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Four More Ways Out of a Writing Rut by Yvonne Cassidy

Writing.ie | Resources | Writers’ Tips

Yvonne Cassidy

Last week I gave you four of the tips that I use to kick start my writing if I find myself in a writing rut.

Hopefully they worked for you and right now you are taking a much needed short break between feverish hours spent working on your novel or your short story or finally, finally getting that poem just how you want it.

But just in case you need a bit of inspiration today, here’s four more things I do that can help me get started…

  • Write “off the page”

Some years ago, my friends and I did a writing workshop where the teacher – a novelist – talked about writing “off the page.” We thought this was very amusing. For many months we used this term: “We’re working so hard writing off the page,” we would say to each other around cramped pub tables covered in beer bottles and empty packets of crisps. When someone asked if much writing had been accomplished over the weekend, the respondent might lift an eyebrow and say: “Why yes, but it was all off the page ” and pause for a gale of guffaws.

It’s taken me almost a decade, but now I get it. What writing “off the page” means to me is that I can be immersed in my story, my characters, my creative process, even when I am not actually writing anything. Sometimes working on a new novel means sitting in front of my laptop but sometimes it means listening to music, or going for a walk. Often, it means reading. If I’m really having trouble getting the words down, it might be a sign that I need to go and do something else, to write “off the page.” I just need to make sure I get the balance right and write “on the page” as well.

  • Set a deadline

Deadlines. Talk to any published writer and chances are they will have a lot to say about deadlines. True, deadlines can be difficult, stressful, even unreasonable, but they do also motivate. You don’t need to be published to have deadlines, you can set deadlines for yourself, or, if you don’t think you’ll be as committed to yourself you can set them with writing friends who need motivation too. Being part of a writing class or writing group offers many benefits but for me one of the most important is getting used to the practice of being set – and meeting – deadlines.

  • Rest

yvonne_cassidy goodbuy 140x210If you are anything like me, finding time to write can be hard won. A lot of other things come first: work, family, friends, on a bad day even cleaning the grouting in the bathroom (see point one from last week). This can lead to a sense of panic when I do sit down to write because I know this time needs to be really productive, it really needs to count. And it can also mean that sometimes, by the time I sit down to write, I am really tired from doing all those other things I needed to do first.

Last summer, I found out that tiredness and panic are not a good combination. This realisation hit me in West Cork, where I had rented a cottage for five whole days of uninterrupted writing. My deadline for my novel was looming large so when I returned to my desk after my first morning’s work to find my eyelids heavy and my mind wandering, I was scared and furious with myself. It took me a little while to figure out that what I needed wasn’t to beat myself up – what I needed was a nap.

By giving myself permission to take a daily nap after my morning writing stint for every day of those five days, I arrived at my desk in the afternoons rejuvenated and attentive in a way I couldn’t have been had I pushed through. For me, that creative part of myself needs a careful mix of discipline and gentleness. My job as a writer is to find a balance that works to get the words on the page.

  • Use a writing prompt to get started

Like most things in life, writing is about practice. If I want to gain better upper body strength I might do push ups every day to build those muscles. In the same way, working with writing prompts helps me to strengthen my writing muscle. Writing prompts are a fun and spontaneous way to get writing and because there is less at stake our inner critic tends to quieten down for longer. Plenty of people offer daily writing prompts on Twitter – yes, this is a plug, I am one of them – so why not make this a part of your routine for a week in a row and see where it takes you? While you might not have your novel or your story or your poem complete at the end of it, after seven days of writing, I suspect that the last you’ll see of that slump is in your rear view mirror.

(c) Yvonne Cassidy

About the author

Yvonne Cassidy is the New York based author of three novels. Her latest, How Many Letters Are In Goodbye? is the story of Rhea Farrell, a young Irish girl, homeless on the streets of New York, trying to find out more about her mother who died when Rhea was only three.

Rhea unearths buried secrets of her mother’s past, all the while confronting some secrets of her own: the truth behind a childhood accident and her confusion around her sexuality. As Rhea discovers who her mother truly was, she starts to figure out just who she herself wants to be.

How Many Letters Are in Goodbye? is in shops now, or pick up your copy online here.

Find out more about Yvonne at her website: www.yvonnecassidy.com

or follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/yvonnecassidybooks

For daily writing prompts follow Yvonne on Twitter @YvonneCassidyNY

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