by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
I read an interesting article by James Preston titled “How to Get to Carnegie Hall. ” Preston used an old joke as the basis of the piece: A tourist asks a resident how to get to Carnegie Hall and the resident replies “Practice, practice, practice.”
Preston goes on to list exercises that help him write on uninspired days, including writing letters from the protagonist’s POV, and writing a paragraph about your character’s life before the time your story starts.
Sometimes a project seems so big and so overwhelming that it feels as though we must have equal parts inspiration to face it. But this isn’t really true. I’m usually uninspired when I sit down to my manuscript every day. Inspiration usually only hits about five minutes into my story, when I become immersed in the story world. I know what I do every day at 5:30 in the morning, however: I write. It’s practically muscle memory at this point.
But some days start out chaotic (fortunately, these days are few and far between for me now) and we can’t write on our schedule: inspired or uninspired. Kids can be sick, animals can be sick, we can be sick there are family emergencies, etc. For those days, there’s nothing wrong in skipping writing altogether.
But if you’re worried that you’re going to mess up your writing habit from taking a break, there are things that we can do to make progress on our stories (practice, practice, practice), even on the toughest days.
“Working out plot and character elements, and turning them over and over to consider all the possible ramifications and permutations, is better done without access to a keyboard.”
What I do on tough writing days is a sort of focused brainstorming. When even brainstorming can seem too tough, focused brainstorming, in the form of making lists, can be an easy and productive way of working. Top 10 ways for my protagonist to change during the story, 10 details of my story’s main setting, 10 possible endings for my book.
More on my method here in my post from 2010.
One important note: if you do skip a day or two or three of writing, don’t try to catch up. It’s incredibly demotivating. Just jump right in wherever you are in your manuscript and make that day’s goal. Pick up where you left off.
What are your thoughts about taking breaks from your story? Is it easy for you to hop back in? How do you make progress on your book on the toughest writing days?
Photo on Visualhunt