5 Tips on Writing Through a Difficult Time

Saturday, September 01, 2018
In the middle of a difficult time, it can be tremendously painful to write. In fact, writing is often the last thing on my mind when I'm stressed out or handling something difficult. However, I have discovered some things I can do that keep me writing. Sometimes all I can manage are a few pages or a few hundred words, but keeping in touch with my writing self means so much to me during a bad time. So, here's my methods that may help you:

1) Don't let location inhibit you.

I don't know about you, but often times I have this image in my head that I'm supposed to be writing at my grand handmade oak desk facing out my 30 acre backyard in a chilly fall day with the sun shining in through the window. Realistically speaking, that isn't how I write at all. In the midst of a bad day, the best chance for me to write is wherever I'm at. How? Many times, I use an app. The one I use is called "JotterPad." The interface works for me and it syncs up with Google Drive, so my files are saved. I have written far more thanks to this app than if I waited for that perfect moment in the perfect setting.

So, let writing find you wherever you are. Stuff a notebook in the kitchen that you can grab easily. Write by email that you add to throughout the day at work. Write on post it notes at you leave at your desk. Text yourself story scenes.

2) Keep it in sight.

I don't do much of it these days but I do like to handwrite on occasion. Keeping my notebooks in view is my link back to easier days of writing. Often times, I read through these notebooks and it inspires me. If you are blocked, read through past work. I'm not talking about the published stuff. I'm talking about notebooks and files that contain incomplete stories, the handwritten drafts that are practically illegible and the scraps of ideas that you read and can't figure out why it ever inspired you at all.  Keep in touch with your writing and it won't be so unreachable when you are ready to return and you never know, you may just start writing.

3) Journal.

I love to write fiction but I sometimes need to empty my brain. I pull out my journal and just write things out. It's private, it's for me, and it's simply something that helps me process the world around me. If you don't have an official journal, just start typing out your thoughts on some kind of notepad on your computer. You will be surprised the kind of difference this makes and how much it unclogs your brain and relieves stress.

4) Listen to music.

You know what inspired my latest writing session? Listening to music. It was a stormy Sunday night and my mom and I were cooking dinner and we put on music. Usually on Sunday nights I'm fighting the blues badly but I let myself really enjoy the music. I listened. Really listened. When I sat down to relax, I got a spark of inspiration and I went with it. I ended up finishing a story that has plagued me for so long (using my app!) and I'm now in the revision stage. So, put on headphones and put away distractions. Listen to music that just speaks to your soul. And really listen. You may just be surprised at what spark of creativity inspires you!

5) Give yourself a break.

In the midst of a bad time, sometimes you need to give yourself a break. Yes, I'm sure we all know that discipline is one of the most important factors for being a writer. Yet, sometimes we just need a break. Writing will wait. In the meantime, consider reading things outside of your comfort zone. Buy coloring books and crayons at the store and get in touch with your inner child. Do stream of consciousness writing. Bad times can feel like forever, but they do change, even if it's ourselves that change. So my last piece of advice is simple, take it easy on yourself. Writing will be there when you're ready.

How do you write through the bad days? 


Margo Dill said...

This is a post near and dear to my heart. I had a bad year(s). LOL One thing I did was start being honest about it on The Muffin and on my blog. I wrote about how divorce and finding a full-time job and being a single parent gave me no room for creativity, and just that little bit of honesty and writing on a blog kept me going. I stayed in my critique group. I kept teaching courses for WOW! and editing for people, and eventually, I found my way back to writing creatively again.

As for your suggestions, I did a lot of journaling (Morning pages) and giving myself a break.

You can get to the point where you think you will never write again. I think I even made that ridiculous declaration to my friends. And I think they all rolled their eyes. :) I think it's important as writers that we are open about these subjects so that someone going though a bad day or several realizes she is not alone and that there is hope at the end of the dark tunnel.

Joanne said...

This is a lovely, on-point, encouraging post. I love the practical strategies you offered.

Angela Mackintosh said...

I can relate to this post, Nicole, and Margo's comment above! I've had a challenging year with two surgeries, and all the physical and emotional issues that come with it. I've not been able to exercise all year, and if anyone knows me, that's my jam, what makes me happy and keeps me sane. I took a brief break from writing and killed it playing adventure video games! Then forced myself back into writing by taking a class and wrote about the issues that were bothering me, and workshopped them with other writers. When I look back at my essays from classes, they are all so different, depending on what I'm going through. The last class I took, my essays were super intense and filled with anger, and in this current class I'm taking, they are filled with wonder and curiosity. I'm trying different styles and not focusing on the finished product or publication, rather different techniques of writing and experimentation. I also wrote in a stream of consciousness to music, trying to recreate a club scene that happened in my teens. I had so much fun doing that! So I guess, my advice is to keep writing throughout all these life experiences and you'll be rewarded with a body of work, turning those bad times into something worthwhile: art.

Nicole Pyles said...

I've totally thought that same thing too! Thinking I'll never write again, but then like an itch that doesn't go away, I return. It's always amazing how writing can find us again!

Nicole Pyles said...

Absolutely! I have to smile about the video games thing because Sims is my jam (someone described the game like a little dollhouse and I'm like...YES!!). And I agree completely...keep writing in a difficult time and it can give you an amazing body of work you will appreciate layer! More than you realize!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Nicole--I occasionally peruse my old journals and you're right. There are times that I'm inspired by something written weeks (or years) ago.

Wouldn't it be nice if writing was a linear thing? However, I suppose if it was, we'd miss out on some of those sparks that come when we digress, when we detour, when we veer off the path.

Great post, as usual.

Nicole Pyles said...

@Sioux - thanks Sioux! I was actually inspired by an old piece of writing just recently that sparked a new idea...that I still need to write down actually. And it was something originally written years ago! Love old notebooks for that reason!

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