You have days where there just isn’t a minute to spare for your writing.
You also have days where it’s socially unaccepted to bring out your pen and stack of paper to write.
And you most certainly have days where you have all the time in the world and absolutely no motivation to write.
But your writing can’t sit on a shelf. Every day you don’t move your writing forward is not standing still but taking a step back further and further until you lose all sight of your writing project.
Here’s a secret: On all these days, you can still write without writing. You just have to approach your writing session a little differently.
The act of writing is most ideal in order to move closer to your goal of completing your writing project. However, there are days where any kind of step forward is a step in the right direction (no pun intended).
Here are ways you can still be productive with your writing without sitting down and adding words to your story.
Gather Your Ideas
As a creative person, you have many ideas of new writing projects or scenes you want to incorporate in your writing. They come to you while you’re reading, while you’re driving to work and before you fall asleep at night.
Create a document (or a file in a drawer) that’s for your writing ideas. Your ideas can be compiled as a list of notes or pages of sketches and descriptions. Whatever works for you. The point is to have a point-place when your writing is stuck so that you can never apply the I-don’t-know-what-to-write excuse.
Restructure Your Writing Habits
Your daily writing system (or lack thereof) may be why you’ve run into this predicament today. If you have writing habits that no longer click with your life anymore, then it’s time to reevaluate how you approach writing and brainstorm ways to make writing fit into your life so that you don’t neglect your writing project and your love of writing.
When Do You Write?
Like seasons, the time we are available to write changes with the passing of time. Perhaps writing at night was once feasible, but now you find more commitments build up in the evening hours.
Look at your calendar for the next thirty days. What time(s) of day can you pencil in time for you to write? For how long? Hold yourself to this commitment, just for 30 days. Set a reminder 30 days out to reevaluate this plan so that adjusting your writing time doesn’t become an afterthought.
Same goes for you if you haven’t (or never have) scheduled a time to write. Try this exercise and see if this helps you hold yourself accountable to write in the future.
Where Do You Write?
Has your personal writing space become more like a cluttered junk email account rather than a safe space to create ideas?
If your space is no longer a welcoming place to write, then it’s time for spring cleaning. If your writing space no longer keeps out any distractions (such as noise or external communications), then it’s time to move.
You may find that you need to move your writing space outside of your home. You may find that you need to shift your desk in a different angle in the room. You may find that you need to invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
Spend this time making your writing space a safe space. You may discover, after this exercise, an increased motivation to write.
We all have that scene in our story that just isn’t playing out the way we want it to. Instead of scribbling away to save it, I say step away from the journal and relive it inside your head.
Pretend that you’re the audience of your story, not the writer. Now play the scene as it currently stands. What would you like to see heightened? What senses are not experiencing this moment? What words are not being said? What actions are not being taken? What emotions are not being felt that the audience and characters should feel?
Now, stepping back into the role of writer, how can you add these elements into this scene?
If you’re fully committed to the act of not writing, you can record your notes on how to improve this scene. I like to trick myself and use forms of writing that I don’t consider to be forms of writing, such as jotting down reminders on a to-do list or texting it to myself. Whatever works for you, just make sure you don’t lose these ideas that you can use when you can write again.
Speak Your Story
If you don’t have the convenience of writing your story out, you can always return to storytelling’s original form and speak it into existence.
Grab a voice recorder, download a voice recording app or record a video of you talking out your story. Then just speak your story freely, be it an outline of ideas or crafting a scene out loud. You can always transcribe your words onto paper (or computer) when you have the time and effort to write.
Study the Craft of Writing
If you have the time but not the desire to write, then reading about writing is your next best option.
The catch? You can’t passively read the words. You must be an active reader. That means pausing over every sentence or two and thinking about what the author just said. That means highlighting or taking down notes. That means reviewing how the author’s advice applies to your writing and how you can translate it into your writing project.
A quick Internet search can recommend dozens of books on writing for you to choose as your next read. I like the selections found on this list, but I recommend choosing to read a book on writing that most resonates with your writing needs and interests.