A Few Thoughts on Writing

Guest post by Shauna Niequist, Author of “Cold Tangerines“ and “Bittersweet

I’m deep into a manuscript that’s due this summer, and in some ways my writing routine is the same as ever, but in other ways, this time around I’m learning some new tricks to get me through. Here are a few thoughts that are helping me get the writing done these days.

1.  Read great writing, as much as you can, in as many genres as you can.  I skip around a lot, but my current booklist is inspiring to me in all sorts of ways:

Anne Lamott’s Some Assembly Required

Brene Brown’s I Thought It was Just Me

Stephen King’s 11/22/63

Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor

Lauren Winner’s Still: Notes on A Mid-Faith Crisis

Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

2. Listen to something you know well enough to sing along to without stopping your brain or fingers—for me, this always means a complete album, as opposed to a playlist. When I’m running, the “surprise” of a new artist is great, and the variety keeps me moving, but when I’m writing, I need a consistent set of sounds, and I want it to feel analog, like it was made by someone’s hands, as opposed to by a machine—earnest, handmade, human.

My current rotation:

Needtobreathe/The Outsiders

Mumford & Sons/The Cave

Civil Wars/Barton Hollow

Brandi Carlile/The Story

Fun./Some Nights

3.  Trick yourself into just playing around with an idea, in advance of really and officially writing it. Say I have half an hour before the baby needs to eat. That doesn’t strike me as enough time to really dig into something, so I’m always tempted to just fold laundry or return emails. But on my way to the inbox these days, sometimes I just very causally stop by a Word document and begin typing, again, ever so casually.  The stakes are low, and the inner-editor hasn’t caught on to the fact that I’m writing, so she leaves me alone for a minute.

Those little bits and stolen moments sometimes yield the freshest writing, because you haven’t yet had a chance to take yourself too seriously, and to lay all that terrible pressure down on your shoulders, making you hunch over and stare blankly at the screen. I have a five year old, and the only way we really get anything done is by making a game of it, and I’m finding that my writing self responds well to the same tactic. Perhaps my writing self is five years old. I’m fine with that.

Shauna Niequist is the author of “Cold Tangerines” and “Bittersweet“, and is working on her third book, Bread & Wine, a collection of essays about the sacred moments we share when we gather around the table. (www.shaunaniequist.com)

*Note* The above guest post is from one of my personal favorite authors, Shauna Niequist. This content does not necessarily reflect the views of Better World Books (as our lawyers make sure we say). We love having guest bloggers and invite you to email 11@betterworldbooks.com if you are interested in covering a book or topic on the BWB Blog. Thank you, Shauna, we feel honored to have your thoughts on our blog and can’t wait to read Bread & Wine!

What do you do to overcome writers block? We’d love for you to share your ideas below.

3 Comments

  1. Thank you, Shauna, for some great ideas! Definitely will try the “too short on time to write writing challenge.”

  2. I, too, am finding that trickery is the best tactic for getting the freshest writing. I’ve been trying to practice writing at 15 minute intervals on my lunch break, just to help me plug along more consistently on pieces so that I’m not forcing myself to write an entire, well-written piece too close to my deadline. It’s like piecing together a puzzle, and I’m really loving the results.
    I’m also finding that jotting thoughts down the moment I get them – in a notebook, or in my AwesomeNote app, is really essential, because if I don’t write it down I almost always forget it immediately.

  3. Great post! As an artist these tips will transfer very easily to my visual work. Thanks for sharing!!

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