Writing When You're Uninspired
It’s May 24. The sun keeps trying to poke out of the clouds, but the clouds won’t let it stick around long. They’ve been playing this game for weeks, and the dreary, rainy weather certainly hasn’t left me feeling inspired. Sprinkle in work chaos that kept me in the office well past 5:00PM most nights last week, and the constant game of “catch up” I’m playing just to stay in touch with my college friends, and you’ve got a girl who has no time to write. Let me rephrase that.
You’ve got a girl who has no time to write for leisure.
Technically, I write everyday. It’s in my job description. I also write for my freelance clients, but, the more hours I work and the busier I get, the more I find myself gravitating toward my trusty pen and paper, itching to share my thoughts on a number of topics. The problem is, the topics I want to write about don’t always fit within the “niche” of this blog.
In the blogging community there’s a lot of talk surrounding the value of aligning your content with a certain niche. Sure, if you’re a mommy blog or a fitness blog, you know exactly who your audience is and your audience knows exactly what to expect when they visit your site. But does staying within a certain niche limit our capacity for creativity?
I haven’t posted in a few weeks for two reasons:
I am busy (seriously, so busy)
I haven’t wanted to write about any of the topics that “fit” within my niche.
Don’t get me wrong. I love writing about being a young professional, about marketing, and about networking and the creative scene in Minneapolis. I love to recap local events I’ve attended and give shoutouts to the hardworking people I’ve met. But oftentimes when I feel like I can only write about certain topics, I end up not writing at all. (Shoutout to those college days when I was so overwhelmed I just didn’t do any of it! Anyone else?) I also find that sometimes, especially with this blog, I hold myself back. “Am I producing my best work? Am I inspiring anyone? Am I using strong vocabulary? I know I’m a better writer than this!” I hear my inner voice panic.
I think the hardest part of any creative’s job is the pressure to produce quality work when we’re not feeling inspired. That’s something other professionals don’t have to deal with in the same way writers, designers, musicians, and other artists do. Like other 9-5ers, we are expected to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day and produce work that “wows." But, that’s just not feasible. It’s exhausting.
All this said, I’ve thought of a couple practices to implement if you’re like me, waiting for inspiration to strike and panicking while trying to produce something worthwhile.
1. Walk away from it.
When I hit a wall, I find it’s best to close the tab, get up, and walk away—or work on something else for a little while. We can only be expected to rewrite the same paragraph so many times before we’re turning out absolute crap. And honestly, it doesn’t take long for that to happen.
One of the biggest challenges as a copywriter is spending an entire day flipping from client to client and trying to make each one’s ad or email or website just as compelling as the one before. Staring at a screen all day is draining no matter what you do, so if you find yourself daydreaming, scrolling through Twitter, or willing the fire alarm to go off so you can go home, just get up and work on something else. Come back to the task at hand when you feel more *inspired.* (Unless, of course, you’re on a deadline. Then, sorry, you’re stuck outta luck.)
2. Switch it up.
Go for a walk. Listen to music. Read a book. Have a drink. Watch a movie. Call a friend.
Whatever it is, do something to get your creative juices flowing. This is why I love reading so much. When I read a well-written book, I feel inspired to create well-written work. Reading also introduces us to countless styles of writing, new vocabulary, and new ideas. The same can be said for any of the other abovementioned activities. It’s been said that no ideas are truly new; every idea is just an adaptation of a previously-introduced idea, whether we’re aware of it or not. (Don’t believe me? Watch this.) So, maybe inspiration will strike when your favorite comedian shouts out a punchline, or a song introduces you to words you hadn’t heard before.
3. Keep writing.
I hate to say it, but sometimes, the best way to get out of a rut is to write your way out. It seems counterintuitive, but getting all your ideas out on paper is the best way to spark new ones. It takes a lot of practice (and I’m not there yet myself) to let the words fall out—whatever they might be–and worry about editing or making sense of them later. Just open up a new, blank document, or turn a new page in your notebook, and begin. You’ll likely be surprised at what words, ideas, and themes come out when you allow yourself to just write, uninterrupted. The things you write down will likely spark a new idea, which may be just the nugget you needed to finish a project.
Writing is a process, and it looks different for everyone. If you’re struggling adhering to a niche, finding inspiration, or meeting a deadline, first: take a breath. Then, refer to this post. I truly hope it helps you feel a little more inspired.