Anyone who has ever tried to write a story or poem knows the most terrifying thing in the world is a blank page. You can spend hours, days, weeks, months, even years paging through books, reading online, checking facebook… all to avoid that dreaded first page.
For those of you who have written that first page, there are many more obstacles. There’s the dreaded middle, where you know where you need to end up but there is all this “stuff” in the way that has to be done first. For me, there’s the hundred page blues, where I hit one hundred pages and I just start wondering, is any of this good? There are points where you feel like you’re writing the best story ever and then suddenly you are stuck, everything has gone horribly wrong and you don’t know what to do.
The good news is: the answer is simple. Sit your butt down in front of the computer (or typewriter or pen and paper, etc) and write. If you’re stuck on your current story, write something else. Put words to page.
Sounds easy, right? Well, if you’re like me, finding that time to sit in front of the computer is the hard part. So how can you best prepare yourself so that you ensure the time isn’t wasted?
Seek inspiration. I commute to my day job, which eats up around two hours a day (even after having moved closer, traffic in Denver is absurd). I spend a good portion of that time thinking and I try to spend it thinking about plot, characters, and writing structure for works-in-progress and upcoming stories. I also listen to music, which helps getting the creative juices flowing.
Getting outside is another source of inspiration for me. Seeing the sun is always good. Walking/hiking in a scenic setting is great for wrapping my head around a fantasy setting, especially with the mountains here in Colorado. Going for a run and doing a morning workout is also good for me, since I generally get so bored running that I have to think about something. Exercise is also cathartic, it helps you to relieve stress and releases all kinds of good chemicals in your body and brain. What that means in layman speak is if you do some physical exercise, you might be a little less stressed out when you sit down to write. If you have a busy life, it can clear your head so that you focus on what you want to do.
On the other hand, sleeping on it is a viable technique. If I can get a short nap in before I write, I generally find I write better. (It is a rare occasion with a very active toddler in the house. Waking up to being hit in the head with a metal tractor is not a good way to start writing your novel). A nap can act as a sort of reset, letting you get into things after letting your subconscious sort things out and quiet itself a bit.
These are all techniques I use, but everyone is different. Writing is a personal experience, what inspires you to write is also going to be personal. I know a writer who can only write in absolutely quiet conditions, distant music, a conversation in another room, these all make it so she can’t put words to page. I know another writer who cranks up loud music and still another one who prefers to write while listening to the TV. These are all viable tactics, I suppose, though some are easier than others to achieve. In short: find what works for you and do it!