Guest Blogger Jenn Gott writes about 3 Inspiring Ways to Unlock the Book Inside You.
Does this sound familiar: You’ve always been drawn to writing and have a mind brimming with ideas. You’ve always loved the idea of holding a book you have written — but somehow, despite all your best intentions and New Year’s Resolutions, it just hasn’t happened.
Or maybe you’re a writer who has started a thousand writing projects, only to abandon them all within a few pages. Perhaps you’re not even sure if you want to be a writer, but you’ve always wanted to write a children’s book for your kids.
Maybe you’re a poet, or a copywriter, or a journalist, and there’s a book you know you could write, if you just find the right words inside you.
Maybe, maybe, maybe. One day.
The trouble with “one day” is that it doesn’t exist — each day, there’s only today. Which is why I’m bringing you the three best practices that I’ve found to unlock and supercharge creativity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner who has always wanted to tell your story, or a seasoned pro who’s gotten mired in delays, worries, and self-doubt. Either way, these habits will have words flowing in no time.
1. Find your community
From National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) participants to your local writer’s group to authortube, it’s important to find your people wherever you can. Support is everything on your journey toward finishing a book, and it will inspire you more than anything else. To start, identify what kind of groups appeal most to you. Would you prefer to interact online,where you can hang out in your pajamas and reply at your leisure? Or would getting out of the house and seeing people face-to-face reinvigorate you? Are you interested in a classroom setting, a critique circle, or just some supportive friends who will provide lively discussion? Do you want to learn from people who are much more experienced than you, or strive together with peers at your skill level?
Don’t feel you need to limit yourself to only one group. There’s nothing to keep you from making writer-friends on Twitter, and in person at bookish events, and through workshops. In fact, the more avenues you explore, the more likely you’ll find “your people.” Consider going to conferences, book signings, and events at your local library.
Your community doesn’t need to be all writers. While it’s important to know some — to understand exactly what you’re going through, and bounce ideas off each other — a supportive and understanding friend or partner can go a long way. As you seek out connections, make sure to you surround yourself with people who believe in you. Remember, helpful and constructive criticism is good — how else can you learn the skills you’ll need to edit your book to perfection? But ragging on you and your work is toxic for everyone involved.
2. Fill your creative well
Sometimes the reason we’re not writing is simply that we’re emotionally tapped out. There are many factors that can cause creativity to dry up — everything from stress to poor mental health, to overwork, fatigue or illness, and creative burnout. And while it may feel silly to take time off to recharge if you haven’t been writing lately, sometimes that’s exactly what you need to do. Think of it like an arrow: pulling back first, in order to shoot forward.
It’s important to make sure you’re recharging the right way, though. Scrolling through social media may be satisfying, but is it really going to inspire you to sit down at your laptop and write? Or would that time be better spent going for a walk, seeing a play, or reading an exquisitely written book?
If you’re having trouble writing, take a minute to sit down and make a list of the things that energize you — physically, mentally, and creatively. Maybe plays aren’t your thing, but poetry is. Maybe a walk exhausts you, but yoga centers your mind. It really doesn’t matter what it is (truth be told, sometimes a movie or a video game inspires me). You just need to walk away from it refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle your big creative project.
However, be careful not to let this turn into further procrastination. Remember, the point of these activities is to inspire you, not consume you. Always take a few minutes afterward to reflect on which parts of the experience spoke to you, and how you might use similar themes, moods, or ideas and blend them into your own work — or which mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
3. Create your own writing retreat.
Of course, we’d all love to go to a week-long retreat at a fancy cabin in the woods, but for many of us that simply isn’t an option. Luckily, there are ways to recreate the retreat feeling without venturing far from home or taking a lot of time out of your busy schedule.
First, start by identifying any and all locations near you that might offer some peace and solitude. This can be as simple as locking your bedroom door, or as elaborate as a nice hotel nearby where you can book a room for a night or a weekend. Coffee shops, parks, or trains, and subways can do the trick, especially with a good pair of headphones! The point is to find someplace where you can block out thoughts of the outside world, including all your daily responsibilities. If you’re lucky enough to have a home office or a “room of one’s own,” try to find someplace else for your retreat — someplace you don’t work in every day.
Next, consider what approach would best make that space feel more “writerly.” Would music help you, and if so, what kind? Would you feel more soothed with a soft blanket, a hot water bottle, or a big glass of wine? Candles, fairy lights, or other mood lighting can also help set the stage of your imagination. Remember, the point of this is to feel pampered, so don’t skimp on the creature comforts.
Once you’ve identified where you’re going to take your “retreat” and how you’re going to cozy it up, the final step will be scheduling. This is, admittedly, the hardest part of your task, but with a bit of effort you can make it work. Try to block out a whole day, although even a few hours will be a huge boost.
For magically productive people, just showing up might be enough to get the words flowing. For the rest of us, it might take a little more work, and a few handy tips and tricks. If you find yourself frozen at the prospect of getting started, consider freewriting as a warm up.
Still unsure what to write about? Writing prompts might just be the kick your brain needs.
Whatever you do, don’t stress out if your first “retreat” isn’t as fruitful as you’d imagined. Any progress is still progress, and the more often you repeat the writing habit — in any environment— the faster your creativity will kick into gear.
Above all, remember: only you can tell your story. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and tell your story. Today.
Jenn Gott is an indie author and a writer with Reedsy, so she basically spends all her time either writing books, or helping people learn how to write books. She firmly believes there is no writing skill you cannot learn with practice and the right guidance. When she’s not working, she enjoys keeping up with the latest superhero movies, reading, and swimming.