Early January is a unsettling time. The climax of Christmas has passed. Its aftermath heralds the return to normality – for most that means an element of humdrum. And after taking the obligatory break it can be difficult to rediscover your writing groove – although this lack of literary motivation can strike at any time of year. Here are my top five tips to fire up your creativity again.
Be wary of New Year’s Resolutions. It’s that time of year, isn’t it, when we are supposed to promise ourselves – and/or others – that we will change in some way, and somehow become better versions of ourselves. I am all for setting achievable goals, but don’t set the benchmark too high. Before getting a deal I used to say each January “This year I will get published.” It doesn’t work like that. I said that for eight years and believe me, I tried! First you have to write a great manuscript. Then tightly edit it. Next attract the attention of an agent or publisher. Then you have to get that contract. All of this is an awful lot to expect to achieve in twelve months. As is “This year I will become a Kindle top ten author”. So many factors are out of your control for that one (the jacket and price your publisher gives your book, their marketing strategy, the competition around at the time of your book’s release). Be very careful of setting yourself unrealistic resolutions because when and if you fail, your mojo will disappear in a puff of smoke and all you will be left with is an overwhelming sense of failure.
How about, instead, getting into the mindset of realising small achievements are just as important and all lead to the bigger goal? This year I will… go on a writing course/read more “How-to” books/start sending my work out to agents/learn more about planning social media strategies/ aim to connect more widely with bloggers.
Read, read and read. I find there is nothing more motivating that discovering a new favourite author. I’ve gone on something of a reading binge, in recent months, and have felt utterly inspired by the quality of an eclectic range of novels. They’ve filled me with the desire to up my game and given me the confidence to take my work in a different direction. It’s very easy to get in a rut with our own writing, so try to read out of your genre and challenge your natural instincts.
Take a look at this list if you aren’t sure where to start:
How to Stop Time – Matt Haig
The Art of Hiding – Amanda Prowse
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Elinor Oliphant is Fine – Gail Honeyman
One of us is Lying – Karen McManus
Friend Request – Laura Marshall
All That She Can See – Carrie Hope Fletcher
The Five People you Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
Step out of your comfort zone. As mentioned above, it’s easy to become complacent about our own writing. I’m currently working on a project that is challenging me on many levels. It may work, it may not. But the process has fired up my mojo in ways I never imagined. I’m trying out new structures and styles and loving every second. Even if it all comes to nothing, I am going to have learnt so much. I feel like a new writer again, unsure of myself but willing to give it my all. So go on – maybe start off with a short story in a genre that’s unfamiliar to you. Or stick to what you know but be adventurous with the themes or setting. I once wrote a romantic comedy set in Ancient Egypt. It doesn’t fit the market and will probably never find a publisher, but writing it taught me so much about fact-finding and creating authentic settings. I still get excited just thinking about it!
Head over to this post to find out more about stepping out of your comfort zone.
Ditch the self-doubt Hey you! Yes, I’m talking to you! Stop doubting yourself this instant. Have you just received a rejection? Or had a bad review? Or has a well-meaning friend or relative asked why you still haven’t signed a six figure deal?
STEP BACK. Look at yourself objectively. Perhaps you’ve managed to complete a manuscript or send something off to an agent or publisher. Well done, amazing you! Whether you are published or not, putting finger to keyboard and finishing a project is an impressive feat, as is having the guts to put your work *out there*. Just keep on going. All you will do is improve.
Party time is over – so the pity parties stop here. As I’ve mentioned, it took me eight years (and several manuscripts under the bed) to sign my first deal. You WILL get there if you keep on persevering. For more inspiration, read my post about self-doubt here.
Take a break. Perhaps it’s not post Christmas and your problem is that you’ve been spending too much time at the keyboard. Often I’ve lost my motivation after I’ve been working flat out on a project for a while. Perhaps you’ve just finished a first draft. Or gone through your edits. Or put together a detailed synopsis for a new work. All of these activities take intense mental energy and it’s not surprising if we lose our mojo for a while. In my experience the best thing is to take a complete break from writing (and social media if possible) for a few days or a week.
So during your usual writing time instead catch up with that housework. Meet up with friends. Sleep. Indulge a hobby like baking. Get out into nature. It won’t be long before your enthusiasm has returned and is propelling you back to the keyboard with fresh ideas.