Publish date:

Not in the Writing Mood?

Falling out of a writing mood can happen to the best of us, and getting back in can be tougher than talking your way into a secret, after-hours, invite-only nightclub. But if we don’t try to break through, then we’re not writing, and if we’re not writing…well, then we can’t call ourselves writers, can we?

One of my favorite methods for getting in the mood is to read a little from a favorite author in the genre I’m writing. For example, if I’m working on a noir piece, Alan Furst or Raymond Chandler always get me in the mood. If something edgier, maybe Hunter S. Thompson or Charles Bukowski (although one must be careful to borrow the spirit and not the voice of the author). Another technique I use if I’m not in the mood to pick up where I left off in a novel is to try working on a short story, essay, or poem instead. Sometimes switching up the genres and forms can jump-start my inspiration.

Jack Smith, author of the recently released Write and Revise for Publication, is a pro when it comes to taking a step back and figuring out how to fix the kinks of a novel or story, and getting in the mood to write is a problem he has tackled for himself and for the many students and readers he has helped over the years. Here is what he has to say on the matter:

u1397_500px_72dpi

As a writer you’ve got to be constantly at it. You need to generate a lot of words, revise, and fine-tune in order to feel as if you’ve finally finished your book. But what if you’re just not in the mood for it?

Why not try my “dribble method”?

Sit down and force yourself to write 100 words. That’s all. Probably what will happen is you will get in the mood and write a little more. That small spark of productivity might be all it takes, and keeping the bar low will trick your mind into thinking that you’re just dipping your toe in the pool rather than preparing to dive in head first. The trick often works, but let’s say you don't feel inspired to write more…one hundred words is better than nothing, right?

Why not 200 or 300? Do you realize that 300 words a day is 2,000 in a week? And how long does it take you to write 300 words? Probably about 5 minutes if you really pound those keys. But keeping that bar low, as I said, can make it far easier to get the ball rolling. And once you start, you’ll hit 200, 300, and beyond in no time.

And don’t worry about how those first hundred or so words turn out. It might be pretty awful, but you’ve got a start. It might be pretty good, too. You might really find your voice. You might look up an hour later and realize you finished a whole chapter.

If you really don’t feel like cranking out new stuff, how about this? Take something you’ve written and do surface-level editing. Don’t demand anything major of yourself. Just go through a story or a section of a novel and improve the wording, or simply read it to yourself for clarity. Enjoy the story for what it is rather than edit at all (but you will, won’t you?) and you’ll be surprised by how you feel. Once you get into it, you’ll probably end up doing more, either in that story or in another.

Sometimes we simply don’t like to write. We don’t feel inspired. But if you don’t set out to accomplish a lot, and instead just “dribble it out” in small efforts, you may still find yourself being productive despite your mood.

For more writing advice from Jack Smith, look for his new book, Write and Revise for Publication, at the Writer’s Digest Shop!

3 Big Tips for Writing a Children’s Picture Book Like a Pro

3 Big Tips for Writing a Children’s Picture Book Like a Pro

Small but mighty, picture books help raise children into lifelong readers. Children's book author Diana Murray offers 3 big tips for writing a picture book like a pro.

5 Things I Learned About Writing From Watching Soap Operas

5 Things I Learned About Writing From Watching Soap Operas

Lessons in writing can come from various forms of art or entertainment. Author Alverne Ball shares 5 things he learned about writing from watching soap operas.

From Script

Writing from an Intimate Point of View and Adding Essential Elements to Solidify Your Screenplay (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, TV writer Kate Sargeant shares a first-hand look on her new digital series that was a life-changing experience. Plus an interview with filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve, a new installment from ‘Ask the Coach’ and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Collecting Advice but Never Writing

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Collecting Advice (but Never Writing)

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is to collect writing advice at the expense of actually writing.

The Benefits of a Book Coach for Writers

The Benefits of Having a Book Coach for Writers

What is a book coach? How could they help authors? Award-winning author and writing instructor Mark Spencer answers these questions and more in this post about the benefits of having a book coach for writers.

Clare Chambers: On Starting Fresh and Switching Gears

Clare Chambers: On Starting Fresh and Switching Gears

Award-winning author Clare Chambers discusses the fear and excitement of switching genre gears in her new historical fiction novel, Small Pleasures.

Poetic Forms

Exquisite Corpse: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the exquisite corpse (or exquisite cadaver), a collaborative poem that would make a fun poetic game.

How Opening Ourselves to Other People Can Make Us Better Writers

How Opening Ourselves to Other People Can Make Us Better Writers

The writing process is both individual and communal, as receiving constructive feedback and outside encouragement helps our drafts become finished manuscripts. Author Peri Chickering discusses how opening ourselves up to others can make us better writers.

What Forensic Science’s Godmother Taught Me About Writing Mysteries

What Forensic Science’s Godmother Taught Me About Writing Mysteries

Stephanie Kane discusses the impact of Frances Glessner Lee, the godmother of forensic science, and her crime scene dioramas on writing mysteries.