From an outsider, writing can seem like a breeze. You sit in front of your PC or your laptop, open up words, and smash your hands against the keyboard for a couple of hours. Piece of cake, right? Well, like in any profession, from woodworking to Sloto Cash online casino games to writing, it’s only once you delve into it that you begin to understand the depth, nuance, work, and talent that goes into writing.
I’m not even trying to toot my own horn as I write this article you’re reading because I’m far, far from what the pros do. Even with the fictional writing, I do in addition to my job, I’ve only glimpsed the staggering magnitude of hard work and talent required to make it to the top.
It’s like if that talent to be Brandon Sanderson was the top of Mount Everest, and I’ve only arrived at the base of the mountain. I haven’t even begun my ascent, but only now can I appreciate just how far there is to go.
Still, I’d like to think that I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to make my writing process easier. Sure, I’ve got no books to my name, but I’m still being paid to write. So that outta count for something. You might wonder how I can crank out articles regularly. It should seem like I should get stumped and have nothing else to write about after a certain point, wouldn’t it?
Well, it does feel that way sometimes. Here’s how I get past that, and maybe, how you can too.
1) Sleep On It
One of the easiest tricks to help overcome a writing block is by not writing. Putting the laptop away and going to do something else is one of the simplest ways of letting ideas sink into your brain and process. It’s like letting a computer chug for a little bit while it processes or downloads something.
The human brain ain’t so different. If the writing just isn’t clicking right now, getting a full night’s rest will help you power through it tomorrow. Stressing and worrying and trying to get it done immediately will just decrease the overall quality of your writing. Put it aside, and come back to it later, and your readers will thank you for it.
2) Just Start Writing
On the other end of the spectrum, another way to get past a writing block is to simply start writing. This is kind of the opposite of the previous tip but think of them as two sides to the same coin. If one doesn’t work out, try the other and see what happens.
Now, it might sound kind of stupid. Like, “Yeah, of course, I should just write. That’s exactly the problem!”
Aha, but here’s the trick: It doesn’t matter what you write.
Sometimes our brains need a bit of a kick to get going. You gotta turn on the car and engine to warm up a bit. It doesn’t matter if it’s good. It just matters that you’re physically participating in the act of writing. You just start mashing your hands against the keyboard and write literally the first sentences that come to your mind. Don’t self-correct or edit. Just go with the flow and get in the zone.
This isn’t even just something I’ve come up with myself. There are plenty of big-name writers that do warm-up writing to their actual writing. Steven King once said in an interview that he does around ten pages of warm-up before actually getting down to business. Now, you don’t need to write anywhere near that much, but I hope that gives you an idea of the usefulness of just… writing.
3) Write What You Know
It’s easy to roll your eyes when authors toss out cliché writing tips like “Show, Don’t Tell” and “Write What you Know”. After all, what if you want to write about space porcupines fighting wizards on Mars? You can’t know what it’s like to be a Porcupine on Mars, and magic isn’t real, so what’s there to know?
Well, one of the keys to good writing is making it relatable. That’s part of the reason why I write like I’m talking to you. It helps immerse the reader within the writing. When writing, you want your reader to relate to what’s happening on the page. So how do you accomplish that?
The trick is in the details. Find something in your life that you happen to know a lot about. Maybe you worked in retail for a bit. Put your protagonist in the retail biz at the start of your story, and include all the little details that someone who has never done the work before wouldn’t notice.
Maybe the store you (and thus your character) worked at put out bread on Friday and Shoes on Monday. Maybe your boss or manager had some irritating or interesting quirks that you can incorporate into the story. Its tiny details like these that add so much flavor and life to a story even with nothing much is happening.
Just be careful not to go overboard with it. If your story is supposed to be about magic and adventure, describing the intricate details of the inventory management that the main character does as his part-time job before he learns about his super-secret-awesome magic powers might end up being more distracting than immersive.
4) Write About What You Love
One of the most difficult things to overcome when it comes to writing is motivation. So while it might seem obvious that you should write about things you love, you may not realize what it is that you love to write about.
Brandon Sanderson recalled an anecdote during one of his lectures, where a friend of his really wanted to write Epic Fantasy. He tried and tried and just couldn’t get published. It just wasn’t working. Brandon and his friend were talking during a car ride one time, and they somehow got onto the topic of serial killers. The friend starts going into all sorts of bizarre details of criminology, forensics, and the unsettling quirks of serial killers, and Brandon suggested that he should try writing about that instead for a bit. See how it worked. The guy did and apparently is very successful now.
So if you’re having trouble clicking with your writing, have a think about it, and ask yourself if there’s something else you’d rather be writing instead that maybe you don’t realize it yet? Better yet, try writing a one or two-page story on a subject or genre that’s completely out of your comfort zone, and see what it’s like. I once decided to try writing a silly, pirate-themed erotica and ended up writing a sixty page high-seas romance that I’m rather proud of, all things considered.
5) Read a Book, Get Inspired
One of the greatest ways to improve your own writing is to learn from someone else, and the same is true when you’re stuck. Pick up a new book and have a read, and see if you get inspired. Often what happens to me is that I read a book, and then I feel inspired to write in that genre.
I have a shelf packed to the brim with sci-fi and fantasy novels, and every time I start reading one, I suddenly get the urge to try my hand at doing whatever the author did. A couple of weeks ago, I finished Issac Asimov’s book “Robot Dreams”, a collection of his science fiction short stories, and decided to try my hand at writing my own. I cranked a five or six page short story, and that was that. Read more to help you write more.
Reading is all well and good, but learning, in general, is a great way to get inspired. Put on a documentary or a podcast and learn something new. They say that “truth is stranger than fiction”, and it’s true. Did you know that a man stormed Normandy in a kilt while playing the bagpipes and armed with a sword? It’s true. His name was Captain “Mad Jack” Churchill, and he fought in World War 2 with a sword, a bow and arrow, a kilt, and a set of bagpipes. You can’t make this stuff up.
Now get writing! There’s an infinite breadth of stories that have yet to be told or old stories that can be told anew! Who knows, you might be the next J.K. Rowling, Brandon Sanderson, or Steven King (hopefully without the crack addiction).
The only certainty is that you won’t be successful if you don’t try, and that means that you gotta put your head to the grindstone – or er, put your hands on the keyboard, and get busy. Make mistakes. Learn. Adapt. Grow. Your writing won’t always be good. Heck, it might not be good most of the time. But that’s okay. Babe Ruth struck out more than he got home runs, and it’s your highest highs that make up for your lowest lows. Good luck, fellow writers!