How To Find Writing Inspiration When You Don’t Feel Inspired

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You might be familiar with this scenario: you’ve got some time on your hands to work on your creative project or start a new one, but you feel underwhelmed at the idea of sitting down and doing the work.

(Full disclosure: that’s what happened to me when I thought about working on this post.)

I generally subscribe to the idea that you shouldn’t write (or paint or photograph or whatever your creative outlet is) only when inspiration strikes.

That’s not how projects get done; it’s how projects stall out, because waiting for the fickle feeling of inspiration to strike is like waiting for a 65 degree day in New England in the winter. It’s not unheard of, but you might wait a looooong time for it to show up suddenly and without warning, only for it to be gone just as quickly.

But on the other hand, sometimes you really do need to feel inspired in order to start writing. It can mean the difference between writing something you can later revise, and writing nothing at all.

I know I’m not alone in this writing duality – some days feel like you’re channeling a higher power as you type. You feel like you couldn’t be more of a creative genius, period. Everything flows, and the words are nearly perfect straight from your brain.

Other days feel like wading through muck just to get one decent sentence out. You’re not sure why you’re even bothering in the first place – you’ll probably scrap the entire page you’re working on when you read it again tomorrow and realize how shitty it is.

On those days, the really mucky days, it can help to feel even the smallest spark of inspiration.

The trick is to not rely on it to get your work done. But, if you have a solid writing routine established, dipping into the inspiration well once in a while is harmless.

For me, the trick to conjuring some inspiration when I need it is to change things up. The easiest way to do this: write in a different place. Literally. Take your notebook or laptop and sit somewhere different.

I’m writing this from my dining room table where I rarely ever sit to write. I just needed to switch things up so I could get this post written. It worked.

But you could also go to a different library or coffee shop than you usual one. You could venture into a new town in search of a great place to hunker down for a few hours. Or it could be as simple as sitting in a different spot in your house or apartment.

It’s a small, easy action that can sometimes be enough to get things flowing again.

Another easy way to find inspiration when you don’t feel inspired: give yourself 20 minutes (who are we kidding — give yourself an hour) on Pinterest to search for terms that relate to your story. But ONLY let yourself search for things that are relevant. You can look for gallery wall ideas for your living room later.

So, here’s some context. The first third-ish of my novel is set in Bermuda in 1951. Guess who knew next to nothing about Bermuda in 1951 when she started out? This girl. Guess who used Pinterest to visually inspire her as she wrote and researched and figured it out? You guessed it.

If you’re a really visual person like me, you simply cannot underestimate the power of Pinterest to fuel inspiration.

But that’s not the only way to feel inspired. Try reading something outside of your comfort zone.

Talk to someone face to face about what they’re working on (this never fails to fire me up).

Have a cup of strong coffee. Wait for it to kick in. Write everything that comes to mind. Don’t censor. 

Visit a local museum. Talk to the docent. Ask questions.

Read about weird places.

Plan a mini-trip to a literary spot near you. There’s nothing like being in Edith Wharton’s bedroom and hearing about her writing process to get you excited to write.

Or standing next to Melville’s desk where he feverishly wrote Moby Dick.

If you normally write by hand, try typing for a while. Or vice versa.

Take a class. Learn how to do something else with your hands: pottery, calligraphy, watercolor painting, photography with film, knitting, cross-stitching.

Go to a poetry slam.

Look at houses on Zillow and imagine who might live there. Imagine what you would do if you lived there.

Buy a new notebook. (I just got one of these a couple of weeks ago and it’s pretty sweet.)

Get some new pens. Or write with colored pens for a change. Write with markers. Write with crayons. Write on your walls. (Maybe. Maybe not.)

Listen to music the gives you all the feels. This and this work for me.

Watch a movie that’s really, really good.

Reread your favorite book. Make note of your favorite passages. 

Take one of those passages and transcribe it by hand into a notebook.

Talk to other writers about being blocked. Find out what they do to get past it.

