How To Get Your Writing Mojo Back
Jul 10, 2022
You can write with ease and joy again.
If you’re feeling exceptionally perky these days, this isn’t the blog post for you.
But I’ve been hearing from some people that they’re struggling with a lack of motivation and low energy lately and this is affecting their writing. What to do?
First things first: a big virtual hug across the Internet. Or a smile and a wave, if you prefer.
I see you. And I’ve also been you.
I don’t think it’s normal to maintain a constant high level of energy. It’s in the nature of energy and motivation that both ebb and flow. We know this to be true for other people, but when it happens for us, it’s somehow a shock. True, yes?
My own days of low energy come from a few sources…
- Sometimes I find it hard to live in an unjust world slowly falling apart due to climate change.
- Sometimes I am worried about my current writing project and afraid it won’t live up to my dreams and expectations for it.
- Sometimes I’m facing both of these at once.
Can you relate?
Here are some strategies and tactics you can use to gentle yourself back into writing and find your creative mojo again, depending on how it’s gone missing…
How to Get Your Writing Mojo Back
Justice and Climate Blahs
Hoo boy. There’s no avoiding it: this is a TOUGH time to be alive.
I mean, has there really ever been an easy time?? Let’s ask anyone who lived through World War II or the Vietnam War, or the early days of the Civil Rights movement in the US… I’ll stop there, but suffice to say, it’s been hard before and it’s hard now and it may even get harder tomorrow.
Between a clear lack of justice for some, the pressures and stupidity of “Late Stage Capitalism,” and worries about everything from COVID to climate change, is it any wonder that some of us are feeling beaten down? We can only feel anxious so long before that emotion gives way to depression.
If the world has stolen your writing mojo lately, here are some ways to ease yourself back to the writing desk...
- Read Rebecca Solnit. The simultaneously quick-witted and deeply reflective author of Men Explain Things To Me also wrote Hope In the Dark and most recently an article in The Guardian entitled “Ten Ways to Confront the Climate Crisis Without Losing Hope.” I follow Solnit for her feminism but also because her perspective reminds me not to despair but to look for signs of hope everywhere.
- Start a hope inventory. If you’re tempted to despair, don’t -- we don’t have time for that. Instead, look for signs of hope and keep an inventory of all the signs you see. For one writer’s version of this, I give you Canadian poet Steven Heighton reading his poem Some Other Just Ones. (You’re welcome! Here it is in written form, if you prefer.) Your turn now: write your version of what hope looks like.
- Read Ben Okri. Here’s another fantastic article from The Guardian about being a writer in current times. The author of The Famished Road advocates for an “existential creativity” that helps us acknowledge the challenging -- and potentially terminal -- times in which we live. (For what it’s worth: I don’t think this means we’re all writing about icebergs, but rather that we come face-to-face with what we most care about as artists, and as human beings.)
- Journal to find your personal answer to the questions Okri is asking us as artists:
"It also means that I must write now as if these are the last things I will write, that any of us will write. If you knew you were at the last days of the human story, what would you write? How would you write?"
-- Ben Okri
Writing Project Blahs
Sometimes...oh, sometimes we just hate what we’re writing.
Or more precisely, we hate what we fear we might be writing, despite our best intentions and highest hopes.
That’s okay, it’s a perfectly normal stage in the creation process. It’s an egregious misunderstanding of the writing life to believe -- as most of us do, self included -- that every day we sit down to write must feel good. It doesn’t always: some days just flat out suck.
So what? Did you really think you’d be the only artist in the world to make something without voices of self-doubt ringing in your ears? Not you, not today. Maybe not tomorrow either.
What do we do when that happens? WE. KEEP. WRITING.
I know, you don’t want to hear that, you want a different answer and so do I -- but there isn’t one. We can give up or we can keep going: that’s all there is.
What we can do though, is come at it from a different direction. Here are a few things to try…
- Write a bit less. If you are in the habit of mentally chastising yourself for not writing enough, even though you write for 2-3 hours most days...try releasing the pressure and writing just a little bit less. Cut that time in half for a while and use the balance of time to take in inspiration instead.
- Write something you won’t use. Not every single word you etch onto paper or pixel is going to make it into your final project. And that’s more than okay, it’s exactly how it should be. So take some time to write scenes or lines you can almost guarantee won’t make it into the final version. Write more backstory and explore your character. Write a sex scene you plan to leave out -- just to see how your characters have sex. Kill someone off who is integral to the plot. Just play around and see what happens…
- Write it badly. What if your first draft isn’t the final draft? (SHOCKER!) Since it won’t be anywhere close to the final version, let your first version be supremely bad. I mean this: actively tell yourself “Today I am writing a really bad novel, just for the fun of it!” and then try that. It won’t kill you and you may learn something in the process.
- Write about the process. Keep a writer’s notebook and write journal entries about how your work is progressing, the new ideas you have and the questions that are arising for you.
- Read more. Pull together a reading list just for your project and let yourself be inspired.
Extreme Self-Care for Writers
Self-care is more than a bubble bath with a glass of rosé. (Though that sounds good too. Throw in some Pad Thai delivery and I'm in!)
Self-care for writers can also look like the following…
- Cancelling other events in your calendar just to stay home to read or write.
- Leaving your family alone at home while you take yourself on an “Artist Date.”
- Getting enough sleep.
- Setting boundaries so you can prioritize your writing life.
- Managing your mindset, so that creative anxiety doesn’t grow and overtake you.
- Getting up early in the morning, before others are awake, to have time to write.
- Focusing on finishing one writing project before starting the next one.
- Prioritizing finding a group of writers you can connect with and enjoy a sense of belonging.
- Backing out of commitments you’ve already made so that you have enough time to write. (They’ll survive...so will you!)
- Adding another writing session to your week.
- Removing a writing session from your week, if you've been pushing too hard lately and that’s what you need.
Whatever you need, take it slow and gentle. Let yourself ease back into your writing life and your writing project.
Ask yourself: what would this look like if it was easy and joyful? Then go make that happen.
And if you'd like to be part of a steady, inclusive and supportive community of writers so that you can keep your motivation constant and keep writing consistently with ease and flow, then I invite you to join us in The Writer's Flow Studio. You can head here here to check it out!