Friday, January 31, 2014

Keep Writing—Sometimes You Have to Go Through the Junk to Get to the Gems

by Edie Melson

A writer's life is one filled with ups and downs.
A writer’s life is one filled with ups and downs. Some days the words flow and it seems that you have a pipeline from Heaven to the computer screen. The words swirl and dance with a life of their own.

At other times the sentences start and stop, stuttering in an ugly disjointed rhythm. You can’t seem to connect the words into coherent thoughts, and the voices in your head are no longer kinds ones brimming with inspiration. Instead they scream at you to stop. Give up the dream, and quit kidding yourself. The secret to success on those frustrating days is to keep writing—sometimes you have to go through the junk to get to the gems.

I know it’s true because I’ve been there . . . more than once.

I’ve even given heed to those naysayers that sometimes take up residence in my head, walking away and trying to quit. But I always come back. For me, writing is as necessary as breathing.

So how do I find the drive to keep writing when everything on the page is worse than junk? I’ve got a few tips that I’d like to share.

I give myself permission to write junk.
1. I give myself permission to write junk. Some days I have to dig a little deeper to get to the good stuff. And for me, that means writing through the junk.

2. I set a timer. For me, fifteen minutes is the magic number. I set an old-fashioned egg timer for fifteen minutes and make myself write.

3. I promise myself I can delete anything I want after twenty-four hours. I don’t delete it right away, because everything looks different after a few hours away.

4. I give myself a reward. Usually it’s chocolate. If I write those tortuous fifteen minutes, I reward myself. The key here is to know that you can be bought and discovering what your price is.

5. I remind myself that words on the page are fixable—blank pages aren’t. I love to edit. But I’ve never had success with editing a page with no words.

6. I call a friend. Let me clarify—I call a WRITING friend. I have one particular writing buddy who is a genius at talking me off the ledge. She should be. She’s had to do it often enough.

7. I remember why I write. Even a bad writing day is better than a day not writing at all. To paraphrase the famous quote from missionary Eric Liddle (Chariots of Fire). When I write, I feel the pleasure of God.

So what about you? I won’t ask IF you have those days. If you’re a writer, I already know the answer. But I am curious how you deal with them. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


Tips to keep writing when the wordsstart & stop, stuttering in an ugly disjointed rhythm – from@EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


  1. "Words on a page are fixable, blank pages aren't." Great line and an important thought to keep in mind. Thanks for that Edie.

  2. Does White Chocolate buy more of your time than Dark Chocolate

    1. Ric, NEVER! I'm definitely a dark chocolate lady. Blessings, E

  3. When I struggle with fiction, I write articles or blog posts. It's easier for me and can sometimes spark the other...

    1. Jennifer, that's a great way to write through the difficult times! Thanks for sharing, Blessings, E

  4. I just force myself through it. I only have an hour per night, so I can't wait for the muse (which is the single biggest excuse to not write...the muse hasn't hit). If it's crap, and it often is, it's just pixels on the screen. I can fix that. I wonder if the old-timers who started on typewriters laugh at us when we complain about the bad days. At least we're not throwing out reams of paper at a time. By the way, don't forget to delete your spammer up there ^^^

    1. Ron, you're right. That is a common excuse not to write! Thanks for sharing, Blessings, E

  5. I love photography. Some days when I struggle with writing, I'll take a break, grab my camera and take a walk. This helps to clear my mind and the photos often generate new ideas.

    1. Joan, that's a great idea. Anything creative can help get our minds moving. Thanks for stopping by and sharing! Blessings, E

  6. I'm going through one of those times right now. Whenever this happens, I know I'm getting to a sensitive spot in the manuscript that needs prayer. Often, I'll call on friends who are prayer warriors to help me break through. I'm considering the possibility of asking several to pray on a regular basis.

  7. 1 and 2 resonate the most with me. I find that if I'm doing morning pages and focussing on producing work (even if its not the apex of my creativity) sometimes I can fool the muse into interacting with me.