There was a day a while back that was perfect for writing. The weather was nasty — freezing rain, gloomy skies, and I had a snow day from brain rehab. Spirits were high as my family all felt a little giddy to be trapped at home, free from weekly obligations and a cheeky feeling of being able to do whatever we wanted. And the best part — I didn’t have a headache from the weather.
Throughout the day, I reenacted scenes in my head revolving around the different story ideas I’m currently devising. On several occasions I sat at my computer to get the words down.
The moment my hands hit the keyboard, my palms started sweating, my eyes ached, I was out of breath, and I wanted to scream and rip something apart.
This is how writer’s block and self-doubt manifest themselves in me.
No matter that I had just said the words in my head, between the glare of the computer screen and actually seeing the words come to life, it was too much.
Many will tell you to persevere through the frustration, to keep writing even if what is written is crap. Never stop writing.
I despise this advice.
True, you can’t keep setting aside a project to save it for when the inspiration is overwhelming and your fingers fly across the keyboard for hours on end. If we were to ever finish a project, this wouldn’t be practical.
So when is the best time to write?
1. After Silence
In Brenda Ueland’s book If You Want to Write (I realize I keep harping on this, and yes, I hope to make you read it by doing so), she encourages silence for creativity. “Dreamy idleness,” going on long walks, whatever leaves you alone with yourself. On initial thought, that may sound terrifying, but I consider it a beautiful privilege. I spoke in my book review about how she encourages one to write what is true, and how will you do so without knowing what you believe to be so?
Take some time with yourself. Sit quietly, go for a walk, paint, meditate, do whatever relaxes you and allows you to be with yourself for a while. When you sit down to write, your mind will have a clean slate and inspiration will flow freely.
2. When You Are Groggy
There have been studies shown to prove morning is the best time to let those creative juices flow, and while I do love working on my blog in the morning, I prefer writing late at night. There has also been a study done by two college professors, Mareike B. Weith and Rose T. Zacks, whose participants showed greater creativity and problem solving at non-optimal times of day.
So next time you have a frustrating day, put the kids to bed and are tempted to curl up and watch mindless TV, or are in that afternoon slump, try writing a few paragraphs. You might just find your brain relaxes and the words come naturally.
3. When The Voices Tell You To
Two nights ago I didn’t feel like writing, yet I couldn’t stop thinking about sitting down and liberating those ideas onto paper. I ended up writing 1,551 words in a WIP that I hadn’t touched in a few months, and yesterday I wrote over 6,700 words and the only reason I stopped was because I remembered I hadn’t finished this blog post yet.
If you don’t feel like it but can’t stop thinking about it, no doubt the motivation is there. You just have to do a bit of coaxing.
4. After Reading
You might need to go back and make sure you haven’t copied anything you read, but there’s no doubt reading a good book will inspire you to write your own, especially if it’s in the same genre as your WIP. Some of my “truest” writing came after reading my favorite authors because their excellence encouraged me to write simply and freely.
5. After You’ve Cleaned
I’ve been sick for two weeks straight, and my room (where I write) is a disaster. Clothes, trash, paper, books, mail: it’s all scattered hither and thither, and I do not clean while I’m sick. It just doesn’t happen.
So I keep up with one thing: making my bed. If my bed isn’t made, anything else I try to work on is subpar because half my mind is occupied with anxiety over the messy room. Therefore I make my bed, and if I am given a bit of motivation I’ll clear trash and mugs of half-drunk tea from the room, and then I can focus.
If you find your writing space is messy or another part of your house has been a stressful environment because no one has cleaned up in a while, take ten minutes to sort things and see how it helps your creativity.
6. When You Are Afraid
Yesterday I reached a point in my WIP that I’d been dreaming about for months (let’s be honest, years), but once I finally reached it, I was too scared to write. Writer’s block hit me hard, self-doubt poured in, and I stepped away from the computer.
But I went back and got through half of the scene, and the satisfaction I felt afterwards was worth the frustration.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. It has to get done. Keep in mind that when you are afraid, it usually means you have something worth saying.
7. Any Time
I hesitated including this one, especially considering next week’s post concerns the worst times to write, but in the end, the best time to write is any time. Some prefer the early bird method, some the night owl. Others won’t write without inspiration, and more write when it just needs to be written (e.g. 30 minutes before the short story must be submitted to the professor). However, you should always feel free to write whenever you wish.
You will have personal moments that are best for your own writing, but whenever you do pick up on a certain time that always seems to work best, make note of it. That way, when you face a busy schedule or writer’s block, you can schedule writing into those times and walk away with progress.
When are you most creative?