Here we go again. I’ve hit the midpoint slump.
It’s when my enthusiasm starts to wane. My free-flowing thoughts that once easily translated to words on the screen have come to a gridlock.
I’ve hit the midpoint and it’s all looking downhill from here.
I’m halfway through the sequel to my crime fiction manuscript and I should have been prepared for the creativity obstruction that inevitably stomps down in my path.
This is my sixth manuscript. And it happens every time. Those first twenty to thirty thousand words are extracted in the midst of excitement and idealism as the bones of the story come to life. Then I hit the halfway mark. It’s the point in the process when I know how it all ends (the story, that is). I just don’t exactly know how I’m going to get there.
This is when being a pantser is really unhelpful. I’ve tried countless times to sit down at my writing desk and plan out my story. I just can’t do it. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m completely unproductive, usually engaging in some form of research procrastination and essentially I just waste time by not writing. Getting stuck on a plot point is not something I can work out by intentionally planning out scene by scene.
What is helpful?
Writing. And not writing.
Still with me? Okay, hear me out…
Firstly, the only way to push through the lack of motivation, the creative blockages and the lack of direction is to keep on writing. That’s when scheduled writing sessions are really useful for me. I write when my daughter naps so I can’t waste time (if you’d like to read more about how six other writers and myself juggle writing and parenting, read this article), so I can’t waste time fluffing about pretending that I’m planning. With only thirty minute writing sessions on a few days of the week, I have to use my time wisely.
When I sit down at my laptop, fingers hovering over the keyboard, I need to be able to write. Not think. Not edit. Not plan. Just write.
But how do I write when I don’t have the motivation to write and I don’t know what I’m meant to be writing? That’s when the ‘not writing’ comes in handy.
I tend to work out the plot points away from my writing desk. Actually, that’s when I tend to do most of my thinking about writing. I nut out plot problems when I’m not writing.
Creativity is stimulated by a clear mind and focus. That’s not to say that you can’t be creative when you’re in the midst of an intense emotional experience. Love and grief can stimulate the best work in an artist (you only have to switch on the radio and listen to a few ballads to know what I mean).
But when your mind is clear of the pressure and expectations we connect with the writing process then we allow the creative part of our mind to do what it needs to do. Create.
What we do for fun and what we do to relax is different for everyone. You have to find what works best for you. To get you started, here are five activities that spark my creativity and inevitably activate my plot problem-solving skills.
Five Ways to Beat Writer’s Block Without Writing:
- Mundane tasks. Wash the dishes or mop the floor. When you activate the monotonous, routine element of your brain and keep it busy, then it frees up the creative side to come up with ideas that your logical mind might ordinarily block. This is the chance to get your characters to step outside their comfort zone, or take your story down an entirely new path.
- Exercise. There’s plenty of research that supports the fact that exercise is not only good for your body but also your mind. You don’t have to run a marathon. I rarely get to stroll about on my own, but I can do plenty of thinking when I leash up my dog or push my daughter along on her trike. I’ve been on a fifteen minute walk before and initially felt completely dejected by my story’s progress and then by the time I got home I’d just discovered the key to my plot problem!
- Relaxation. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness practice. These are all great ways to calm your busy, thinking mind and free up space for creativity. I attend weekly yoga classes and I’d say 99% of the time I will walk away with the seed of an idea. The idea usually has nothing to do with my manuscript, but it’s often an idea for a blog post. In a way, the relaxing process helps my worries and blockages come to the surface and then I know I can extract them from my mind, write them down and I can move on with writing my story.
- Journaling (or blogging). Building on my last point, sometimes getting my thoughts down into a blog post helps me move forward, but sometimes it’s a matter of just scribbling down the random thoughts in my mind (other story ideas, shopping lists etc) and again, it frees up the creative process. The last thing you want is to start injecting your daily worries into your story. Reading about a character who is writing out a shopping list is not very exciting!
- Access your inner child. Have some fun. This might involve playing a game of zorb soccer (yes ,it’s a real thing and it’s a lot of fun), throwing a frisbee for your dog, baking cupcakes or making fart noises with your toddler- it doesn’t matter what it is, give yourself a chance to let go and have fun.
It’s all these things and more that helps me push forward with my manuscript. I know that I’ll get there in the end, I just need to be kind to myself along the way.
What helps you with writer’s block? What do you do away from the writing desk that helps you write?