Go to a bookstore. What’s more inspiring than that? Buy two books: one that you’ve been dying to read, and one you’ve never heard of.

Write a letter to a friend. Put it in the mail and write another one if you’re still not inspired.

Subscribe to a writing magazine.

Take a nap. Write about your dreams.

Remember you’re not the only writer to ever feel uninspired to write. It’s ok. It’ll pass. It won’t kill you.

I could keep going with this list, but I think you get the point: there’s no secret to finding inspiration when you feel uninspired. The trick is to think differently than you normally do.

Novelty is inspiring. Let yourself indulge in novelty when you need it. But don’t make your writing reliant on feeling inspired: make your writing reliant on the habit of writing.

Learn to write even when you aren’t feeling it. Do it anyway. Seek out inspiration if you have to, but otherwise, trust the power of you and the page and your commitment to showing up no matter what.

If you found this helpful, please share it with other writers it might help, too!

What do you think? Is it important to feel inspired when you write? Or can you write without it? Share below!

 

5 Tricks To Establish The Writing Routine Of Your Dreams: Part 5

How to establish the writing routine of your dreams
How to establish the writing routine of your dreams

Part 5: Exactly What It Is That Makes Writing “Hard” – And How To Beat It

Are you a writer who just can’t get a regular writing routine established? Do you want to write, but struggle to find the time for it or to beat distractions? If you’re ready to write more frequently, but just don’t know how to make it happen, this 5-part series can help.

I’ll share with you the exact steps I’ve taken over the last year and a half to create a daily writing practice that helped me write a 98,000-word novel. No shortcuts, no outlandish schemes, nothing you can’t do around your busy day-to-day life.

Just practical, real tricks to finally turn your dream of writing into your daily reality.

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about knowing why you want to write in the first place.

And in Part 2, I addressed the very simple way to make your writing practice foolproof.

Part 3 was all about how writing for 100 days changes everything (it really does!).

In Part 4, I talked about the importance of creating a trigger to save you time and get you writing without any struggle. 

The final installment in this series about establishing the writing routine of your dreams is all about what makes writing hard. Why is this important to this process? Well, the minute you fall into the “this is too difficult” trap, you’ll lose all the momentum you might’ve gained in your writing practice.

I want to dismantle the whole idea of writing being tough so when it DOES feel like too big a task to take on, you can get real with yourself quickly and not waste any time dwelling on that feeling of being stuck.

I’ve never met a writer who didn’t think that, at one point or another, writing was a difficult task. And there’s definitely no shortage of quotes about writing being torture. What’s the one often attributed to Hemingway? “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

Here’s the reality, though: hard or easy, you have to do it. There’s no secret. I’ve got no magic formula to share with you (although I wish I did…) If you want a regular writing practice, if you want to get words on the page, if you have things to say – you just have to write, no matter your mood, no matter how it feels, and no matter the circumstances. That is the frustratingly simple secret.

Writing must be non-negotiable, even when it feels too hard. You’re not performing a life-saving surgery; you’re simply pulling words from your head. Words that are just for you until you decide they’re for others, if ever. Words you can later refine and polish until they’re as close to what you intended as possible. You’re not preventing an asteroid from destroying earth. You’re writing.

So why does writing feel hard sometimes? What exactly causes that sensation?

When we label something like writing or the creative process as “hard,” that’s often just code for “I’m not sure I’m good enough to do this.”

What’s hard is the story we tell ourselves, not the act of writing itself.

There’s usually a story playing in the background of your mind that makes it feel impossible to get started. That’s what causes you to hit the brakes before you’re even in motion.

The story in your head might be about not feeling good enough, or it might be about guilt (“I have too many other responsibilities in my life, I can’t waste time writing.”), or it might be about not trusting your ideas or your voice (“Who am I to tell this story? I won’t do it justice.”), or any other number of narratives. We’ve all got something, right?

