What to Do When You’re No Longer Growing As a Writer

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An exceptional writer never stops growing.

Sometimes we sit down to write, stare at our screens for 20 minutes and give up. That’s just part of the writing process: there are great days and not so great ones. When we have multiple ‘bad’ writing days in a row, though, we start to question ourselves.

Is this really what I want to do? Am I doing the right thing? Should I stop writing?

This is not a fun place to be, but we’ve all been there. Maybe you’re there right now.Being stuck doesn’t feel like growth. What you might not realize is that, in asking questions like these, you’re already showing signs of growth – or a desire to grow, anyway.

If you feel like you’ve stopped growing as a writer, take a deep breath. Don’t worry. There are things you can do to start that growth right back up again.

Write something different

Often we feel stuck because, unknowingly, we have been writing the same story, or in the same format, for far too long. Even if you’ve always been a novelist and don’t want to stop writing 100,000-word novels, sometimes branching out can teach you more about writing than you ever thought possible.

Write a one-act screenplay. Experiment with some poetry. Try writing in a format you’ve never written in before, and match that up with the specific skills you want to develop. Scripts are great for practicing smooth, realistic dialogue. Poems really help us think outside the lines in terms of imagery and metaphor. It depends on where you want to improve the most.

Go with your gut

Every once in awhile we’ll get an idea for a story, let it ripen in our brains for a little while and decide, “Nah, that’s too dark,” or, “That hits way too close to home.” Our favorite: “That’s been done before.” If you look hard enough, you can find an excuse not to write every single idea you ever get. Part of growing as a writer is to overcome that fear and put those ideas into words anyway.

Here’s the thing: the worst that can happen when you write a story is that no one will ever read it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a chance. Remember, stories are meant to be written for those who write them just as much as those who might read them. If that idea is stuck in your head and it won’t go away – write it.

Keep moving forward

Everyone abandons projects for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you’ll never be able to finish writing anything. The more in tune you are with your own ability to judge the value of your own craft, the more sophisticated your craft will become.

If something isn’t working, and you’re confident it’s not worth your time to continue – right now or ever – don’t be afraid to set it aside. Especially if you’ve been working on it for a long time. We often mature creatively without realizing it, which does mean, whether you want to believe it or not, sometimes we grow out of the stories we’re writing before we’re finished writing them. It is okay to move on. Sometimes, it’s even necessary.

The process of moving through the various stages of ‘writerhood’ has plenty of ups, downs and plateaus. There will be points when you feel you’ve been in the exact same place for an eternity. The most important thing to remember is that growth still happens even when we can’t see it. Never stop exercising your own creativity, even if you have to do something other than writing for a little while.

Your ultimate goal should always be to improve. You CAN be better. It WILL pay off.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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