There are lots of articles and books out there about overcoming a creative block or ‘getting in the mood’ with advice spanning from the physical (create a tidy workspace and ‘ass in chair’) to the intellectual (soak up inspiration from others, try new things or write freestyle for short bursts). These can all be great.
We are unique and respond differently to stimuli so some strategies will undoubtedly suit us more than others. What works for you and I may differ, just as it might differ for you and your lecturer, editor or favourite (living) writer.
Personally, I have had the ‘battle through’ mentality ingrained into me from a very young age which means often I am writing because I ‘need to’. I enjoy the motivation that a real, perceived or self-inflicted deadline provides. This is more effective when combined with my circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) and weekly routines (weekdays/weekends/holidays).
For instance, I prefer writing poetry first thing in the morning during holidays when there are still remnants of a dreamy, other world floating around my psyche and no looming schedule to worry about. For writing letters and reports or providing feedback on someone else’s work, my brain is best around lunchtime after I’ve cleared my head with a big dog walk and Diet Irn Bru.
Now for the triple whammy. We probably do a lot of the above instinctually, but this can be furthered when we tap into our moods. We all have good days, bad days and everything in between. It’s the human condition and we can use this to our advantage.
A while back, I read an interesting THINX article on the menstrual cycle affecting mood and behaviour. While not startlingly new information, it did consolidate my half-realised strategy:
“PMS isn’t a random state of madness, it’s a magnifying glass for your life. It makes already bad things seem worse. It very rarely creates a problem out of the blue. It’s better to think of these symptoms as your Premenstrual Truth…
“If you’re ever really stuck on a big problem, give it a month and see. I guarantee it’ll enable you to see the same issue from at least four different angles, and lead to some epic breakthroughs.”
Yes, the obvious point is that not all of us menstruate and even those of us who do may not experience the textbook monthly cycle described. However, we can all be more mindful of our moods, their resulting behaviours and use these to optimise our writing.
If you are in a foul mood – have a bash at writing that really grumpy character that you couldn’t quite get right yesterday.
If the world is your oyster today – revisit that happy-go-lucky children’s story that you wrote last summer.
If you have had a massive argument with a loved one – write that short story about family strive that’s been floating around your head for weeks.
Lastly, no matter how you are feeling when you write the original draft it’s a good idea to sit the piece aside and revisit it later with fresh eyes, and a fresh perspective.