What’s not hard: finding 5 minutes to write out a few sentences in a notebook.

What is hard: believing you’re worthy of those five minutes. Believing that you’re worthy of the words you write.

You’ve got to have a little bit of entitlement when it comes to this. And if you don’t genuinely have it yet, act like you do. It might be a fight against yourself, or a fight against the entire world conspiring against you – but either way, have at least a grain-of-rice-sized sense of worthiness and entitlement around your creative work. At least enough to allow yourself one word, one sentence a day, at minimum.

If you couldn’t already tell, I’m someone who thinks writing daily or just about daily is crucial. In my own experience, staying in touch with the story and with my own writing fed into itself. Writing begot more writing. Writing daily made it easier to write daily.

Maybe this sounds like nonsense, but I see it as momentum. And I can tell you, as someone who has spent long stretches painfully blocked from my writing because it felt too hard, I say it’s WELL worth the discomfort of getting started if the payoff is that the writing comes easily.

And it will come easily, that’s the trick. Once you understand why you have to write, once you take away the barriers to entry, once you believe you’re good enough… it’ll be easy. But you have to get started. Don’t spent another day wishing things were different. Get started now; give yourself a few minutes where you’re responsible to nothing else but a notebook and your creativity, and see how that starts to change your entire life.

What makes writing feel hard for you? Or better yet, what’s the hardest part about writing in your opinion? Share below!

If you found this helpful, share it with other writers who might need it too.

Don’t miss a thing! Check out part 1 herepart 2 herepart 3 here and of course, part 4 here.

 

 

5 Tricks To Establish The Writing Routine Of Your Dreams: Part 4

How to establish the writing routine of your dreams
How to establish the writing routine of your dreams

Part 4: How To Create A Trigger That Saves You Time And Energy – And Gets You Writing

Are you a writer who just can’t get a regular writing routine established? Do you want to write, but struggle to find the time for it or to beat distractions? If you’re ready to write more frequently, but just don’t know how to make it happen, this 5-part series can help.

I’ll share with you the exact steps I’ve taken over the last year and a half to create a daily writing practice that helped me write a 98,000-word novel. No shortcuts, no outlandish schemes, nothing you can’t do around your busy day-to-day life.

Just practical, real tricks to finally turn your dream of writing into your daily reality.

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about knowing why you want to write in the first place.

And in Part 2, I addressed the very simple way to make your writing practice foolproof.

Part 3 was all about how writing for 100 days changes everything (it really does!).

Creating a trigger isn’t a concept I invented – but it’s a valuable technique I can absolutely attest to. If there’s ONE things you take away from this series and actually implement in your own writing practice, let it be this one.

Once you’ve drilled down to the core reason you want to write in the first place, and you’ve made it tremendously foolproof for yourself to start writing, and you’ve decided how many days in a row you’ll challenge yourself to write consecutively…

Then it’s time to establish your trigger.

A trigger is something that helps you shift from your daily work/life/responsibilities mindset into the writing mindset. It’s the action that tells your brain it’s time to get to work, and it can be so powerful that you actually don’t feel any resistance when you start writing.

Imagine how much time you’ll save when you’ve got a consistent trigger that basically flips your mental switch into writing-mode.

The trigger can be almost anything, depending on what works for you. Try out a few different triggers for a week at a time if one doesn’t naturally manifest for you, and you’ll know which one works best.

It takes some time for the association between the trigger and your writing practice to solidify, but stick with it. It will happen.

My best suggestion for possible triggers? Stimulate your senses and make your trigger enjoyable.

I used to write early in the morning before work, and one of my first triggers accidentally became jasmine green tea (or, even more specifically, the act of making jasmine green tea). I’d wake up, turn on the electric kettle, drop the tea bag into a mug, and sit down with the steaming drink while the sun came up and I worked on writing prompts in my notebook.

