Here’s my secret to success: I aim to write twice per day, every day, weekends included, no breaks. This means I give up a lot of my free time to scribble down my thoughts. But it’s not a hardship, because I am in love with writing.
There’s nothing I love more than sitting down with my laptop to turn my vague, abstract thoughts and opinions into a concrete story to share with other people.
And, until recently, I was also blessed with a fountain of inspiration. I felt like my fingers couldn’t type fast enough. Every time I wrote, it wrote spawned three new ideas. My drafts folder was so full of possibilities, headline ideas, thoughts, concepts — and each one was an exciting opportunity for me.
But then something changed.
I took a break. A hiatus from writing. A complete dearth of the written word. No articles, stories, or even jotting down ideas. In other words, I took a break from writing while on vacation. And while on vacation, I relaxed, explored, dreamed, was inspired — but I didn’t write.
I had nothing to do but have fun and relax with my friends, without trying to turn every experience into a blog post. When a stranger was rude to me, I didn’t immediately run to my drafts folder. When I had a poignant thought, I let it slip away without capturing it as a potential story idea. I wrote down not a single thing, whether idea or article.
I thought to myself, I’ll come back refreshed, with more ideas than ever! I tried not to worry. I was just gathering experiences which I could turn into stories whenever I was ready.
I was wrong. When I came back and sat down at my computer for the first time, I drew a complete and absolute blank.
I stared at my screen, waiting for the familiar feeling of exhilaration to overtake me, for my fingers to start clacking, for the shape of the story to take form in my mind. But nothing happened.
I browsed old drafts: none of my old story ideas were interesting to me. I couldn’t think of anything new, noteworthy, that would be worthwhile sharing. I felt my distractions tugging at me, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter. I couldn’t focus on the blank screen before me.
I don’t believe in writer’s block, but that’s the closest I’ve ever come. I’ve been spoiled, thinking that inspiration would always come when I reached for it, and I was heavily disappointed to find that when I needed it most, it was gone.
But it’s coming back. Here’s how I coaxed back my muse.
Trust in the ink.
I’m a technophile, as a card-carrying member of Gen Z, but I found myself drifting towards a stationary shop when my dry spell first hit. I found a gorgeous hardbound notebook and a luxury blue ink fountain pen, and bought them before I could think twice.
With some trepidation, I started to write. The ink flowed out of my new pen like the Mississippi, daring me to write more, faster.
And you know what happened?
Writing is slower than typing. So as I started writing something, anything that came to mind, it was like a dam building up behind my hand. Suddenly I couldn’t write fast enough again. I had so many thoughts to jot down, so many ideas to note, and my lovely fountain pen forced me to slow down, appreciate the stream of inspiration, and take it all into consideration.
One page of ink later, my mind was blank and quiet for the first time in weeks.Writing down my thoughts, even if not in story format, helped unstopper wherever my inspiration comes from, getting it all flowing again.
When I came to my laptop later, I had the feel of it again. I wasn’t back to 100%, but I was getting there.
Find your emotion.
The first story I wrote which was real, raw, and honest took a little bit of time to come to me. It was triggered by a particular event, and when I began to write it, I found it came out of me quickly (though perhaps not easily or painlessly).
My Body, Through the Lens of My Eating Disorder
On learning to love the same body I was taught to hate.
I found my emotion, my reason for writing. There was verve and power behind what I wanted to say.
When I first returned to writing after my break, I wanted to be able to churn out any story, in half an hour, with minimal emotional involvement. I didn’t want to have to work for it; I wanted it to be effortless.
But writing doesn’t work like that. You do your best work when you’re vulnerable, like it or not, sharing a part of yourself with the world that you feel deeply about.
When I finished that story, I felt exposed, but happy. I’d shared something I cared deeply about. It wasn’t easy to write in the sense that I didn’t expend anything, but it was easy in that once I started, I couldn’t stop.
Put in the hours.
This one galled the most. But it’s common sense. In order to write, I had to write. Even if I stared at the screen for two hours, hen-pecking a word here and a word there, even if I had to drag myself away from social media networks and other distractions within reach, I had to keep at it until the story was done.
In order to get back to my normal habits of publishing twice per day, I realized that I had to spend nearly twice as long as normal, on similar-length stories. Working twice as hard, for the same result.
It felt unfair, that what had once been easy for me, now took work and effort.
But you know what?
It’s worth it. Even if I have to slow down, even if I go down to just one story per day, as long as I keep plugging away at it, I know I can keep writing. And now instead of taking it for granted, I can appreciate that the flow of a story is something to be grateful for.
And I believe that as I continue to exercise that muscle, as I keep writing even though it’s not as simple as it maybe used to be, it’ll get better over time.
I’m a week back home, now. After a few days of silence, and a few days of hesitantly putting some words down, I’m writing again. I hope I’ll be back to my old habits soon, but it might take a while to get back to normal. Until then, I’ll try paper-and-pen writing, thinking about what makes me feel deeply, or just typing. Until the story’s done.