We all know about the dreaded writer’s block. There have been countless articles and books written about how to overcome the dreaded inspiration rut, so I won’t bore you with another. What I want to talk about is the much less discussed writer’s brain.
You’ve likely experienced it – a surge of amazing ideas that come to you all at once in fits and starts. Sometimes the ideas are connected and can be woven into the same project, but other times they are disjointed and leave you feeling scattered and disorganized.
It feels wonderful to be hit with a flurry of ideas and the motivation to write!
Writer’s brain will often hit after a spell of writer’s block, like floodgates opened, you are hit with a sudden onslaught of creative inspiration. You wonder how you were ever stumped about what to write next. Now you feel there are nary enough hours in the day for you to finish all the projects you’ve started! There is nothing quite like the feeling of starting a new writing project when your mind is ripe with inspiration and there is nothing but the endless white of a word document between you and your Pulitzer.
Inspired flights of fancy are unsustainable and will burn you out before you’re able to finish your project.
Most writers I know have some belief or another that they are transmitting their stories. That they receive them from some other cosmic place. Not a new way of thinking – writers as far back as the ancient Greeks have talked about divine inspiration and the muse, but this way of thinking leads us to believe that when inspiration strikes we must snatch it out of the air and commit it to paper as quickly as possible before it disappears and we are plunged back into the heavy darkness of writer’s block.
It isn’t so!
By harnessing the sporadic energy of your writer’s brain, you can allow yourself the space to complete projects and even squirrel away some inspired ideas for those inevitable bouts of writer’s block. Here are five strategies for overcoming writer’s brain:
1. Catalog Your Inspiration.
Jot down all of your ideas and put them somewhere you can access them when you’re ready to move on to your next project.
Snatch and pluck those ideas out of the ether from whence they came by all means, but you don’t have to write every story the moment you think of it. Save these ideas somewhere that you can come back to them. Save them for a bleak, blocked day.
I have a small box of index cards on my writing desk that I jot ideas on as they come to me. I put the idea in the box and I leave it for later. If I’m feeling a little blocked, I will go through the cards and I can often find something in there to get the synapses firing.
Sometimes I’ll be struck with a scene or a character description that I just have to write but it doesn’t fit in with the project I’m currently working on, so I save it on my computer in a file labeled something along the lines of odds and sods etc. Do what you need to scratch the itch of inspiration and then save the idea for a time you can commit to it fully.
2. Cultivate a Daily Writing Practice.
“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”
– Jack London
Practice writing everyday as if you were learning an instrument or playing a sport.
The idea that you can’t write until you are inspired is a crutch I used for far too long. It was an excuse I made for myself so I wouldn’t have to face the fact that I was a lazy writer. Writing is a discipline like any other and it needs to be practiced daily. The more I write, the better I write. It’s as simple as that. Even if what I’m writing is totally uninspired, at least I’ll have the chops to do a good idea justice if/when it does every come my way. Cultivating a daily writing practice builds a foundation for you to create when you are inspired. It also helps to put your writing in perspective when you feel a flurry of inspiration because you know that writing is a slog. It’s sitting down and setting one word in front of another until the story is told.
3. Keep a Writer’s Notebook.
Always keep the tools for writing with you so you can jot down ideas no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
I always keep a writer’s notebook on me in case I am hit with an idea. It’s a palm-sized spiral bound notepad with a pen stuck in the spine and it fits in my smallest purse so I can be sure I’ve always got it with me. Jotting ideas as they come goes a long way to easing the anxiety of my writer’s brain because I know that those ideas are somewhere so I can stumble upon them in the future.
4. Get Organized.
Keep track of your writing projects and set clear goals and deadlines for yourself.
I’m an organization junkie in the worst way. I have spreadsheets for my spreadsheets. It’s not everyone’s style but it sure works for me. I like to know that I have a fail-safe in place for when I don’t quite have my head screwed on right or I lose sight of the big picture.
List the projects you’re working on and those you’d like to work on and then prioritize them. Create a schedule for yourself with deadlines if that works for you. Treat your writing as if it were a job or a class.
5. Make Space for Your Writing.
Clear a space in your home for writing and you will simultaneously clear a space in your mind for writing.
Finding space to write is just as important as finding time to write. Work with what you’ve got – your writing space could be as simple as a lap desk! I started with a lap desk in my childhood bedroom and have graduated to having an entire room dedicated to writing. (Considering I live in a two-bedroom apartment, you can see where my priorities lie!)
Physical space can often be a manifestation of your inner world, so prioritizing space for writing in your home helps to reinforce writing as a priority in all other ways as well.