After a while, I realized that I associated my writing with the sound of the kettle boiling, the “ding!” when it was ready, the smell of the the jasmine, the steam coming from the top of the mug. When I made jasmine tea in the middle of the day, I had the urge to write. Even now, although that’s not a trigger anymore, I still think of writing when I smell jasmine tea.

Triggers are incredibly powerful. You can condition your brain to accept writing as a normal part of your daily life by associating it with something pleasant, exciting, and positive.

My primary trigger while writing my novel was music. This was VERY strange for me – I was never able to write to music in the past. But I kept hearing a few songs that felt like the story I was working on, and I simply started listening to those songs during writing sessions.

A weird thing happened: I knew the songs so well, they became almost like white noise in the background. I wasn’t focused on the music at all – in fact, I focused even more on my writing while the music played because it simply felt like the story.

Those particular songs dropped me directly into the story. I spent zero time trying to find my way into writing sessions (a huge plus, since feeling like you don’t know where to start is hugely frustrating). I’d just put my earbuds in, hit play, and start typing.

The music was my trigger to start working, and I had created such a strong association that I hardly ever battled with myself about getting started.

I’ve also imprinted that playlist in my brain so deeply that I’ll probably never be able to hear Hozier’s Work Song ever again and not think about the people in my novel. Honestly, that’s fine with me!

(Tip: if you’re going to try using music as a trigger, I suggest creating a playlist of 5-10 songs you know very well already so your brain doesn’t spend its time trying to figure out the music.)

Another trigger that I personally love: getting a latte and sitting in the corner table at Starbucks with my laptop. This was a weekend treat for myself while writing my novel. I usually wrote more during those sessions than I’d write almost any other day during the week!

Some other trigger ideas:

  • Write in a particular place
  • Write at the same time every day
  • Write with a certain pen and notebook that you really love (treat yourself to nice ones if that kind of thing excites you)
  • Start every writing session with a certain exercise or prayer or mantra
  • Light a specific candle at the start of your session (make sure the smell is something you really adore and light ONLY that candle when you write. When it runs out, replace it with the same candle.)
  • Do a series of yoga poses before writing
  • Steep a pot of loose leaf tea then sit down in the same spot each time you write
  • Create some kind of small ritual specific to you and your daily life
  • Write at your favorite coffee shop (unlike me, perhaps you can do this in the morning en route to work or on your way home)
  • Designate a certain garment of clothing or piece of jewelry and put it on before you write

Bonus Tip:

If you really want to make the whole trigger thing work even better, try adding a reward element, too. The trigger gets you started and the reward comes at the end, reinforcing the positive connection between your writing practice and your trigger.

Keep in mind that you can establish a single trigger for yourself, or a combination of triggers. As with everything related to your writing practice, do what works best for you. But definitely give this technique a try – you won’t be disappointed.

Going to create a writing trigger for yourself? Tell me what your ideal trigger might be. Already have a trigger? Share below. I’d love to hear what gets you writing.

If you found this helpful, share it with other writers who might need it too.

Don’t miss a thing! Check out part 1 herepart 2 here, and part 3 here.

Stay tuned next Sunday for the final installment: Exactly What It Is That Makes Writing “Hard” – And How To Beat It

 

5 Tricks To Establish The Writing Routine Of Your Dreams: Part 3

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Part 3: Why Writing For 100 Days Straight Changes EVERYTHING

Are you a writer who just can’t get a regular writing routine established? Do you want to write, but struggle to find the time for it or to beat distractions? If you’re ready to write more frequently, but just don’t know how to make it happen, this 5-part series can help.

I’ll share with you the exact steps I’ve taken over the last year and a half to create a daily writing practice that helped me write a 98,000-word novel. No shortcuts, no outlandish schemes, nothing you can’t do around your busy day-to-day life.

Just practical, real tricks to finally turn your dream of writing into your daily reality.

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about knowing why you want to write in the first place.

And in Part 2, I addressed the very simple way to make your writing practice foolproof.

