I love writing. I love dreaming up outlines, envisioning what pictures would best complement my words, and enjoy proofreading my pieces to ensure they're grammatically sound and aesthetically pleasing. As long as I can remember, I've always "seen words" in my head when learning a new language or listening to someone speak, and endorphins do cartwheels through my nervous system when I succeed in crafting sentences that don't end with a preposition (#EnglishNerd).
But what happens when your Muse suddenly goes on vacation and words fail you?
Lately, I've been overcome with writing malaise. There are still so many stories from our Europe trip this past summer that I haven't shared, and the numerous weekend excursions and backyard tourist trips we've taken over the last three months are gathering dust in my drafts folder, fitted with grand-sounding titles but devoid of content. I feel like I'm running a travel writing blog without any actual writing being done!
This past week I was relieved to discover that I'm not the only travel blogger who's not been feeling the whole writing thing right now. Stephenie from 20 Years Hence outlined her reasons why she hasn't been hitting the publish button lately either. I just wish I knew when my Muse plans to return to its upright and locked position. We're roughly seven weeks away from our next international trip, and I can barely summon the motivation to write about our planning and research process or share any excitement about it.
It's been a couple weeks since I've generated new content, having simply just published pieces I wrote months ago or not publishing anything at all. I'd always thought I shouldn't write unless I felt like it, since my writing is largely reflective of my current mood, but I think I'll have to take a page from my writer friend Amanda and simply start exercising my writing muscle even when I just don't feel like it. In her piece "I (Ususally) Don't Enjoy Writing," she describes how she would have "bursts of inspiration" during which she would write her heart out. And then she would hit a writer's block in which weeks would pass without any writing. Finally, she realized that she had to make a change from her roller coaster writing habits:
"When I finally got serious about writing, decided I wanted it as a career, and was determined to make it happen, I threw my feelings out the window. I told myself that I must write, whether I wanted to or not. At first, the important thing was just to write something each day, even if it was only a few sentences. Then I raised the bar, and forced myself to make it a minimum of 500 words a day, 5 days a week, regardless of the time of day, regardless of inspiration. If I missed a day, I had to make it up.
It worked. Somehow, I turned writing into a habit, something that I could do without even thinking about it, without feeling inspired, without loving it. It became a part of my life, every day. A few years later, I am happy to say I am more productive with that slow and steady method than with all the highs and lows of inspiration and lack thereof. And the process has become addicting, exciting, and more rewarding than I ever thought it could." -Amanda Flynn (emphasis added)This pragmatic approach to writing may sound unromantic, but it certainly sounds more productive than my current approach of just not writing anything at all.
So as March comes to a close, I'm evaluating what word count or post count goal to set myself for April so that I can cultivate a habit of writing again.
What do you think? Do you force yourself to write or simply wait for inspiration to return?