I’m in the midst of some heavy rewrites for part II of my Arthurian Parody, and I’m starting to get frustrated. The exposition seems uninspired, the dialogue comes across as lazy, and don’t get me started on the action sequences–there are no words to describe what is wrong with those scenes. So, I get online to chat with one of my writer friends, when I came to an interesting conclusion: writing is just like sex.
We all remember when we were young, (some of you still are–enjoy it while it lasts) and every experience was exciting and new. The first time with a man was amazing, he could do no wrong. It always felt good, no matter how awkward or bland the sex actually was. But with time, you become harder to please until you reach the point when you stop experiencing the Big O. Then you’re turning to toys, oils, and lingerie in a pathetic attempt to spice up the mundane. Writing is just like that.
My first attempt at writing a full-length novel was during high school. It was the summer between junior and senior year, (as most romances begin) and I had just become inspired with the most creative idea since crackle nail polish. Without fear or regret, I poured into the writing, savoring every word. I always got down exactly what I wanted to say. The rereading of each chapter only brought me further joy, and afterward, I would lay on my couch and daydream of scenes to come. As time passed, the scenes did not come so easily to me and characters began to stray. While rereading my drafts, I would find more errors and flaws in my writing than I had before. I became pickier of word choice and syntax. Finally, writing became more of a chore, a task to get over and done with, not an activity of which to seek pleasure.
So, how does one revive that spark when writing starts to fizzle? If the passion is failing in the bedroom, a toy or tingling lube usually does the trick. But what about writers? Do you just run out and buy a fancy pen? How about choosing a sexier font on the word processor? Write in lingerie? Here are 5 tips I recommend for spicing up the writing experience.
1. Spend some time apart:
I know this sounds crazy, but sometimes the best thing to do for your writing is to take a break from it. Instead of trying to tackle the same chapter over and over again three days in a row with the same stale perspective, step away from it for a day or so and come back to that scene with a fresh outlook. You’d be surprised what a little time away from a project can do for it. For those of you who want to keep writing, but just can’t figure out what to do about chapter 11, try skipping ahead to another chapter or scene, or even better, tap into another writing project until you’re ready to go back and try again. Sometimes it only takes a new project to help us appreciate the old one.
2. Break the routine:
An effective routine ensures that writing gets done, but an inflexible one can hinder creativity. Try changing your schedule. If you’ve been writing in the evening, switch to mornings and vice versa. Obviously, for those of us who work full-time, this may not be an option, so if you can’t change when you write how about changing where you write? A coffee shop, a park, a college campus, are all good places to consider. Don’t want to leave home? Maybe instead of writing at your desk, take the laptop out to the deck or to the kitchen table or on the couch. Even breaking the routine in small ways will make a difference.
3. Embrace healthy competition:
Writing is not considered a social activity. In fact, writers usually get a reputation for being anti-social. As one of my characters from the Arthurian Parody says, “Ideas become stale in the head; it is best to air them out from time to time.” I truly believe every word . . . even though they were said by a mad magician. Make time to communicate with your fellow writers and invite one of your writing buddies to participate in some healthy competition. My sister and I set writing goals every week, and it’s helped motivate us both. Basically, we both decide what we want to accomplish in one week or one month and see who can meet all of their goals. Then based on the percentage, one of us has to pay up, whether it’s painting my office or babysitting her son. It’s definitely helped.
4. Add food to the mix:
Everything is better with food. Whether it’s watching a movie or hanging out with friends, food is always in the mix. I make a point to always have a cup of coffee or a bowl of M&M’s at my side when I go into a particularly frustrating draft.
5. Invite someone to join:
There is no sexual fantasy more often indulged than the threesome, so why not invite someone to join in on the writing process? Discussing the problems of your writing with someone else can help you work through it; also other people can offer great ideas. Having trouble figuring out how a scene will play out or how a character will respond? Try role play. I’m fortunate to have sister open-minded enough to do this for me on occasion. She’s come up with some great dialogue for my characters. No comfortable acting it out? Consider a co-writer or having someone read over your scene to provide feedback.
So those were my top 5 tips. Keep them in mind if ever you lose the spark in your own writing.