Definitely check those posts out if you haven’t already – they set the foundation for what I’m going to talk about in this installment…

Why writing for 100 days straight changes everything, or, to put it more simply, set up a timeframe so you’re working towards a specific goal.

One August evening while sitting on my back porch, I arbitrarily decided I’d write for 100 days straight. I needed a way back into my writing after a flare up of an autoimmune disease and a serious lack of writing energy that took me out of the game for months.

But it had to be simple and I had to set up some guidelines so I felt like I was at least working towards something tangible.

100 sounded like a nice, round number. It felt like a challenge, yet it also seemed doable. I could write something every day for 100 days, right? At the very least, if I only wrote a single word each day I’d have 100 words of something by the end of it.

I hated myself for the first two weeks. Don’t ask me why the first 14 days were so difficult, but they were. I mean, day one was exciting. I was on my high horse, ready to breeze through the next few months and show myself who’s boss.

But by day two, I felt like stabbing myself with the pen instead of writing with it in my notebook. Why?!

Probably because my desire to write and my willpower were butting up against good old resistance. Totally normal. This will probably happen to you, too. And if it doesn’t, what is wrong with you and can you please make an online course about how you manage to not feel resistance so the rest of us can learn your mystical ways?

My resistance usually looks like this: I find almost anything else to do but write. Even stare at the wall. I wish I was kidding.

During the first two weeks of my 100 day challenge, I’d sit in bed with my notebook and pen and agonize for a while before finally writing something. I’ll tell you, that agonizing part – it’s the worst part, and it’s totally silly. There’s no need for it. Put ANYTHING down on the page and be done with it. No expectations, remember?

If you stop after a word or two, or a sentence or two, fine! If you keep going, bravo.

Especially in the first week or two, be gentle. Cut yourself some slack.

Setting up a timeline like 100 days (this number is arbitrary, please choose any number that rocks your world!) gives you the psychological benefit of feeling like you’re working towards a goal.

It builds a framework around your writing routine. Instead of just saying you want to write more, you’re now saying you will write at least one word every day for 100 days without missing a single day, so help you God.

See the difference?

“Writing more” means absolutely nothing. Writing every day for 100 days is actionable.

Make your timeline at least 30 days, more if possible. I recommend 100 days because it worked for me multiple times over. Seriously. Numerous times I’ve reached day 100 and started over on day 1 the following morning.

Here’s a secret: the goal will eventually fall away (that’s why it doesn’t really matter how many days or months you choose).

The goal will fall away because, after a while, it won’t be a “challenge” anymore; it’ll just be a habit. That’s when you’ll hit your stride and you can maintain your practice longterm.

You won’t need a goal of 100 days after that. Maybe you’ll even lose count before you hit 100. But if you don’t, and if you keep track, at least you know that after 100 days, you can stop this madness if it’s not working for you.

The perimeters you set up matter far less than focusing on one day at a time. 100 days might be your end point, but just focus on the individual days that will get you there. Try not to look at the entire thing and panic. Just look at today.

What can you write today?

100 days might sound like a crazy long time, but I promise it’s not. It’ll go faster than you realize. Besides, the days are going to pass anyway. You might as well get some writing done, right?

 

Your turn! Can you manage 100 straight days of writing? Why or why not? Share below. I’d love to hear.

If you found this helpful, share it with other writers who might need it too.

Don’t miss a thing! Check out part 1 here and part 2 here.

Stay tuned next Sunday for part 4 of 5: How To Create A Writing Trigger That Saves You Time And Energy – And Gets You Writing

 

 

5 Tricks To Establish The Writing Routine Of Your Dreams: Part 2

pablo (3)

Part 2: Make Your New Writing Routine Absolutely Foolproof

Are you a writer who just can’t get a regular writing routine established? Do you want to write, but struggle to find the time for it or to beat distractions? If you’re ready to write more frequently, but just don’t know how to make it happen, this 5-part series can help.

