by how far I got in that time, and by what I’ve written now that I’m seeing it for the first time.
What are some non-traditional ways you gotten yourself out of writing rut?