If you're into any kind of creative writing – whether it be poetry, novels, short stories, screenplays, or creative nonfiction that you write – it can be hard to begin again after a hiatus of not writing anything. For me, this hiatus has been almost three years. My last piece of creative writing was a short story written in 2013. So, needless to say, I was a little nervous coming into this semester when I remembered that I chose to take a Creative Writing: Fiction class.
Writing is like working a muscle; even if you haven't used it in a while, all it takes is a little exercising every day to whip it back into shape. Here are some tips I've gathered from my own experience from other writer and books about writing creatively to getting that muscle working smoothly again.
If you've done any kind of writing in a classroom setting before, you've probably heard this one and done it more times than you can count. But in case you haven't, free-writing is when you sit down with a pen and paper and write literally anything that comes to mind. There are no limits. If you're hungry, write about how hungry you are. Eventually, your free-writing session will turn into a description of your favorite foods. If you're nervous, write what you're nervous about. This exercise can be challenging because it requires you to turn off the critic in your brain, but the result is that you will be getting used to writing in your own voice again.
2. Keep a journal
Now this is something like free-writing because you can write about whatever you want in your journal. Pick a notebook that you'll want to write in – one that you like the look of and that you feel most fits you. Set aside some time each day to write a journal entry. You can write about your day, what you're into at the moment, what emotions you're feeling, etc. The only key to keeping a journal is to do it regularly. This is to get yourself used to making yourself write.
3. Listen to music
This one is simple! Put on your headphones and find a playlist that fits the mood you're in. You can do it while you free-write or journal, while you're thinking of ideas, or while you're doing anything but those things. Music will help you clear your mind and open up some space for creativity.
Some writers draw when they need some inspiration, but if you're not so talented in the drawing department like me – try some quick doodling. There's no need to put pressure on yourself to draw something worthy of the Sistine Chapel; this is just to free your mind if listening to music doesn't do it for you.
5. Do some writing exercises
This can be fun and/or challenging for any writers looking for inspiration. Google writing exercises and you will find websites, such as this one, that give you random prompts to get the creative juices flowing. For example, one might be to write about two people meeting for the first time. It doesn't matter who they are or what they're doing – that is all up to you. As soon as you write the first line, the rest will fall into place. Writing exercises are like the warm-up stretch before you workout. It may even lead you to an idea for a story!
6. Do a character study
Speaking of writing exercises – if you have a vague idea of a character in mind, do a character study to develop him more. A character study involves writing down basic information about a character (age, appearance, likes, dislikes, etc.), his strengths and weaknesses, the conflicts he faces, and the choices he will make. Even if the study leads nowhere and you don't actually end up using the character, it could still be a fun way to stretch out that writing muscle.
7. Pick your writing place
Now, after you've done all of these tips, I think you're almost ready to delve into your new story, poem, or play! My last piece of advice is to pick a new location to do your writing in. This will especially help if you haven't written in a long time. Giving yourself some new scenery will surely inspire you. If you normally write at a desk in your room, try the library. If you normally write inside, try writing outside if it's warm enough where you are.
I haven't done all of these myself, but I have used music, free-writing, and character studies to my advantage. I hope you try some of these out yourselves, find out what works for you, and flex those writing muscles. Good luck, writers!