East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Writing when you’d rather go for a walk


A short post about writing, sort of a service post, one of those I have decided to enlighten you with my wisdom sort of posts that serious writers do on their million-views blogs.
Blog gurus say that your post, to be effective and successful, must tackle a real-life problem of the readers, and provide a solution.
So, here goes: say that you have to write, and you don’t feel like it.
The clock is ticking, the wordcount-meter is dead, and you’d rather go peel some potatoes for tonight’s dinner than sit at the keyboard and write.
What do you do?

Now, I don’t know what you do, of course – and I’d like to know, so please tell me!
In the meantime, I can tell you what I do.
And maybe what works for me might work for you, too.

So, first of all a small recap:

1 . a person that gets paid to write
2 . a person that enjoys writing as much as possible1

These are my definitions, #1 being not negotiable, #2 being still pretty important.
Because if you don’t enjoy the whole process – from dreaming up a story to actually sitting down and hammering on the keyboard, to the revision and all the rest.
As it usually happens, the enjoyment meter is not always in the totally having a ball with this, 100% range.
Sometimes it gets very low – and that makes writing hard.

But because of point #1, we must write anyway – to fulfill a contract, to pay the bills, to become rich and famous.

So, here’s what I do when – just like now – my enjoyment meter is in the red.

First – identify what is not working

Why are you not enjoying the ride?
Causes can be physical – back aches, hand aches, whatever.
In this case, you’ll have to find a physical solution: rest, a better chair, try writing while standing…
Solve, or mitigate, the physical problem and things will get better on the enjoyment meter, and you’ll get back to writing.
But most often, especially in my case, the causes are not physical, and boil down to two possible categories

a . I don’t give a damn for the story and/or the characters
b . I can’t find the right angle/language/structure/POV/starting point

Second – make a list

This works for external problems.
Make a list of what is bugging you.
Put your finger on it.
Determine whether it’s the characters, the setting, the language…

This is where having somebody to talk to is really a great thing.
Get an external opinion.

Third – change something

Michael Moorcock said “when in doubt, descend into a secondary character”.
That is to say, change your point of view.
Also, try changing something.
Try switching from third to first person, try starting from a different point in the story timeline.

In other words, stop taking the story so seriously and start playing with it again.

In my case, forgetting about the bills is also helpful – money issues are a good starting motivator, but obsessing about the financial side while writing can become a distraction.
“Goodness, if I don’t close this thing, they’ll cut the phone line!”
It’s scary – but it’s not what one should think about when writing.

Fourth – give yourself a reward

Me, I bribe myself with sweets and chocolate during the writing proper, and with a book when I get to the bottom of the story. Right now there is a collection of Taoist T’ang poetry that waits for me as soon as I finish one of the works at hand.

Fifth – if you’d rather go for a walk, go for a walk

No use sitting and staring at the video, brooding.
A little physical activity, two words with other human beings and maybe a cold drink in the shade might be just what you need.

And this, very roughly and sketchily, is my approach to the thing.
And it’s how I went from don’t feeling like writing a single page to writing 5000 words in one evening on a project I felt nothing for in the first place.
I found a way to make it fun.

And what about you out there?
Any different approach?
Anything I forgot or overlooked?
The comments are open.

  1. and sometimes it is not much, really. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

3 thoughts on “Writing when you’d rather go for a walk

  1. Doesn’t happen to me Dave. I have to go for a walk when I’d rather be writing! If – and it’s a very rare if – I have scheduled writing time and I can’t get in the zone, I listen to a few songs from my custom made book soundtrack and boom, I’m ready to go.


    • Ah, yes – I use music too, but it’s usually just to give me a rhythm when typing.
      When I am REALLY in a “why bother anyway?” state of mind, taking some time off, and trying to work some different way of telling my story are the solutions that work for me.
      That, and bribing myself 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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