Weekend Write-In: What to do When You Can’t Write

Some people (like my husband) say I should run every day. Just a mile. Ten minutes! Anyone can do that much! But I can’t. My legs hurt; my lungs explode; the thoughts of the quitter I am derail me.

Sometimes writing is like this. Same advice. Same expectations. Same torment. Same defeat.

So when I can’t write. When I absolutely can’t think of anything, here’s what I do, instead:

  1. I rewrite. Even if it means rewriting stuff I’m not particularly excited about. A day can’t be wasted if you improve something, right?
  2. I add a page to the journal I keep for my daughters (and you can start one anytime for anyone!). What’s great about this is that a) the audience is guaranteed and b) I end up writing something down that I’m thankful I recorded. I suppose letters would work here, too, and everyone loves receiving real mail.
  3. I research possible places to submit my work. When else do people do this tedious stuff? Compiling submission guidelines, website links, etc. when I’m not writing means that, when that urge returns (and it always does no matter how much I despair), I don’t have to stop to do the business of writing.
  4. I look at what I have already and try to decide: what should I do with this? A few years ago, after my agent rejected (in this order) my novel and me, the blues came to stay for a long, dark, lonesome winter. One day, I took out the stories I’d already written and laid them across my bed. Do I have enough pages for a collection? I wondered. I did. Then I researched where to send it. Hmm. AWP Grace Paley Prize. What the hell?
  5. I read other people’s stuff and leave comments of encouragement, blogsites, Goodreads, FB posts. It’s writing, right? And, again, there’s an audience.
  6. I read.
  7. I people watch.
  8. I try not to beat myself up.

I wish I could write every day. But I’m like most writers I know: I have a job that isn’t writing; I have a family; I get my teeth cleaned; I feed my cats. And so, I console myself with some other writing-related pursuit.

What about you? How do you fill the muse-less hours??

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