A lack of work, and the daunting task of forcing yourself to write new pieces, or to edit old pieces, for submission can be a terrible deterrent to even trying. In truth, it has been the main thing that has stopped me from trying to submit over the past couple of years, and even the last few months. But there are several ways to combat this.
1. Write everyday! No matter what you’re writing, even if it’s just complaining about not having anything to say, spend three pages (or 750 words or so) bitching about it. Whatever is going on in your head, your life, at work, around the country, around the world; spend a few minutes putting it down on paper. If you make this effort everyday, you will be shocked what can eventually come out. Whether it’s a humorous memory of something that happened in your childhood, or a poignant observation relating to your industry or current events, something is bound to pop out. Perhaps you will notice a trend in what you’re writing and realize you have a series of little essays that could turn into something. That’s how I got started with this blog. So make the effort to sit, and let it all out – dump the contents of your brain for 20 to 30 minutes, and see what happens.
2. Go back to old work with fresh eyes, no matter how old it is! That poem you wrote in college for the creative writing class you took as a fun but throw-away elective might turn out to have some weight to it, especially after so many years. Now you are older, wiser, more experienced, improved as a writer, and distanced from the critical young adult that wrote that piece. You don’t have to worry about how bad the kid that wrote it thought it was. You, as his/her adult counterpart, may see something that s/he didn’t know was there. A few small changes, and that poem could turn into something worthy of publication, if it isn’t already.
3. Look for prompts, and read, read, read! Read the newspaper, visit the library, pick up trade magazines that are meaningful to you, go to book clubs, book fairs, author events, movies, concerts, anything! There are so many topics out there to write about, and so many publications and websites devoted to each one. We tend not to think of our everyday experiences as something that warrants documentation, but you never know what might come of arguing with the campaign ad for your district’s incumbent representative, or experimenting with a new recipe or workout. Writing prompts are everywhere. They can be found at your child’s PTA meeting, the jazz club you were dragged to on Friday night, or the display of NY Times best sellers at your local bookstore. If something riles you, write it down. Don’t ignore it!