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.

1: Do what you can.

This means you set up the document for one of your projects. Make phone calls you’ve been putting off. Research some competitors. Send emails. Something—anything—that’s the equivalent of putting one foot forward.

Those steps will add up until that magical moment when you can finally start putting words on the page. And when that moment hits, you’ll be glad you finished mundane tasks that would otherwise annoy you when you’re trying to be creative.

2: Give yourself something to edit.

Okay, so sometimes we have to write no matter what. It’s because of those pesky things call deadlines. (And wanting to keep our jobs.)

If you can’t put pretty words down on paper, put ugly ones down and polish those little…um…gems until they sparkle. Sometimes we can’t write to save a burning orphanage, but few things can be still our inherent need to edit. So give yourself something to edit.

3: Ask for help.

This one can be tough, especially if you’re a lone writer. But find someone who can take a look at what you’ve written. If you agree with their feedback, great. If not, at least you’ll find yourself moving in a new direction or feeling better about what you’ve written through the sheer power of disagreement.

4: Brainstorm.

So your brain’s on the fritz. So your muse has left you to do her own thing. You can still brainstorm ridiculous ideas. And we all know that some of the best ideas come from some of the most ridiculous.

5: Say no.

This one can also be a toughie, but it’s important. I’m going to be out of commission for almost a week. I’m fortunate to work in a place that supports me. And lemme tell ya—I’m grateful. But my tendency to people please—particularly when I adore my team—can drive me push myself harder than I should.

I needed to recognize my limitations. So do you. If you don’t have anything creative to give, it’s okay to say no and take a step back.

You don’t have to go big or go home. Just do small somethings until you’re ready to go big again.

I’ll be offline and ignoring most of the universe until late next week. If you comment, I’ll respond as soon as I can. If you don’t comment, that’s okay, too. Just go do something else. Write something. That’s usually pretty fun. Kinda. Okay, has anyone seen my muse?

(deep sigh) I think my creative well is full of rocks.

5 thoughts on “5 ways to be productive when you can’t write”

  1. I like editing. That works, at least to be able to say I’m doing something. Tricking myself into quickly sketching out a “crappy first draft” will sometimes prime the pump for The Happy Editor. It helps to put on my merino wool knit gullible cap first. Thanks to Daphne Gray-Grant for that strategy. Hope the dentist sends you home with good stuff.

    1. Editing is a go-to strategy. It gives us something to work with, a starting point. And I recommend it to anyone who’s stuck.

      Also: yes, the dentist gave me the good stuff. Slept like a baby. 🙂

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