1. Don’t spend too long on one project. Once you’ve finished a novel, don’t start editing it immediately unless you’ve got a pressing deadline. Write something else, edit something else, do something else, and then come back to the old project fresh. Last year, I spent the entire twelve months pretty much on the same series. And it did me in.
2. If you’ve made the mistake of spending too long on one project, it’s not too late to shift. If one style of writing isn’t working for you (novel writing, short story writing, etc), switch to a completely different one. I tried poetry and script writing. It was probably awful, but it got me writing again.
3. “Stop while you’re ahead,” to quote Mr. Hemingway. When your writing is going really well, stop for the day. Save the passion for tomorrow. Ration your passion. I’ve taken this to new levels before, purposefully leaving a sentence unfinished. When you come back to it in your next writing session, you view it with fresh eyes.
4. Listen to music. This is a personal favourite; it might not work for everyone. I always find that if I’m already listening to a CD, I can’t go Youtube exploring because there’s already something playing. There’s a sense of continuity about systematically going through a bunch of CDs, and I’ve done it for years with good results. I normally make it my aim to write for the duration of the CD when I’m lacking motivation. Somehow it works. It does depend on the genre though – some of them are too distracting. Opera, baroque, medieval, celtic, classical, romantic, and classical contemporary all work for me however. Bach is particularly good.
5. Keep reading. Never stop reading. Ever. You die of thirst if you don’t drink water.
6. Watch an inspirational movie. This shouldn’t become a habit, because otherwise it cuts into work time. But sometimes if you watch a movie in a similar genre to which you are writing, it kick starts your motor again. You see ideas you like, and all of a sudden, you’ve come up with a new angle. And then you’re on fire again.
7. Have a no-multiple-projects/no-editing-while-writing policy. Do not start another project. And then another. And then another. You may think things will get better if you start five new things. In actual fact, it is depressing having a lot of half-finished things lying around. Ask anyone who has never finished a novel in their life but loves to write, and they will tell you that they start new things all the time. Please be boring. It pays to finish something, and it feels just wonderful. That said, I never come to a project going “I will finish this, and it will be amazing”. I always have the same feeling: one of being entirely overwhelmed. Yet, I do think to myself: “I’m never going to quit, even if it kills me.” So far, I’ve survived, and (if I’m counting right), I’ve finished fifteen books – and all of them except a poetry anthology are somewhere between 15,000 and 110,000 words. The other secret is not to stop and edit while you are writing. There is no surer way to kill passion. Be content to be awful for a couple of months and just finish the thing. Then you can tear it apart a bit later.
All these tips are really not just for writers. They’re for artists in general. Don’t get stagnant. Don’t give up. You will make it in the end.