If you’re anything like me, the January Blues are settling in. The weather isn’t great, Christmas feels like a thing of the distant past, and there isn’t much to look forwards to until Easter. Days are still dark, nights are still long, and you’ve probably been enduring a few lingering cold bugs.
We start January full of good intentions and energy, ready to take on life changes and New Year’s Resolutions. But it’s amazing how quickly that burst of motivation starts to sap away, how soon the thought of sitting at a desk and writing becomes off-putting.
So how do we power through the cold and dark and keep ourselves going? Here are five tips to reinvigorate your writing resolutions.
1. Give Yourself a Break from the Computer
I think a lot of writers have been guilty of staring at a screen for long periods of time and not doing much more than checking their emails. One of my main times for writing is after my other half has gone to bed, ahead of a night shift, or an early shift. Either way, he’s in bed before me, and I have a couple of hours to get my writing done without interruption. The problem is, I’m often already tired, my eyes weary from staring at a backlit screen at work, on my phone, and then on my computer. I’ll stubbornly stick at it, staring at the screen some more, but quite often my brain won’t settle into any sort of working mode, no matter how long I look at a blank page.
In this situation, it’s better to give up and do something else. Give yourself permission to walk away and do something that doesn’t involve staring at a screen. Wash your dishes, go for a walk, indulge in a hobby – whatever it is, make sure it’s something productive or something you enjoy, something you can feel good about. Yes, you’ll feel bad for not achieving your writing aims for the day, but at least you’ve put the time to good use. And next time you sit down for a writing session, you might just find your brain is refreshed.
2. Get Some Exercise
There’s a reason we feel sluggish in January – we’ve eaten badly over Christmas, overindulged in rich food, and have probably been snacking on leftover biscuit selections, sweets, alcohol and other goodies. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what Christmas is for. But when your body is sluggish, your brain often follows. If writing is like pulling teeth, instead of reaching for the packet of shortbread, put on a comfy pair of shoes and go for a walk. Getting your heart rate going, enjoying some fresh air and getting the body moving will not only blow out the cobwebs and aid digestion, but the endorphins will give your brain a kickstart too.
3. Recapture Your Inspiration
If you’ve tried both of the above and still aren’t having any joy, have a go at some activities around your writing project and try to remind yourself of your enthusiasm for it. These activities can be anything that is related to your writing project that isn’t putting words on a page. I like to create playlists for my projects on Spotify and build Pinterest Inspiration Boards. You could do some character profiles, brainstorm some back story, draw pictures if you are artistically inclined. If the activities are linked to your project, it isn’t even wasting time – definitely less of a waste of time than writing nothing! – and keeping yourself immersed in the world and characters of your project without the burden of trying to hit a word count can help relight the spark that you felt for the project in the first place.
We all know that reading is good for us, but when under pressure to hit a deadline – self-imposed or not – it can often be the first thing that’s sacrifice. But resist the temptation. Reading good writing is a great way to get the brain working again, and you might just find inspiration for the scene you are stuck on in someone else’s words.
If you’re worried about accidentally using elements from someone else’s story in your own project, read something completely different. A different genre, non-fiction in place of fiction and vice versa, a different age group. Take a walk down to your local library and spend an indulgent half and hour or so perusing the shelves. That covers exercise and taking a break from your computer, as well as providing you with some inspirational material, and supporting a local amenity to boot.
5. Forgive Yourself
So you had a bad day. So you had a bad week. It doesn’t matter. Beating yourself up about it is only going to make you less inclined to sit at your desk. Why would you even start doing something if you’re worked up about failing at it? January is a tough month for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. There’s no shame in failing to hit your goals.
Take a couple of days off to rest yourself, body and mind, then approach the project fresh. Were your goals too ambitious? Can you lower the bar for yourself so the daily goals are more achievable? Do that. It’s not giving up, it’s re-evaluating. And you might find if you have more manageable goals, you’ll start hitting them, and when you start hitting them, you’ll start exceeding them.
The brain is funny that way. We don’t like to fail, so we have to trick our brains into interpreting something as a victory. Get into a run of victories and they start to become easier to achieve. Find the right level for yourself – a compromise between challenging and achievable – and work up from there.