I had the most dreadful feeling this afternoon, sitting at my computer as I always do, going through my emails, cataloging names for my next project I’ve got on my docket, going over the plans I’ve got for more pressing projects, rearranging my agenda, answering emails, writing some stories I’ve been working on tirelessly for weeks, rearranging things, even playing the SAME GAMES I’ve been doing.
This has been the same routine I’ve been in nearly every day since I’ve gotten out of school and although there’s been some variation in the almost month I’ve been out, I realized I’m experiencing that rut feeling. So while I’m still working on the fanfiction I’m co-authoring with E.M. McBride (my lovely friend I’ve been telling you about), while I’m still making plans with her and Natalie and another friend for another story, while I’m still working on my work, I decided I needed a change of pace.
What do I do when I can’t stand my routine anymore? I go back to old things. I got up, drank some lemonade, made s’mores, and did some work on a couple of fanfiction stories I’d left pretty much untouched for MONTHS. One of them I even finished. It felt good, closing that chapter of my life while still moving forward in other projects that need the sort of continuous forward momentum that brings success in its wake.
If I’m writing something with such regularity that it’s actually starting to make me feel a bit ill, I shelve it. I don’t quit, I don’t give up. When I have a day like this one, I go back through old notes and documents until I find a project I’ve shelved that hits me that I can pour myself into anew until I feel better, until it’s finished, until I get inspiration to do something else. I never abandon work, but shelving can actually be one of the most useful things.
The other really good way to shake things up is to write a oneshot. This is a common term in fanfiction, used for single-chapter stories, often single-scene stories that an author writes, leaves, and finishes all in one go. This is also commonly known as a short story, but these are usually shorter than a chapter in most books. Some of mine have been as short as three hundred words, some as long as four thousand words. I’ve seen ones almost the size of a novella. It all depends on the author and the story.
Writing quick, short works of fiction, particularly from some sort of prompt that forces you to think in ways your other work isn’t doing, is a great way to stretch yourself as a writer, get your mind going, and make you think about your other projects in a new light. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend it fully.
Most of the time, this isn’t publishable work, and you may end up hating it completely, but don’t throw it away. I recently adapted a oneshot I’d done for Harry Potter into a short story that I got published in the college literary journal Natalie Cannon was the fiction editor for (literally, contact her about your work, she’s excellent!), so even those things you don’t think are ever going to be useful may someday spark a great work. I like to go back and reread my old work, to see how much I’ve improved, for inspiration, and even just to see what I was up to at a certain point in my life. It’s fun, sometimes embarrassing, but if you can’t face your own work you’ll never be able to improve it.
So if you find yourself in a writing rut, a life rut, or any other sort of rut, do something different! Go for a jog, take a bath, fix your tea a little differently, make a sandwich you’ve never tried before, or even write something else. Switching things up can make you more productive than sticking to one thing, in the long run.