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Nine Ways to Write when You Don’t Want to Write

Sometimes, writers think they don’t have anything to say. More often, writers have too much to say, but can’t say what they want to, don’t have the energy to do so, or feel paralyzed by their now, or memories of deep, dark, nameless stories.

Writers share the un-sharable.

They breathe life into rattling bones of the hopeful and hurtful skeletons that lurk in each of us.

Writing and storytelling is a part of us. It’s of our ancestors, whether they’re of Nomads or Vikings. Generations of humans have passed on lessons, truths, and love through the sharing of stories that show our most wounded parts, and our most hopeful.

Nine Ways to Write when You DonThere are thousands of books about writing. How to do it, how to not. But really, for the person sitting behind her keyboard, willing nerves or ideas to come, the messages on “how to” are all the same.

Sit and write.

Find a small detail, and write around it.

Show, don’t tell.

Use dialogue.

Write what you know.

Research.

Freewrite, for however many minutes or hours.

Write the worst shit in history, and find the one word that inspires your next words.

All of the above is good advice, written by writers who I admire deeply, and would trade skin with, were I able to keep myself and my son in there, somehow.

I use each of these reminders every single time I write.

While there are countless better writers than I who share advice about what to do when you can’t write, here’s what I do.

  1. I go outside. I don’t run or anything because running is bouncy and horrible, but I sit on the stoop, and think about other lives. I wonder where the cars passing by are going. Are they celebrating? Grieving? I think of the stories behind the noise behind a passing car, or a laughing neighbor.
  2. Wonder why you write. Think about it.  Why bother writing? There’s a story to tell, right?
  3. I remember people across the world. There are those, sleeping among trees, hoping for freedom tonight, who only had roots for dinner.
  4. I think about my son, and what to teach him and to not tell him about those who only had roots for dinner tonight, while he had a second helping of chicken.
  5. I write about how he wouldn’t eat, and how he wants a second helping of chicken. Usually, memories such as this make me want to remember all of it. All of his childhood.
  6. I think about my own childhood.
  7. I read. This doesn’t really help me write directly, and sometimes, is paralyzing because there are so many great writers out there… but there are also so many stories that are just stories, and I feel better about telling the one in my head.
  8. I do the freewrite thing, and have, since I was a young girl. I remember journaling with my pink pen, and writing about how I had nothing to say, nothing to report, nothing to share. And somehow, in the private moments with my pink pen, the “having nothing to say” turned in to having a lot to say. I wrote stories about aliens coming with advice, about the Rickys next door, and about how I thought a kiss was probably grosser than friends had said.
  9. I make myself sad, on purpose, which isn’t hard for me (if you’re a less anxious type, or more extroverted, maybe you change this to making yourself laugh on purpose). I cry when my team wins the Superbowl, and when my son’s team shakes hands after winning or losing. I can’t help it, during those moments.
    When I can’t write, I think about those feelings, and the pride and sorrow that hold hands with winning and losing teams.

That’s it. When it comes to writing, just doing it is the point. And yes, I get it. So often, the just doing it is the hardest of all. Netflix is waiting. I get that.

***

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post and this week’s sentence is from Echo (COOL NAME, right?) of The Mad Mommy. “When I can’t write…”

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  • My Inner Chick - Great tips, Sweets.

    Everybody has their own process, don’t they.

    I agree w/ the READ. READ. Read.

    I mean, how can one write if one doesn’t read? NO. Impossible.

    I’ll never forget what one of my writing instructors told us.

    She said, “NEVER apologize for your story, writing, words. This is your gift to the world.”

    …as you said, “there are countless better writers than I.”

    but they are NOT “YOU!”

    You are SPECIAL & Amazing.

    xxxxxx from MN.June 22, 2017 – 11:19 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I love the advice from your writing instructor. It’s so true (and at times, hard to remember). Our stories are our gifts to the world. YOU are special and amazing, Kim! <3June 23, 2017 – 8:39 pmReplyCancel

  • Linda Atwell - This is so true about writing. I often have a list of things I could write about and want to write about but have trouble figuring out which angle I want to use. And of course, the angle I start with is rarely the one I end up with. But I love all your suggestions. I could use some of these—especially sitting on the stoop. I especially love that one because it encourages us to SLOW down and check out the world. Even if it is for only a little bit.

