1. Take a tip from the original artistic theft genius…Before you write, rewrite! Hunter S. Thompson spent loads of what we would call “writing time” to rewrite the classics of his favorite authors, such as The Great Gatsby. Writers always tell you to pay attention to sentence structure and development when you read, and rewriting is a fun way to do this. Don’t have time to rewrite a grand masterpiece? Sit down in your favorite coffee shop, choose a short story or article online and steal!
2. Create a ritual. When do you write your best? Laying down on your stomach in a park on a blanket or in your room, at your desk with The Smiths playing in the background? Writers, feel free to customize your experience! Writing is tough enough, already. Write where you want, how you want and when you want.
3. Now, shake it off! (Yes, that’s a Taylor Swift reference) To keep things fresh, choose a few rituals to break every once in awhile. Today, don’t write indoors, don’t write over a glass of wine, don’t write with the same album on. Break ritual and see where it leads.
4. Travel to a new place. Some of the best writing has come from travel because new experiences revitalize our writing, cause us to learn something new about ourselves and offer the opportunity to hear new stories. Also, travel helps us to focus on detail. What is the exact taste that you are receiving from that bowl of mussels? What is the exact date that this museum was built and by whom? These questions accompany the travel experience and can help you gain a better grasp on writing with detail.
5. Constantly ask for feedback. Feedback is necessary to be a writer because it allows you to see with a different pair of eyes. An article that you may think is witty and complex could sound unoriginal to a reader…and this is something you want to hear before you send it out for publication. Find a community of writers, online or in person that can bring out your best writing. Take a class. Ask your mentors and fellow writers to tell you when they see improvement and when they see lack of motivation. P.S. Train your BS detectors and only use things that actually help you. Trash anything that doesn’t help your process.
6. Ask to hear stories …and I don’t just mean from your five hometown best friends. Though our family and friends are wonderful sources of stories and articles, often their experience is so similar to ours that it does not lead to anything fresh. Try to meet new people regularly and ask to hear their stories. Not only will it make you a more conscious person, it will make you a well rounded writer.
7. Stop fearing failure. Fear will happen and it will happen big! When it does happen, be prepared. Acknowledge that there will be times when a sentence creates controversy, when your article isn’t chosen for publication, when an influence tells you to give up. When you do fail, just remember that so did many of your literary heroes. Use them as your inspiration. Find a post-failure process that works for you and return to it every time.
8. Do something that makes you feel uncomfortable at least once a week. I am, of course, not asking you to go out and yell “Hallabalugga” at your mailman before walking away in shame. Instead, I would like you to attend a controversial lecture, watch a documentary that makes you cringe, volunteer to speak at a conference and then spend the next few weeks feeling butterflies in your stomach. Writers are like actors. In order to create, our feelings have to be close to us. How else can we receive the power to kill the characters that we care about or write a new essay that rehashes an embarrassing story? Feeling uncomfortable, feeling fear, feeling alive can help us press refresh on our creativity!
9. Maintain an inspiration collection. This can be in the form of a book, file or folder, but it has to be something that you open and receive inspiration and encouragement from. Collect great sentences, quotes, movies, art, greeting cards- whatever it is that reminds you why you want to write and how you write. It is always great to have things like this nearby when you write to motivate you. Also, what a lot of people don’t know is this collection can include people! Maintain an inspiration community- of writers, of family, of friends and of teachers, all who believe in your work and are willing to give you inspiration (and validation!) when you need it.
10. Treat writing like that ex-boyfriend you still have feelings for. In other words, take a short break. Writing can be a brutal lover- it can wake you up in the middle of the night with ideas and then stand over your shoulder laughing while you actually try to execute these ideas. One painful sentence at a time. Need a break? Close the laptop, put down the pencil, grab a scone, flee.