I know that many writers are having trouble tapping into their creativity during the pandemic. Thankfully, Allie Pleiter has a book that can help with this problem, and I asked her to share some tips about writing under stress. Read on for some helpful advice from Allie. You’ll also learn more about her valuable book, How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG—A Practical Guide to Writing Through Tough Times.
Allie’s Tips For Writing Under Stress
As the author of How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG—A Practical Guide to Writing Through Tough Times, I’ve been getting a lot of cries for help from writers these days. The crisis we find ourselves in right now can squelch any writer’s creative energy. New words can feel impossible, the focus to revise eludes us, and we’re just plain stressed.
How to write…right now? Believe it or not, there are several things you can do to help yourself. Here are a few of my favorite tips:
#1: Try Small Batches In New Formats.
The trick is to pick a word count that feels doable–even if it must be tiny. One hundred words, for example, can fit on an index card. I suspect even the most traumatized of writers could manage six imperfect sentences that can be edited later. That work, once accomplished, can become the foothold for more. Can you tuck three or four cards into your pocket and set yourself the challenge to fill them? Your smartphone, a small notebook, or even email can help a small task feel small. All you need at first–maybe all you need at all–are baby steps.
#2: Change Locations.
Give yourself time in a different location in order to compartmentalize your brain space. You may not be able to go far—maybe only to the next room—but even that shift can make a difference. Ritualize it if it helps, saying: “At two p.m. I go out on the balcony with a cup of coffee and do my writing,” or “After lunch I make myself a cup of tea and write.” Remind yourself this is your time to work, and you can be fully present to whatever problems are facing you when you are done with your writing.
#3: When You Feel You Can’t Escape Your Situation, Start By Describing It.
Many books—fiction and nonfiction—have been born of personal difficulties. Writing about where you are right now can “prime the pump,” proving to your creative self that writing is possible. As a bonus, you may also discover the seeds of a new project in the process.
#4: Embrace The Lousy First Draft.
Brilliance is likely beyond your reach—even if you discover you work great under pressure. Tell yourself: “It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be written.” You can revise and polish your draft at another time once you get through the difficult stage of putting the words down on paper no matter how inelegant they feel. As best-selling author Nora Roberts famously said, “You can’t fix a blank page.”