    I wish I could write as prolific as you. And then you respond to each of our answers too. I have decided you must be the MOST ORGANIZED mother on the face of the planet. Anyhow, I do believe we were born to tell stories. I especially like yours. 🙂

    Happy Friday to you!June 23, 2017 – 1:47 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I love the moments on the stoop. You’ll have to let me know if you try it. For me, it’s a mini-vacation from my head and it helps me to remember how big the world really is.
      Also? OMG I am SO NOT organized. At all. Truly. Thursday nights, Robert comes home earlier than usual, and I eek something out. I edit (usually) the next day… I’m really not organized. One of these days, I’ll get the nerve up to send you a photo of our office. It’s horrifying.
      And I especially like YOUR stories, too. <3June 23, 2017 – 8:42 pmReplyCancel

  • JY Walters - I think my writing sucks so I’d say I can’t write all the time. You have looked at my stuff so you know. However, I insist the only way I will be a better writer is if I continue to write.

    After a marathon writing session around 10K words I have to take a mental break and the go right back at it. Most of the story is mental written before I turn on the computer. Writing, even poor, is healing. Breaks are not writer’s block but a rest. Mentally, I am writing all the time.

    Great article!!!June 23, 2017 – 9:12 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Your writing does NOT suck!!! At all! Thanks, JT!June 23, 2017 – 8:48 pmReplyCancel

      • JT Walters - Brilliant article and very well written. Aw, thanks for the kind review beta!😘June 23, 2017 – 9:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Echo - These are fantastic. I do a lot of these to find inspiration.

    I also agree that often writer’s have too much to say and sometimes, it becomes all jumbled and it sounds like a bunch of nonsense. I tend to have that problem, word vomit. When my words get upchucked all over the page and make a huge mess, lol.

    I guess, we should just grab some whiskey in a jar, turn the page and try to reload.June 23, 2017 – 9:22 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Sometimes I have so much to say and then it’s just crap on the screen, totally all over the place. Here’s to whiskey in a jar and turning the page. And then, reloading. xoxoJune 23, 2017 – 9:14 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - So true, just doing it and then just doing it being the hardest. I find that I have to get out of my bubble because that I have a drawer full of stories just by looking at the pictures, but I have to try too hard to get the story started. When I go somewhere else to write or at least get it started I’m able to tune out Starbucks or the book store, but I can’t tune out the interruptions calling me at home. Two are calling now……..Netttttflixxxxx, fooooldddd clooooothesssss.June 23, 2017 – 1:24 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - LOL to the two calling you now! Interesting that you can tune out at Starbucks or the book store. Maybe I need to try that again. I end up feeling self concious there for some dumb reason. I like to write in the basement (it’s a townhouse) all alone. Then I can go to the stoop and Tucker can’t hear me. Of course, for this to work, Robert needs to be home, both fed. Or, both asleep. That happens a lot. NETTTTTFLIXXXXX.June 23, 2017 – 9:19 pmReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Hall - I am so excited that I’ve written something and that I’m linking up with you! Your #1 up there is a bit similar to a point I made in my own post, about other people’s lives. So good to be here!June 24, 2017 – 11:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Allie G smith - The first paragraph is genius. Sucked ne right in. And yes, Netflix is a rabbit hole! Grace and Frankie are currently sucking me in.June 25, 2017 – 12:43 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - You’re so sweet. And Orange is the New Black is what’s sucking me in now. I haven’t watched Grace and Frankie. Must check it out!June 25, 2017 – 9:45 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerry - Another great one Kristi. Disappointed I didn’t link up. I meant to, but had a rather busy weekend. I had company staying with me. Lots of family time and the Niagara trip. All a success.

    I do have so much to write about that often I can’t choose which thing I want to go with in any given moment. I have so much racing through my mind. Must add meditation or yoga to my life to help me slow down a bit, maybe calm my mind some.

    I like your ideas. I think being outside is the best thing for a writer. I thought about all the people I passed on the busy tourist street in Niagara Falls and I wondered where they were from and what brought them to that place. I wondered what their impressions and feelings were upon seeing such a thing because it still affects me so deeply, even after the umpteenth time of me going there. I hope this can lead to some good ideas in my writing.

    It’s not that I’ve meant to stop writing for FTSF, as I do love it here, but I have had so much on my mind. I am a frequent weekly visitor here though and will make my return appearance, one of these weeks.

    Hope you are well.June 26, 2017 – 9:37 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I’m sorry you’re disappointed but busy weekends win, always, right? You are amazing for doing the Niagara trip (I must visit to see more – I saw some on Facebook but wowza, so cool!!!).
      I know what you mean about not being able to choose what to write, and yeah, I need yoga or meditation too. So much. My mind is crazy (and a little bit mean).
      I think Niagara will lead to more of your fabulous writing, for sure. I love that you wonder what brought them all there.
      I’ll see you when you’re ready and we’re all well. I so hope you are as well 🙂June 26, 2017 – 9:47 pmReplyCancel

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