Why write? It might seem obvious that keeping a journal during this stressful time could be beneficial. As we write out anxious feelings, we express and impose structure on what seems overwhelming. But whether you’re writing a fictional story, first-person narrative, poem, play or journal, cultivating a practice of writing may have benefits for our general well-being right now. Exercising our creativity can bring a sense of joy, pride in what we’ve created, and a sense of momentary peace.
But how do we support a creative practice when we’re feeling overwhelmed, pulled in many directions, full of worry? We asked writing instructor Leslie Hall to share some advice and her own experience maintaining a writing practice. Leslie’s summer class, 'Beginning Fiction – Crash Course', will be open for registration on May 26th.
What would you say to someone who feels an urge to write in this moment but is struggling to get started?
Write anything! Don’t stress over writing something that is wonderful, insightful, engaging, or good. Just write. Set a timer for five minutes and write about the light outside. Write about your pet. Write about how you are feeling mentally and physically. I love to use the writing prompt “ice cream.” It’s just ice cream! Write anything about it you want in any format you want.
The act of writing jump starts our creativity. Five minutes is never enough. Try it for 20 minutes. What you write toward the end of the time is what you needed to write.
Think of timed writing as your warm-up, like doing scales on a musical instrument. Once you are warmed up, now write the piece you want to like a poem, a scene in a novel, or a how-to article.
What about to someone who had a regular writing practice but is feeling stuck and uninspired?
Write about how you are feeling. Write about how your life has changed in the last two months. Write about feeling uninspired. Not only should we be capturing these changes to our world, letting them out and making it okay to feel what you are feeling will help your creativity.
If you can’t write anything, work on editing or plotting/planning. Read writing books and take writing webinars online (many are free). Immerse yourself in the writing world. If you know other writers, start virtual critique groups, as much for the community as for the feedback.
Can you suggest any specific writing prompts or exercises that might be helpful?
- Describe in detail how you are feeling physically right now. Get as specific as possible.
- Pick a food you love and write about it as a person who hates it.
- Look out the window and describe what you see in great detail.
- Write a conversation you had and include what you wish you had said—and how it would have changed the result.
- Find more of my favorite writing prompts here.
Are you personally able to create space for writing during this time? What are the challenges and how are you approaching them? What are the benefits?
I suddenly have lots of time. But I too feel less motivated and find it hard to focus. But once I actually start writing, I feel better.
I’m happy to chat with any writer who needs some help. Several of the writing instructors, including me, will do critique for a small fee to help writers feel like they are moving forward with their writing.
Photo credits: Gift Habeshaw & Thought Catalog