When I’m writing, I often go from one extreme to another. Sure, there are those awesome times where the words and chapters just flow. But there are also those all too common (and often) roadblocks. The key is making sure they’re speed bumps and not dead ends.
When I feel my writing energy waning and I’m getting pulled out of the story, there are a few things I do to help me get back into it. Many are super helpful to staying acquainted with my main character, because when doing that, the story just flows. Others just plain old help fill the well of mental well being.
Top 10 ways to get (and stay!) motivated during a first draft:
1. Music. Any writer will attest that their favorite music can be inspiring, but I like to consider what my character likes. What does my main character listen to? What does she like? And then I listen to that. Gets me more in touch with her, let’s me slip into her skin a bit.
2. Keeping it old school, writing in a notebook. I’ve been doing this more and more lately. It’s really effective. Plus, when writing in a notebook – especially with the computer not nearby, it avoids the whole write one sentence/twitter/facebook/email/email/twitter/wordswithfriends problem.
3. Work out. Exercise totally helps clear the mind and get the ideas flowing! Nothing like a long walk or run to help sort out my thoughts and get the plot points falling into place.
4. Becoming more like your character. Okay, it might sound weird, but I swear it helps me. Like wearing a color or style that is specific to my character, or doing something that is just so them. When writing my last novel, I drank more caramel lattes than I ever normally would. But my character drank them a lot in the book and it helped me feel immersed in her world. Even going out “in character,” shopping or to the park and seeing the world through their eyes, helps to slip into their head. Becoming/thinking like my characters, help the words and prose flow more authentically.
5. Lists and outlines. Remember those old school brainstorming webs from elementary school? Doing that or just making a list helps to brainstorm and get the mind flowing with ideas again. Even just a list of plot points can lead my mind in a different direction and break the humdrum I’m taking the story in.
6. Freewriting. Sometimes when trying to get through a draft I just trudge through, slap down words, even if it’s down and dirty ugly. Maybe they’re chapters, sometimes just random tidbits and freewriting about my characters. I can scrap it all later, and most likely I will, but it may just lead me where those characters are going. Plus, freewriting is, well, freeing. It’s one part mind clearing and another part liberating, especially if you set the intention that no one will see it.
7. Meditation and yoga. There’s a reason yoga and meditation have been around for centuries as a source of wellness. Because they clear the mind and restore energy and strength (both physical and mental). They may not directly help my story, but after a session of either, I’m empowered and ready to write anew.
8. Magazines. Looking through magazines and cutting out pictures that speak to your character or story. A good friend of mine is a photographer and he gives me all his old photo magazines. They’re filled with such beautiful images. Just flipping through them is inspiring in its own right, but I often rip out the ones I think would speak to my main character and spend some time looking through those.
9. Reading. Reading. Reading. Nothing makes me want to write like reading a great book that keeps me up and pulls me in. And when we’re reading, even when we’re just reading for fun, we’re absorbing, learning craft and taking it in. It’s inspiring!
10. Laugh at yourself. Yes, some of the first draft stuff is clumsy and cliché. So what? Laugh at yourself, and then, when that draft is done, revise and make it better. No one writes a book in one draft. But most everyone starts with a rough one.