There is nothing worse than reading over your creative work and thinking to yourself what is this? We’ve all been there. You’ve spent months working on a novel, poetry collection, stage-play, and suddenly, the pages that once seemed so perfect, make you shift in your chair; drop your face into your hands; have you question why you ever wanted to become a writer in the first place.
But wait before you rip your work to shreds or delete your word document — hope is not lost. You just need to take a step back and remember for what reason you are writing. With these tips, you will soon see the marvellousness of your own creation once again.
Establish a system
It is easy to feel lost without having a writing plan or creative strategy. Establishing a routine allows you to have control and measure over your creative work. Sure, creativity doesn’t always fit onto a to-do list — but setting goals for your project allows you to see progress and stay focused on what you’re setting out to achieve. Having a system in place ensures you can keep writing, editing, revising, whilst also allowing you to maintain a good work:life balance. Following a schedule helps you to maintain confidence and avoid feelings of hopelessness.
Have a break
Following on from my last point… sometimes the cause of your loss and hopelessness isn’t the creative work itself. It is because you need a break. Down time is essential to any long process. It allows your mind to relax and your thoughts to settle. See your friends, explore a new place, binge your favourite show. Whatever you do, don’t engage with your creative piece. Let it rest and you will come back with a fresh set of eyes and a positive mindset. Take a break and try again later.
Remember your influences
Your influences are your secret weapons. On days where you feel like giving up, remember who inspired you to get where you are now. Remember who taught you to be a better writer. Engage with their work and soak in the inspiration. Reminding yourself why you write will give you a positive outlook on your work and push you to keep going.
Discuss your work
Talking through your ideas and creative thoughts with someone else not only allows for invaluable feedback, but allows you to process your own work with fresh eyes. You aren’t just considering your work in your head or on the page anymore, but aloud; fluidly — with opinions and discussions from someone other than yourself. Whether that someone offers you reassurance, feedback or compliments, or even constructive feedback, it’s a sure way to eliminate those feelings of loss and hopelessness.
Try a different creative activity
Pick up something creative that is totally unrelated to what you’re doing. Writing a play? Try painting. Compiling a poetry collection? Take up photography. Composing a series of short stories? Look into origami. Doing something different, something you hadn’t thought of before, will do two things: give you a well-deserved break and spark your imagination. You’ll go back to your work inspired and excited about what you can achieve.
Be inspired elsewhere
If your creative spark has gone out, ignite it with someone else’s. Listen to a new podcast, read something new, or attend a creative talk or workshop (we can help you out with that one!). Surrounding yourself with creative energy will allow you to throw yourself back into your work and think objectively about your piece. You aren’t insulting your writing capabilities by deleting a large chunk or rewriting the introduction, you’re improving.
Reflect on the past
Whenever I feel downtrodden about my creative work, I reflect on my past as a writer. It’s beneficial to look at old mistakes and previous successes. This sparks my creative mind and motivates me to keep going. Every new creative process shows progression and growth. If you read your work and think I can do better, you probably can. Remember that challenge you overcame last time? If you could succeed then, you can succeed now. You’ll keep getting better and better with everything you write. Don’t give up on yourself.
We all have different coping mechanisms, but I think we can all benefit from letting our frustration out this way. Grab a pillow, look into the mirror, climb to the top of a mountain: and scream. Get it all out. You’ll feel lighter, sillier, and ready to get back into your creative work.
Hopefully one or more of the above suggestions help to shake you out of your funk. Do you have any other suggestions that help you when you’re feeling lost? As always, let us know in the comments below!
About the author
Lana McIvor is currently reading English Literature with Creative Writing at the University of Surrey and holds a special interest in romance and drama novels and writing comedic stage-plays. This is her first year with the festival as she takes the position of head writer. When not writing, Lana can be found playing with new recipes in her kitchen.