This week, we have the latest in Claudia Hall Christian’s regular column on Surviving Serial Fiction. This week’s post – the third in her series – is aimed towards helping you get in the mood for writing even when the muse hasn’t shown up. We are excited for this opportunity to share more of Claudia’s expertise with our Tuesday Serial community. Welcome, Claudia!
It’s happened to all of us. We set aside time to write. We arrange for babysitters for our children. We rent a motel room like Maya Angelo, or we finally clear the house of the loud and needy. We even give the dog a bone and close the cats in the bedroom.
Finally, it’s time to write. We sit down at our computer or sharpen our pencil or even put a new piece of paper in our typewriter and…
The story that has been pounding at our brains is suddenly, mysteriously gone. You try to track it down, but no matter how much you try, you simply cannot get it back. You end up spending your time on Facebook trying to convince yourself that you’re doing “marketing.”
What can else you do?
Here are is my Super Ninja Trick for getting in the writing mood:
Take a short (10-20 minute) nap.
It’s counter-intuitive, I know. You’re tight on time and you need to get your writing done. Let’s face it — staring at the computer isn’t getting you anywhere, and you are not doing “marketing” on Facebook.
A focused, short nap will revive the story in your brain and allow you to use your remaining time effectively. Here’s how you do it:
1. Make a strong cup of coffee or a shot of espresso. Anything caffeinated will do.
2. Think about where you are in your story. Be specific. Where exactly in the world is your main character and what is he or she doing there? Bring to mind all of the specific details. What is your character wearing? What’s his or her hair like? Have they showered? eaten? used the restroom? Try to avoid thinking about being stuck. The more you think about your blank mind, the more your mind will continue to be blank. Focus on your story.
3. Get everything ready for your nap. Find a quiet space and get comfortable. Most people sleep better when they are lying down. If you can, pull up a spot on the floor or couch near your writing desk.
4. Figure out a way to time your sleep. Research shows that a 20-minute nap is energizing. If you sleep for more than an hour, you are sleeping and not napping. We want to nap. I use the Pzizz Energizer audio tape. They now have an app, and there are plenty of good nap apps. Find one you like and that works for you. If you’re a great sleeper, just set the timer on your computer or phone and lay down.
5. Drink the coffee, start your tape or app or timer, and take your nap. Let your mind go. While you are sleeping, your unconscious is working out the details of your story and the caffeine is working its way into your system.
Twenty minutes later, your mind will be filled with your story and caffeine. Ready, set, go. Get writing.
If it doesn’t work for you the first time, give it another try. The more you practice this, the better it works. Most adults are out of the practice of actually sleeping. We have to train our brains to sleep. Taking a nap will do just that.
Sometimes, the story is simply not ready to be written. You’ll know that when you wake up. If you wake up and your story isn’t there, hit your To Do list instead. The story will come when it’s ready. In the meantime, you will have plowed through a bunch of stuff from your to-do list.
See you next month when we talk tools that help keep me on track.
What are your tips to get in the writing mood? What works best for you? Let me know in the comments section or shoot me an email.
If you enjoyed this post, you can view past installments by clicking “Special Events and Guests” on the menu bar above and then selecting “Surviving Serial Fiction Series”. And please consider subscribing to the entire series via email.
Claudia Hall Christian writes thrillers, mysteries, and serial fiction including, the long-running Denver Cereal and Suffer a Witch, set in modern Boston and based in the Salem Witch Trials. She writes the Alex the Fey thriller series, the Seth and Ava Mysteries, and Jornada del Muerto. More about Claudia at her website.