How to combat tricky writing sessions

Greer Glover

Even the most experienced writers can have difficult writing sessions. The words aren’t flowing or you’ve a bad case of self-editing as you go. As a result, you’ve hardly written anything worth keeping, if at all.

The temptation to leave

When writing feels dry and there are no magic moments to propel you along, it’s tempting to get up and fiddle around, distracting yourself with an assortment of jobs that you’ve been meaning to do for weeks, or (my most enjoyable distraction pastime) reading the newspaper.

Stay at your desk

But the best thing you can do is remain at your desk, however much it feels like a waste of time. A handful of sentences that are causing you a headache versus tackling the niggling pile of admin that’s building up? It’s easy to see why you’d give up writing for the day.

The advice is to stay at your desk. Eking out a few more dry sentences is much better than writing nothing at all – which is what you’ll be doing if you attack that admin pile.

Create something to work with

Perseverance brings rewards. Even if you’ve written just a few paragraphs, by the end of your writing session, you’ll have something to work with when you sit down the next day. You can choose to run a red line through the whole passage or you may want to take one sentence and start with that. Either way, you’ll have something to begin your next writing session with.

But you can’t do it if you’ve left your desk and your writing behind.

Your job as a writer

It’s completely normal to experience difficult writing sessions. Who writes an entire draft of anything without losing momentum at one stage? It’s normal for writing sessions to be as bland as they are energetic, and when they’re bland, it’s your job as a writer to recognise this and push on through.

Just as you’d have to stick out a tricky morning in the office instead of packing up and going home. You don’t go home. Getting on with it is what you do.

Resilience

A long-term writing project takes energy and involves resilience. No novel was written when an author ‘felt like it’. No short story was written overnight. (Well, the first draft might have been but the story would have been drafted and redrafted to achieve that wonderful ‘moment’ effect.)

If you only wrote when you felt like it, you’d be writing – after the initial burst of excitement at having the idea – at irregular times of the day. You can’t sustain this in the long term and you may find your writing sessions become increasingly sporadic.

Train yourself to ‘show up’ at your desk at the same time each day, or on certain days of the week, at a certain time. Develop a routine and stick to it. Don’t let yourself get up until you’ve reached a target word count.

So don’t give up when the words don’t flow. Write through the problem by pushing on and persevering. It’s part of the writing life.

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Greer Glover

Greer Glover

Fiction Editor I Mentor I Writer