I’ll share with you the exact steps I’ve taken over the last year and a half to create a daily writing practice that helped me write a 98,000-word novel. No shortcuts, no outlandish schemes, nothing you can’t do around your busy day-to-day life.

Just practical, real tricks to finally turn your dream of writing into your daily reality.

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about why you want to write in the first place.

That’s where your writing practice starts, because if you know why it’s important and necessary for you to write at all, you can commit to it.

But how do you actually start? How do you make it so simple, you just can’t say no?

Well, you get real and remove every single barrier to entry standing between you and your writing. And then you open a notebook and put words inside of it. Magic!

But really, in order for your writing practice to turn into something you’ll stick with long term, you MUST make it easy to do – especially in the beginning. This is non-negotiable.

Make. It. Easy.

Whatever you think the “perfect” writing conditions are, forget them. (Goodbye fantasy of the 3-hour-long, fully inspired writing done at a tidy antique desk by an attic window, through which comes a perfectly warm breeze and just the right amount of midday sunlight, after which you stare at 4500 polished, ready-to-publish words.)

When you’re in the beginning phases of starting a regular writing routine, it’s best to have one simple expectation: Write something creative for yourself every single day. Period.

One sentence typed into your iPhone as you’re falling asleep counts. A whole afternoon doing writing prompts at the coffee shop with your laptop counts. Working out two scenes that turn into a chapter of your novel counts. But don’t forget: one word counts. Really. One word. One sentence. One page.

That all counts.

You might be asking yourself how it could possibly count, right? One word isn’t going to get you anywhere. In fact, one word is basically nothing, so why bother?

It’s one more word than you had earlier, isn’t it? Would you rather have one word or zero words? It’s really up to you.

In the beginning of my writing practice, it didn’t matter what I was writing down. It simply mattered that I was writing something.

It’s not about the output at first – it’s just about forming the habit of writing so that eventually you no longer struggle with writing.

But it just has to be easy. Trust me. Please. Make it easy for yourself. Make it so easy, you don’t hem and haw about it. You just do it, get it done, and move onto everything else in your life that needs your attention.

Because I know you’re busy – I get it. I’m busy. Everyone I know is busy. Who isn’t busy?

But get real. Take your day-to-day life into consideration and figure out how much time you could, at minimum, write each day to simply check “Write, dang it” off your to-do list.

Do you have ten minutes before bed? Twenty minutes at lunch? An hour on the train? Two minutes max before you turn the computer on and start work in the morning?

Your writing routine will be foolproof if you’re honest with yourself about what you can manage in a day, and when you accept small amounts of imperfect writing as enough.

Part of the secret is losing the preciousness around writing. It’s not something that needs to be done ceremoniously.

Do it standing up at the counter while your coffee brews.

Make a list of all the words you love.

Write down a line of dialogue you overheard a barista say to a customer about his tie.

Write a haiku.

Do it as your eyes are starting to shut at night. Do it in the quiet pre-dawn hours when your house is silent. Do it in line at the pharmacy as you type it into an email draft to yourself.

If you can manage just one sentence a day, that’s a paragraph after a week and a page after a month. Or it could be seven lines of a poem at the end of the week, or a series of disconnected lines that spark a short story.

You can write one creative sentence a day, right? I know you can.

And if you can do ten minutes a day, that’s a pretty great start too. It’s manageable, and I bet you’ll get a whole page written in ten minutes. You might surprise yourself.

Just keep the expectations low. Your aim isn’t to write perfectly polished sentences right out of the gate. Your aim is to write any sentence or sentences that you can, because then you’ve done it and if you’ve done it, you win. YOU WIN!

I kept my writing practice as bare-bones as possible at first until I started picking up momentum. It took a few weeks, but after being consistent, I found the seed of a novel inside pages and pages of freewriting and prompts. I didn’t do anything fancy – I just wrote as much or as little as I could each day.

Keeping it basic worked like magic.

The first two or three weeks were hard – I wanted to quit almost daily. I really thought I couldn’t do it. Write for ten minutes? WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO??

