Being a creative writer is damn hard. Sure, it’s great when you’re in the swing of it, when inspiration has perched on your shoulder and decided to take you for the ride. But what about the downswings? What about the long stretches of time between inspiration and muse in which you’re staring at a blank screen, and there are about a million other pressing things you could be doing with your time? You know, like, doing taxes. Or rearranging the crispers in your refrigerator. In fact, why bother burning your eyes by staring into that white screen at all, when obviously the inspiration just simply isn’t going to come?
Why don’t you try these things instead?
Go to your local coffee shop
Coffee shops are a great place to get work done! And plus, maybe if you gift yourself a sweet treat, you’ll finally feel more motivated to actually get some writing done. You get your caffeinated beverage and pastry, and make sure to ask for the WiFi password. What if you need to get some research done when you’re writing? Or you need to open up thesaurus.com? You sit down and power up your laptop, open up your browser. You open your text document. Nothing’s coming to you. Maybe you should try Pinterest?
Pinterest is a cool place to browse while you’re uninspired. You can scroll through your feed and look for some portrait photography to get some character ideas, or one-sentence creative writing prompts to help jumpstart the creativity. But more likely than not, your feed is swamped with posts written by more accomplished writers, telling you how to find a literary agent, or how to write a good character arc, or how you should be using Pinterest as a writer. You know. To market yourself. You open some of these up in other tabs. You skim through one of them, and realize just how behind you are. In everything. You cry a little bit inside. You open Tumblr in another tab instead.
Maybe Tumblr isn’t quite as organized as Pinterest, but there are still plenty of art and writing blogs that you follow that are sure to give you an idea of what to write. You visit writeworld.org and scroll through their “creative blocks”, searching for a writing prompt that really glues with your story. You feel utterly uninspired. You scroll through your dashboard, reblogging all the fan arts by talented illustrators who are probably far more motivated than you. You weep a little inside. You attempt to cure this by searching for cute animals, and find a plethora of adorable videos of dogs making weird noises and cats making faces. A good two hours are spent in this way before you realize it, and quickly close the Tumblr tab.
Listen to music
The lunch crowd is start to swarm your chosen cafe, and there’s just no way you’re getting anything done with that racket. You open up one of those white noise sites and put in your headphones, but it’s not enough to drown out the hubbub. You open up Spotify instead, and scroll through your saved playlists. Should you go for something calm? Something epic? Does Spotify even have epic “study” playlists? You browse through their genre and moods, but none of the playlist titles are really leaping out at you. Instead, you find a song from a score or soundtrack you really like and start a radio off it. You spend the next hour constantly clicking back into your Spotify window to skip tracks because they’re too “distracting”.
Browse freelancing sites
You keep getting distracted anyway, and those Pinterest posts are still nagging at you. Shouldn’t you be trying to look for a “real job”? You take a break from looking at your text document and open up a site like Upwork or Freelancer, and search through their job boards for a while to see if there are any open freelance writing gigs. All of the jobs you qualify for are paying little more than three cents a word. You let out a soft, pterodactyl-like moan and swiftly close the tab in distress.
Maybe you could find more work as a writer if you just “put yourself out there”. Pinterest already told you once that you’re not going to get anything sold if you don’t have a platform. You open the app on your phone, and stare at the text field for a solid few minutes, typing in and deleting a bunch of quirky, relatable quips all related to just how lazy a writer you are. You finally fit something into the 140 character limit you can live with, with all the relevant hashtags attached. You tweet it out. You browse your feed for a moment, seeing all the other funnier, way more relatable tweets that other people have tweeted out in far fewer characters. Your laptop’s battery dies.
Get some reading done
Well, if you can’t get any writing done, why not get some reading done! After all, they always say that you can’t be a good writer if you’re not reading! You pull out that emergency paperback, Kindle, or other reading device you always have on you - because what if you get BORED? - and flip through the pages for a while. You are reminded of just how big your “to be read” pile back home is, and wonder if you should be reading more non-fiction about “getting published” or “being a better writer” instead. You pull up the Amazon app on your phone.
You browse through your Amazon wish list. You look at all the writing-related books you’ve saved in the past, and scroll down to see what’s recommended based off that search. You save book after book onto your Wish List, not really connecting at all with most of the how-to books you’re finding, but knowing that they’re what “you’re supposed to be reading” anyway. A barista taps you on the shoulder. They’re closing in fifteen minutes.
Go for a walk
That’s fine! You can go for a walk. Walks are great, they get the creative juices flowing. You could even get in some people-watching while you’re out and about, or eavesdrop on some conversations for “inspiration”. You pack up your things and walk around the block, making a loose plan in your head of the route you could take in your respective town or city in order to really get “inspired”. You walk for a bit, convincing yourself that this is "refreshing". Your laptop is weighing down your bag. Your legs are cramping up from all the sitting and doing nothing. You can feel the blood rushing from your face as all that caffeine you inevitably consumed - because you couldn’t just have one cup - crashes. You decide to just walk home.
You’ve tried everything in your arsenal. You’re even feeling a little bit like a failure. But rather than moping about it, or flopping on the couch to turn on Netflix, you sit down and plug in your laptop. While it's starting to charge, you stare at the blank page, overwhelmed by that feeling of incompetence. You feel like a fraud. You feel uninspired.
You write anyway.
You let your fingers fly across the keyboard, and you know that it’s crap. It feels like crap to you, anyway, and when you go back to edit it later, you’ll undoubtedly want to change the whole thing. But that’s okay. “Editing You” can suss that out. “Writing You” needs you to stay focused.You’ve got some writing to do.