NaNoWriMo is officially upon us, and even if cramming 50,000 words into the space of 30 days isn't at the top of your priority list at the moment (I'm in my first semester of college right now and it definitely isn't on mine), November is as good a time as any to break out the notebooks and Word documents and get some writing in.
But as we all know, writing can be a bit tedious. It sounds fun until we've actually sat staring at the empty blue lines or blinking cursor for a few minutes, and then, suddenly, we have to check Facebook to make sure we aren't missing out on life-changing news, and there are helpless kittens out there who will perish if we don't watch their cute YouTube videos. Sound familiar?
So, to spice up your writing life a little, here are some tips that I've found useful for those days when I'm practically begging to be distracted from that article or story I've been meaning to work on.
1. Write on actual paper.
Or write on the computer if you normally use actual paper. The point here is to change up your writing tools, make your time putting down words a little less humdrum.
But I think this tip is especially helpful for us keyboard wizards when the pressures of having an instant spell checker and delete button right there in front of us are too much to bear.
There's something freeing about working on paper, where everything's going to be at least a little messy no matter what you do and extensively changing or correcting your piece is no longer an easy option. It can definitely help you regain your idea flow if perfectionism or boredom is getting you down.
2. Change page colors/font colors/fonts/font sizes.
OK, I know this tip sounds like it came from Procrastination 101, but as long as you don't spend too much time doing this, changing up the visuals of your piece can actually help loosen you up quite a bit to get words down on paper.
And it can just make writing more fun.
The hardcopy version of this, of course, would be to use pens, colored pencils, or even crayons or markers instead of regular pencils, and trading the typical college-ruled paper fare for an unlined notebook, perhaps. Heck, write on construction paper if you have some. Nobody's watching.
3. Write about the object nearest to you.
Of course, you can also use a writing prompt generator from online, but if you're anything like me, you know what winds up happening: you don't like the first prompt you get, so you move on to another one, and then another one that's bound to be more interesting...alright, the next one's got to be better...and on and on until you might have ended up writing sooner if you'd just surfed the Internet for a while.
If you go with the object closest to you (and bind yourself to that rule), not only is there less of a temptation to be picky (i.e. no regenerate button), but in many cases this can force you to be quite creative.
Your computer is now sentient, your bed is trying to eat you, a voice is coming from your desk chair that says it can show you the future. Go.
4. Write your stream of consciousness.
This one's great because you literally can't run out of things to write about. If you can't think of an idea, jot that down.
If you wish your cat would come sit on your keyboard so that you weren't obliged to do this anymore, jot that down too.
Now, this probably isn't the best option for producing something that you can polish later, but if you just need a springboard into an idea that you can turn into something, you'd be surprised at what you can come up when you just let your mind go.
Just do it. Vomit your thoughts all over the page. There's bound to be something in there you can use.
5. Give yourself a goal and a deadline.
Nothing is quite as motivating as realizing at 11:45 p.m. that you have a homework assignment due by 11:59. You can accomplish a lot when you have to, and this is as true for writing as it is for anything else.
Set a goal, like a word count.
Then give yourself a deadline, and then, most importantly, tell someone about the deadline who will hold you to it. (Self-accountability is probably not going to work, no matter how many sticky notes or calendar events you make. Trust me, I've tried. If nobody else is counting on me to do something, I'll find a reason not to do it.)
Just don't be Douglas Adams and start to enjoy the whooshing sound deadlines make as they fly by.
So, there you have it. These tips are my personal favorites for writer's block repellant, though I'm sure there are many more out there on the worldwide web. Keep in mind, though, that no writing hack is ever going to be an effective substitute for good old-fashioned self-discipline.
If you always have to wait for inspiration to strike before you actually get writing, good luck improving your skills. Sometimes you just have to buckle down and do it. Yes, even when you feel about as creative as a brick wall.
But if you train yourself to be observant for new ideas and know a few tricks for keeping the writing process interesting, you just might find the call of the YouTube kittens a bit more manageable.