(I had promised myself 100 days straight of writing – no excuses – but more on that next week).

There were days when ten minutes turned into twenty because once I started, I wanted to keep writing. In the beginning, I honestly spent more time resisting than I spent writing!

This is why it’s gotta be easy. Foolproof. Simple. Do it first thing if you know you’ll feel to resistant by the evening, once the day has worn you out. Be honest about how much time you really have. Lowball. Underestimate. Keep your notebook and pen handy and just write one sentence.

Then, boom, you’re done.

Your turn! How much time do you REALLY have on the average day to write? Can you commit to writing one word? One sentence? One page? Share below. I’d love to hear!

If you found this helpful, share it with other writers who might need it too.

Don’t miss a thing! Check out part 1 here.

Stay tuned next Sunday for part 3 of 5: Why Writing For 100 Days Straight Changes EVERYTHING

5 Tricks To Establish The Writing Routine Of Your Dreams: Part 1

pablo (3)Part 1: Why Write In The First Place?

Are you a writer who just can’t get a regular writing routine established? Do you want to write, but struggle to find the time for it or to beat distractions? If you’re ready to write more frequently, but just don’t know how to make it happen, this 5-part series can help.

I’ll share with you the exact steps I’ve taken over the last year and a half to create a daily writing practice that helped me write a 98,000-word novel. No shortcuts, no outlandish schemes, nothing you can’t do around your busy day-to-day life.

Just practical, real tricks to finally turn your dream of writing into your daily reality.

Why write in the first place?

This was the question I had to ask myself in August of 2014 when months of not writing started to weigh on me.

I’d been down that road before – after graduating from my MFA program in early 2011, I didn’t write for about a year. If you’ve ever felt the frustration of wanting to write but not being able to write, you’ll know what I mean.

Your better logic is telling you to do it: it’s what you want to do, you have ideas, important things to say, characters to create. It’s all you can think about. But the minute you sit down, you freeze. Or every word you type is awful. Or you can’t focus for more than a few minutes before it all just feels too hard and you’d rather do anything else – truly anything else: are there any week-old dishes I can wash? Anyone with a small child need help changing diapers?! Please. Let me scrub your bathroom grout. I’ll even clean out your garbage disposal for you. Otherwise, I might have to write.

I was sick in 2014. I have an autoimmune disease that flared up worse than it ever had before. I was so fatigued that spring and summer, I could barely stay awake past 7pm. After a full day of work, writing just wasn’t going to happen. So it didn’t. For months.

I reassessed my relationship with writing when I started to feel better towards the end of the summer. I wanted to write, but it felt impossible. Insurmountable.

Maybe you can relate to this: the hardest part of ANY creative project is starting. It’s the worst part for me, and I know it’s the same for a lot of other writers, too.

All I wanted, really, was a writing routine. I wanted to write regularly again and I wanted it to be easy. I didn’t want to battle with myself about it every single day. I just wanted it to be something I did without struggling.

But how?? Establishing a regular writing routine is one of the hardest things for some writers to do. How was I supposed to do it?

I started with this simple question to myself: Why?

Why write in the first place? Why do I want a writing practice? Why isn’t it enough for me to just write once in a while when I feel “inspired?” What do I want to get out of it?

These are all questions you should ask yourself as this point, too.

My answer was simple: I want to write again because being sick took it away from me. And I’m not myself if I’m not writing. All I want to get out of it is a minimum of one creative sentence a day. Just enough to say I did it.

And that’s where it started.

I challenged myself to 100 straight days of writing. It was on a whim, so I didn’t have much time to think about it or back out.

Here were the guidelines: Have zero expectations for any of it. Write something creative every single day. Bare minimum is one sentence. Just show up.

It could be written by hand, on the computer, or typed into an email draft on my phone as I fall asleep. Work, social media, lists – none of that counted. It had to be something that could possibly be fodder for a story. That’s it.

