I have a lot of bad writing days. A LOT of them.
Mostly these days are just me beating myself up for sucking so badly. (They often happen after I read reviews that call my books wastes of paper, include links educating me on how to write, or say I should be beaten with my own book, and other such manna for the writing soul 😉 ).
Thing is, if I let myself not write because of this, then these people have won. They’ve crushed me, they’ve made me believe that I am not only the most talentless hack to hack, but that I don’t deserve to write at all, let alone be published.
And you know what?
So I have ways of getting myself past the terror (“oh god, what if they’re right, what if I am deluding myself, what if I should have studied accountancy?”) and getting words down. Since we’re deep into Nano territory, I figured I’d share my little tricks. Maybe one of them will help you when you’re stuck in the empty well of self-loathing.
Not all my tricks work all the time. I have to use them like a deck of cards, shuffle them, and keep drawing new ones until I find the leering, winking joker that will work today, right now, for this story.
1: Square Brackets of Absolution. Ive talked about them before. They’re basically me allowing myself to be shit. If I open the [I know I can type any old rubbish and it clearly doesn’t matter and I don’t have to feel guilty because lookee here they are within the brackets and therefore DO NOT COUNT as real writing and so I can chill with the whole performance anxiety claptrap.] Which is nice. And does rather help get the flow started.
2: 100 Words. I set myself the amazingly high goal of one hundred words. My brain, which prior to this was hiding in a corner and sobbing under a blankie, now feels slightly less threatened by the sheer amount of work expected of it, and comes out to play for a bit. It is very rare that I don’t end up writing more. Just the act of setting the bar so low gives me confidence to get started.
3: 15 minute egg timer. I have an egg timer which gets used for writing. I set it for fifteen minutes, with the knowledge that I can do any amount of horrible things (like clean my house) for fifteen minutes. I am allowed no distractions – I have to write for the duration, no twitter, no fb, no “research”. If all I do is type god this is really boring I am so bored maybe I should make my characters eat each others’ brains because at least that would be more interesting than staring at this boring screen then that’s good because progress, of sorts. This can be made social if you’re competitive, go have word wars.
4: Go read. Go read something you love, something that makes you want go write, that inspires you. (Conversely, you could go read some published drivel and return to your work knowing that no matter what, you’re still better than that.)
5: Work on something else. Finish a blog post, write a review, jot out what-if questions on your manuscript (hey! they count as words!), write fanfic, poetry, music. Be ready to go back to work the moment your brain goes “oh hey, I thought of something…”
6: Go watch something. A film or documentary that is in some way related to your work (though not imperative, sometimes surprising ideas come from unlikely places.). If you’re a visual person like me, you might find that watching a period piece, or a documentary can help spark some ideas, especially when it comes to things like landscape, worldbuilding, dress, etc.
Obviously these are just the things that help me, perhaps they wont work for you, or perhaps you have other tricks you’d be happy to share. I’d love to hear them – the more jokers in my pack, the easier it is for me to win this game against my self-loathing.