I cannot begin to tell you how many times I will message James with some form of, “I need to write.”
Really, I can’t.
But, sometimes, despite the miles long to-do list that I have in front of me, I can’t write.
Take yesterday for example. For the sake of reference, this week I cut it close to the wire. I finished this the night before publication. I meant to get it done even earlier (Monday, if not before), but it didn’t quite happen. Between a piece with with a tight deadline and some computer trouble I didn’t have a chance. So there I sat (not quite burning the midnight oil, thank you).
Other times when I try to write, it doesn’t end well. I can’t get in the right headspace and the words won’t flow. Sometimes, the sheer panic of missing a deadline kicks me into a new gear; other times, I have to pass on writing altogether.
And what do you do when that happens?
You can try and get yourself in the writing mood.
How, you ask?
All day, I’d been agonizing over what I’m going to write for you guys this week. “What do I do if I’m not in the mood to write?” seemed both fitting for Mental Health Awareness Month, and delightfully ironic.
I got off work, came home, turned around and ran to the pharmacy and grocery store (partially because I needed to – and partially because I was stalling). Coming back, the motivation wasn’t there, despite the deadline I set myself looming less than six hours in my future. That should send me into an inspired bout of writing, but no luck.
But after running errands, I came home and there was no motivation. Like, at all. So, I hopped on the treadmill for a half hour, hoping the exercise would clear my head. And it worked. While dinner was in the oven, I started working on this article and I’m finishing it after a small break to eat. Chopped is on the TV (sometimes you need a break from mediocre scripted broadcast television) and words seem to be flowing.
Why am I telling you all this? Why am I spending several hundred words rambling about my day?
Because getting in the right headspace is both vital and hard. It’s one of the most important parts of writing. Because if your head isn’t in it, you aren’t going to be able to produce anything of quality. Everything about your day will affect you – and your ability to write – for good or bad. You need to be able to direct your day at least a little to inspire the right headspace.
What do you do if you, like me, have trouble getting into that all-important headspace? Here are some of my favorite suggestions.
1) White Noise
And I don’t only mean the kind you put on when you’re going to bed.
I cannot write in silence. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of silence in general unless it’s a super bad migraine day (then I can’t handle anything else). If I’m writing, silence is even worse. I always have something on.
For example, podcasts are one of my go-tos. For The Importance of Glass Slippers, I love listening to the Sounds of Disney podcast. It puts me in the right mood to write it. After months of experimenting, it’s become the sole thing I put on in the background.
Other writing projects have other needs. One time, I blasted Classic Rock for hours because a chapter needed it. Other times, I put on one of my go-to playlists. A particular piece might call for a certain artist.
Play your favorites or experiment and find new ones. See what works for you.
I’ll also put on a show and let it play in the background while I write. The catch here is I need to find something that won’t completely steal my attention but also fulfill the need for white noise in the background.
Though, I have written articles for this column while watching Primetime Television. (I’m giving you all the behind the scenes secrets tonight, aren’t I?)
I mentioned this in an earlier article, but I stand by it. As I’m circling having read 50 books this year, I’ve found that my writing has dramatically increased (that’s also due to me addressing my mental health issues as well).
But reading is vital. I’ve been reading all over the place from light novels, manga, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, true crime, and psychology. Other genres and mediums too, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind.
My big thing this year is Preston and Child. The team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are virtually unparalleled in the mystery genre. I’m on book 7 of the Pendergast series and have more waiting to be read. I’m fairly certain I’ll catch up before the next one comes out next year.
Find something that sparks your interests, your passion, and grab hold of it. But also don’t be afraid to change it up. It’s been fun to step outside my comfort zone.
If you’d told me six months ago that I would put this as a point in an article I wrote, I would have laughed at you. I’m not a gym person. In fact, the last time I stepped foot in a gym, I fractured my ankle (I’m not even kidding).
But a couple of months ago, I discovered Ring Fit Adventures on the Switch. The game is basically a fantasy RPG where you exercise your way through the game. I’ve been at it for 50 days and I don’t see the end of the game in sight. It always offers something a little different to keep me on my toes.
Occasionally you’ll also catch me on a walk or a treadmill as well. I’m doing Yoga as well.
Sometimes getting yourself pumped up by exercise goes a long way towards getting the creative juices flowing. Even a lap around the house might help. I pace when I talk. It drives some people around me crazy. I’ve always done it though.
I know, this one seems odd. Especially since this article is aimed at writers who traditionally aren’t at the age to play anymore.
But hear me out.
For me, it’s playing video games. Right now, I’m playing through Horizon Zero Dawn for the first time. It’s been two months and I’m working my way through bit by bit but I’m super close to the end. Don’t be surprised if you see an article here about it in a couple of weeks, it’s probably the best written video game I’ve played yet.
There’s something about play. It relaxes you, frees you up to embrace your creativity. There’s a reason kids are so creative.
I’m new to this one myself. But there are benefits to it both short and long term. Also, for this month, the Balance App has a year long premium plan for free (and no, they didn’t sponsor this, I wanted to make sure more people were aware about this resource).
Clearing your mind will allow you to embrace writing. If nothing else, it’s worth a try. I’m far from an expert on the subject, but it’s helped me.
These are just some of the ways I get myself in the right headspace to write. But, if these fail, I still give myself grace.
And for the record, despite starting with the wrong headspace, I got this done with a couple of hours to spare.