Some days I wrote for an hour, but most of the time, I wrote for 15 minutes by hand using a prompt. Occasionally there were whole weekend afternoons I spent at the coffee shop with pen in hand. Some nights I really did type a sentence or two into my phone as I was falling asleep.

I couldn’t skip a day, though. That was the deal I’d made with myself.

A year and a half later, I can tell you this – the writing routine of your dreams start with understanding why you want to write in the first place.

Before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, before you start plotting out the novel or memoir or screenplay you’ll create, before you block a single hour in your calendar to write… answer these questions:

What do you want to get out of writing regularly? Is it that you want to free write more often and see what comes up? (That was my main reason.) To play? To churn out words on an existing project? To get started on a new project? There’s no right or wrong here.

What excites you about getting into a writing practice? What’s the appeal? What do you hope it does for you?

And deeper than that – why write at all? What’s in it for you, on a personal, human level?

What makes you want to write, anyway? 

I promise that figuring this out is really the key to doing anything worthwhile. And listen, if you can’t come up with a good reason to do it, can you then let yourself off the hook entirely? Can you stop feeling bad about not writing? Maybe it’s not your thing.

On the flip side, though, if you know you have to write, that NOT writing is simply not an option, can you at least agree that it’s important enough to start doing regularly?

I would love to hear why you want to write. Share it below – it might make it even more real for you to put it out there!

And if you found this tip helpful, share it with other writers who might need it too.

Check out the rest of this series here:

Part 2: Make Your New Writing Routine Absolutely Foolproof

Part 3: Why Writing For 100 Days Straight Changes EVERYTHING

Part 4: How To Create A Trigger That Saves You Time And Energy – And Gets You Writing

Part 5: Exactly What It Is That Makes Writing “Hard” – And How To Beat It

On The Eve Of Finishing NaNoWriMo…

I found this great post prompt on Meet Me At Mike’s blog, which I discovered via The Daybook in this post. The evening after Thanksgiving and before NaNoWriMo wraps up is made for writing, pinning, and blog-hopping. And a little blogging, too.

Making :  space in the house for the changing season.
Cooking : Armenian choregs — my grandmother’s recipe. I just learned how to do it and I’m trying to perfect my dough-rolling and braiding technique.
Drinking : SO much Numi green tea.
Reading : The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron
Wanting : a large, super soft camel-colored blanket scarf.
Looking : at the clock. I’ll be done with my first 5k in 12 hours.
Playing : with my dog because it’s just good for the soul.
Wasting : time on Pinterest before my morning writing sessions.
Sewing : lolz
Wishing : there was an extra day in the week, or a few more hours in a day.
Enjoying : the peppermint mocha lattes from Starbucks.
Waiting : for tomorrow — I will finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words of my manuscript complete AND run my first 5k. Someone get this girl a strong drink.
Liking : soft clothing.
Wondering : how many Himalayan salt lamps one person can own before it’s considered “too many.”
Loving : my husband’s photography. That man has talent. 
Hoping : December is good to me.
Marvelling : at yogis who can do inversions. Amazing.
Needing : more face time with my friends.
Smelling : cloves and cinnamon — I bought some supplies today to make this.
Wearing : fancy (AKA fitted) sweatpants and plaid.
Following : so many new bloggers on Instagram and Pinterest.
Noticing : how people are killing it on social media (or NOT killing it.)
Knowing : that somewhere in the world, Jennifer Lawrence is being awesome.
Thinking : about my best friend in Spain and how I need to write her a letter. (We’re pen pals and it’s the greatest thing we’ve ever done since memorizing ‘NSYNC dance moves after school together.)
Bookmarking : posts on running (because, whoa, I’m a runner now.)
Opening : my Moleskin journal on Sunday when NaNo is done.
Giggling : meh. Who giggles, really? I’m more of a laugher.
Feeling : really accomplished, and really excited to run a 5k and hit 50,000 words tomorrow. Two big milestones at once!