Creative writing is a muscle! 3 most important patterns to fulfill creative goals

NewsBharati    08-Jun-2020   
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When the lockdown was first announced, many aspiring writers looked upon this long summer as an opportunity to finally finish their maiden literary project. And yet, three months later, one of the most common complaint I hear from many first time and new writers is how they were unable to really utilize this down-time to fulfill their creative goals. The anxiety and stress induced by the lockdown (and its accompanying economic aftermath) is understandably the most prominent reason for the same.
Not to brag, but I did manage to write during this break fairly regularly. I conceptualized, wrote and edited a 25000 word novella, finished two lengthy rounds of editing of my soon-to-release novel, developed the storyboard of a screenplay based on my novel Tears for Strangers, followed by 60 pages of the screenplay itself. I also finished writing 2 short stories for an upcoming series with Juggernaut and tried my hand at literary fiction writing. I have observed some patterns and actions that helped me to write during this time. I am sharing them here.

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Let us begin by first acknowledging that barring a few super-senior citizens with faint memories of the second world war, nobody else in the world population has ever experienced anything remotely similar to what the corona pandemic has forced us to go through. The new normal, an all-encompassing buzzword doesn’t even begin to cover the enormity of the changes we as a society are going through. Given the situation, it is normal to feel dispirited, anxious and consequently un-creative. You would have to be a sociopath not to feel anxious while the whole world is on the brink of a viral apocalypse. People who are operating in whatever capacity, haven’t overcome anxiety; they have just learned to stay functional in spite of it. That is one of the reasons, I am wary about setting tough goals during these times, especially in creative endeavours. I know I would write and edit at a much lower efficiency than if I had taken three months off from my work in order to focus on my writing. That’s just the way it is.
On the other hand, cutting yourself slack doesn’t mean abandoning your goals altogether. The opportunity you have in the form of available time, even if you are working from home, is simply unprecedented and this opportunity would not come again unless you actually take the risk of taking a break from work. You owe it to yourself to use this time to the best of your ability. If there was ever a time to apply yourself diligently without worrying about the results- this is it.
What do I mean by making an effort? Simply speaking- setting aside an hour of your day, at least four to six times a week for writing. There would be days when you would simply sit without putting even a word on the screen or on paper. Don’t worry about it. Creative writing is a muscle. It requires warming, conditioning and regular exercise. An unproductive writing session is no different from that hour in gym when you thought nothing was going right. You have to trust the process and know even when you think nothing is happening, something usually is!
De-cluttering your mind is the second important part of this effort. One of the easiest things you can do, not just to facilitate this, but to improve the overall quality of your life, is to give yourself a break from the relentless, binary and often toxic political discourse on social media. I usually make sure that I am off all my social accounts for at least four to six hours prior to my writing session. I find these breaks from political social media to be very conducive to my creative writing.
In his seminal book On Writing, best-selling author Stephen King says that to become a writer you have to read a lot and write a lot. In the last three months, I have stepped up my reading. Reading, irrespective of genre/form is an excellent stimulant to one’s creative instincts. If you think you are stuck in your writing, open your kindle/tablet/book and get cracking.
Not just during the last three months, but in general, whenever I feel stuck while writing, I usually try my hand at writing something out of my comfort zone. This can mean anything from writing outside my usual genre to writing in longhand or writing something in my mother-tongue Marathi. I am not sure about the science behind this, but staying on the same road (creativity) but driving in a different lane, helps.
Finally, whether it is a multi-bestselling writer like J K Rowling or yours truly, the journey, almost without exception, starts with a man or a woman with an idea, a creative spark, a story to tell. What better way to de-stress than telling yourself a story? Worrying doesn’t prevent disaster, it prevents joy.
Don’t let worrying take the joy of writing away from you.