5 ways to be productive when you can’t write

Drawing a Blank

The past couple of weeks have been a flurry. Work is picking up right before I’m going to be out for dental surgery.

Which means: a) I’m multitasking on a regular basis; and b) I almost can’t be trusted to think straight because I’m scared. (I don’t handle dentist stuff well—at all. Seriously, I have to be gassed for a basic cleaning, I’m that bad.)

Now, whatever type of writer you are, you’re going to have times when you can’t seem to get your work done because you can’t focus on squat because your brain is going in more directions than a Hot Wheels race track that was put together by a group of toddlers and monkeys who are all screaming at each other because they won’t let each other play and hey, isn’t it time for pudding?

Yeah, that’s how my last two weeks have been.

But I’ve found some coping strategies—and I’m happy to share.

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Getting back in writing shape

Writers Feel the Burn

One of the hardest things about stepping away from your blog for a little while is figuring out how to get back in it. That’s the problem I’m having trouble with now; the brain won’t kick in.

It’s like taking a break after you’ve been working out regularly and then trying to pick up where you left off. You realize just how out of shape your writing has gotten, how slow your pace is now—and how likely you are to sprain something.

Nothing like shame to try to keep you from getting back in the game, huh? Ironically, it’s often when we least feel like writing that we often most need to do so. I’m no exception.

What’s a writer to do?

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Start writing your new year

I'm glad I'm a writer.How’s your start to the new year going? Still putting off starting your new blog? Story still gathering dust? Tired of such thought-provoking questions yet?

Okay, I’ll quit asking (for now).

And yes, I know. Big talk from someone who hasn’t even posted to her own blog for three months; yup, I own it. This is one of those times I’m talking to myself just as much as I’m putting it out there for others.

I’m easy—I fell out of the habit and am picking it back up before I’m too embarrassed to come back to my own blog. As for you (if you’re still reading), what’s keeping you from your craft?

In my experience, both personal and observed in fellow writers, the most common excuses and reasons boil down to one big fear: What will other people think?

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The day the prompt prompted anger

judgemental-cat-isjudging-lolcatI was stuck. Horribly stuck. For two hours, I tried. But nothing. No words. So I turned to Writers Digest for a creative writing prompt. The day’s prompt: Hello! I’m Captain Jiggles by Brian Clems in honor of Chuck Sambuchino’s new humor book, When Clowns Attack.

At first, I figured why not? I’m as stuck as a constipated slug crawling over tar; this is no time to be picky.

I skimmed the page. “Huh,” I thought. “He also wrote When Garden Gnomes Attack.” I just finished that book. It was cute. I was intrigued about this new offering.

Then I saw it. The dangling carrot of a free book for commenting on the prompt. And I could get a second entry if I tweeted about it? Sign me up!

Only I couldn’t.

I couldn’t comment.

I hadn’t logged in to the site.

Okay, I can roll with that. Pretty standard.

Hey, wait. I don’t already have an account? I’ve been visiting this site for years. I’m a magazine subscriber. Am I really that behind?

Okay, I’ll just create an online account.

Wait a minute. Why won’t it create my account? I just registered. I should be able to comment. Wait! Stop taking me back to your stupid Create an Account page! I just did that! Like five times already! You’re killing me, Smalls!

I JUST WANT A CHANCE AT A FREE BOOK!!!!!!

Oh. I’m already logged in. When did that happen?! AND WHY DID YOU KEEP TAKING ME BACK TO YOUR STUPID “CREATE AN ACCOUNT PAGE”?!?!

Okay, I’m back on the right page. I’m logged in. Here we go.

Wait, why is everyone posting their output from the writing prompt? Am I supposed to do that? What if I don’t want to? What am I supposed to post? Theirs are so good. I’ll look like an idiot.

I don’t want to look like an idiot. I already feel stupid and all I did was register! What the hell? WHAT THE FREAKING HELL?

Long story short, I managed to tweet but not comment. If you can, though, you might be randomly selected to receive one of three free books.

Here’s the link again: Hello, I’m Captain Jiggles

Yes, arguably, I shouldn’t even feel like giving this some free press, but it’s not Chuck’s fault that the Writer’s Digest user experience sometimes sucks. (Or maybe it’s just me but right now my right eye is twitching and quite frankly I think I’ve taken enough abuse for one morning.)

Also, I liked Chuck’s book, When Garden Gnomes Attack. Also-also, this blog is about what happens in the life of a writer, and I’m fairly certain that I’m not the only one who’s suffered deep emotional scars at the hands of confusing UX.

So there’s my altruism for the day.

(Looks up “altruism” to make sure I used it correctly. Yup, we’re good.)

Tip 1: Make sure you’re signed in.

Tip 2: Don’t try this at work. It’ll only confuse your fellow cube dwellers.

A Writing Fangirl Confession

LOLcat - Invisible Bow and ArrowI read an article on The Renegade Writer about the seven differences between being a writing fangirl or a real writer by Linda Formichelli.

The point of her article is that ‘fanfolk’ spend more time acting the part of a writer than actually writing. Real writers on the other hand, write.

Of the seven differences she outlines, number 4 hit a nerve in all the right spots.

Anyone looking at you, with your exclamation point tattoo and “Writer at Work” doorknob hanger, would think you are a writer. But…are you actually writing? Don’t delude yourself: A collection of quill pens does not a writer make. – Linda Formichelli

Note: I don’t have an exclamation point tattoo. If you’re gonna go there, go for an interrabang.

It’s the difference between a person who wears a thousand-dollar tracksuit to sit on the couch and another person who hits the pavement for a five-mile run every morning.

I have a confession.

Without knowing it, I was a creative writing fangirl for years.

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