“I’m not going to write today. I don’t feel like it. I’m not in the mood, and I can never write anything good if I’m not in the mood. I think I have writer’s block. There’s no point forcing it. I will just wait until inspiration hits me.”
Sound familiar? This drivel used to come out of my mouth at least once or twice a week. Sometimes it would occur every day for a fortnight. And then I created a schedule for writing short stories and everything changed. I learned the trick of forcing my creativity.
“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” – Terry Pratchett
This quote from the wonderful Terry Pratchett just about sums up my current attitude to writer’s block.
Sure, I have days where I struggle to come up with ideas, or find that the words aren’t flowing onto the page as easily as they normally would. But I don’t use these as excuses to not write. If I were to resign myself to writer’s block, I’d be taking the responsibility of not writing out of my own hands into those of an invisible force that’s beyond my control.
In my mind, it’s important to practise writing as often as possible. As with any other skill, the more you do it, the better you become at it. That’s why I post a new short story here every Tuesday and every Thursday. It’s also why I’m taking NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to write a short story series I plan to publish here in December. These are opportunities to practice my writing skill, but they’re also useful exercises in ignoring writer’s block.
By making schedules and deadlines for myself, I’m forcing myself to write even when my pot of creativity is running dry and I don’t bloody feel like it.
Inspiration is unreliable
If I only wrote when I really felt like writing, I’d never write at all.
I think there’s a romantic notion that writers become swept up in sudden inspiration and are compelled to create wonderful things. It’s assumed that fiction shouldn’t be forced; it should flow from us naturally like some other worldly force. We are just puppets to our muse, and only produce the most exquisite work when creativity takes hold of our souls… or some other nonsense to that effect. The reality is that this desperate creative impulse only occurs once in a blue moon, and usually at times when we cannot be writing.
For me, it’s often when I’m copywriting that I feel the nagging urge to work on my novel or I come up with an idea for a short story. Sadly, it’s usually impossible to break off from the paid and very much essential non-fiction project that I’m working on. As soon as free time comes around, I suddenly feel uninspired and don’t want to write. If I waited on inspiration – which is fickle and unreliable – I’d never write a damn word.
Discipline is vital for every creative
So, what do I do when I’m uninspired but I’ve got a schedule to maintain?
I sit myself down and force myself to write a sentence – even if I feel as though I don’t have a creative bone in my body. Then, I eke out a few more sentences until I have a paragraph. Often, these initial words are typed out so sluggishly that it feels like time has almost stood still. But once that first paragraph is down, the creative side of my brain gradually starts to play ball and I find that, actually, I am in the mood for writing. In fact, once I’ve started writing I often don’t want to stop.
It’s all about discipline. By working writing time into my routine, I’m disciplining myself to make my own inspiration.
I will continue to stick my middle finger up to writer’s block and force myself to be creative. I’ve made a promise to myself to post two short stories here every single week, and I’m determined not to break it. That promise keeps me accountable, makes me disciplined, and forces out the creativity which lurks lazily in the dim corners of my brain.