Monday, 22 July 2013

How Even Bad Writing Days Can Be Good

"This is a strange thing, but I've noticed it many times: a bad day's work is a lot better than no day's work at all." Philip Pullman
Image courtesy of Ambro /

Let's face it, when it comes to writing, everyone has bad days (trust me, I'm having a lot of them lately), whether it's life getting in the way and you seemingly have no time, or you have the time but nothing will come, or everything you write is awful. But maybe, just maybe, that bad day isn't as bad as it seems.

No Time to Write

Even in the busiest of days there will be five or ten minutes when you don't have to be anywhere or doing anything. It is amazing what you can fit in when you write in short bursts throughout the day. If you only manage to get one line written, it is much better than having written nothing at all.

If you really can't find five minutes to write, you can still be thinking about your writing while doing other tasks that don't take your full attention (taking a shower, cooking tea, washing up). Use this time to think about the next scene you need to write, character names, plot twists, blog posts. Take the time to daydream and see where it leads, you could come up with a new story idea. All of this will help when you finally do have the time to sit down and write.

I have written in more detail on this problem in these two posts Turn Those Spare Minutes into Gems and Creative Writing in One Minute a Day.

Drawing a Blank

You have the time, you sit down at your computer, and ... nothing.

There are few ways that you can turn around this kind of bad day:

Revise what you have already written. It could be that you have written your characters into a corner and you don't know how to get them out of it, maybe you have made them do something out of character and now they are refusing to move forward. Take this time to read back through what you have written already and see if you can find where the problem stems from.

Edit another piece of writing. Writing and editing use different parts of the brain, if you are having problems writing maybe your brain is in an editing state, make the most of it.

Journal/Free-write. If you can't think of anything to write about, or you are stuck on a particular scene, journal about the problem. Set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes and just start writing. Don't think about it, just put words on paper/screen, you may be surprised by what you discover. It may be that you manage to work through the problem and know what you need to do next.

Use writing prompts/exercises. Even if what you write has nothing to do with your current project it could be just enough to unlock that creative part of your brain and get things flowing again. If not, at least you have written something, it's all good practice.

Read. Take this time to read a craft book, you may discover just what you need to get you writing again. Alternatively, read a fiction book and pay attention to how the writer uses description, setting, pace, dialogue etc. Whether the writing is good or bad, you can always learn something from it.

Everything You Write is Awful

Every writer goes through this and chances are, it really isn't that bad. The important thing is that you are writing. Even if it is awful, it can be edited. You can't do anything with a blank page.

So, before you wollow in self-pity/loathing, remember this: even bad writing days can be good.

How about you? How do you get yourself through those bad days? Let me know in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips for dealing with a slump. I employ a brute force method--I find that if I can get even a few words down, it helps unlock something and I wind up with several more. They're not always great, but like you said--some words are better than no words.