Six Ways to Write While the World is Stressing You Out

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By Allie Pleiter

As the author of How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG—A Practical Guide to Writing Through Tough Times, I’ve been getting a lot of cries for help from writers these days. The crisis we find ourselves in right now can squelch any writer’s creative energy. New words can feel impossible, the focus to revise eludes us, and we’re just plain stressed.

How to write…right now? Believe it or not, there are several things you can do to help yourself. Here are a few of my favorite tips:

Try small batches in new formats.

The trick is to pick a word count that feels doable–even if it must be tiny. One hundred words, for example, can fit on an index card. I suspect even the most traumatized of writers could manage six imperfect sentences that can be edited later. That work, once accomplished, can become the foothold for more. Can you tuck three or four cards into your pocket and set yourself the challenge to fill them? Your smartphone, a small notebook, or even email can help a small task feel small. All you need at first–maybe all you need at all–are baby steps.

Change locations.

Give yourself time in a different location in order to compartmentalize your brain space. You may not be able to go far—maybe only to the next room—but even that shift can make a difference. Ritualize it if it helps, saying: “At two p.m. I go out on the balcony with a cup of coffee and do my writing,” or “After lunch I make myself a cup of tea and write.” Remind yourself this is your time to work, and you can be fully present to whatever problems are facing you when you are done with your writing.

When you feel you cant escape your situation, start by describing it.

Many books—fiction and nonfiction—have been born of personal difficulties (more on that in Chapter 4). Writing about where you are right now can “prime the pump,” proving to your creative self that writing is possible. Remember those descriptions from your Fort of Fours? Your lists and descriptions may give you the strength and encouragement you need to segue back to your original project. As a bonus, you may also discover the seeds of a new project in the process.

Embrace the lousy first draft.

Brilliance is likely beyond your reach—even if you discover you work great under pressure. Tell yourself: “It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be written.” You can revise and polish your draft at another time once you get through the difficult stage of putting the words down on paper no matter how inelegant they feel. As best-selling author Nora Roberts famously said, “You can’t fix a blank page.”

Set a timer.

Pick whatever span of time feels possible—even fifteen minutes. Most of us can stand fifteen minutes of almost anything. Once or twice a day, set the timer and have at it. During those minutes, give yourself permission to “be a writer” rather than someone ill, caring, or coping. Starting is often the hardest part, and you may discover you can work longer than you think.

Try dictation.

Chances are you won’t need any special equipment for dictation because most computers and nearly every smartphone comes preloaded with some form of basic dictation software. If typing feels beyond you—or if you have a physical limitation such as carpal tunnel syndrome, eyesight issues, a bad back, or a broken wrist—close your eyes and dictate a scene, a setting, or even a character description to get you started. Carry on dictating as long as you can. An added benefit of dictation: You can’t edit or see mistakes, so there’s nothing to impede your progress.

Creativity is possible. You are just going to have to go about it in different ways for a while. The gift of writing God has given you hasn’t gone away…it may just be in hiding. I hope these tips will give you help to go find it. The world needs your stories!

Creativity is possible. You are just going to have to go about it in different ways for a while.@alliepleiter #ACFWBlogs #writetips #writing #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction working on as many as four books at a time.  She is the bestselling author of over fifty titles with a twenty-year career of over 1.5 million books sold.  Allie also coaches on productivity and speaks on the creative process. As the author of The Chunky Method Handbook, she’s passionate about helping creative people be more productive. If you’d like to join her Chunky Method mailing list and get many more writing productivity tips, simply text the word CHUNKY to 22828. Visit her at


Comments 6

  1. Everything is going wrong,
    so very many ways,
    but I must try to sing this song,
    a record of my days
    for those constrained to follow
    down this fell dark path;
    there’s hell enough to borrow,
    but grace enough to laugh
    at the pain and at the fear,
    at the blood and at the dread;
    smile lines are infused by tears,
    and if I but lift my head
    I see the light beyond the rain,
    that life is Christ and death is gain.

  2. Great advice! I’ve divided writing my novel in three sections: hand-written first draft, typed second draft, and fine-tuning third draft. I’ve hand-written the first sixteen chapters. If I’m stuck on the first draft of the seventeenth, I turn to typing the second draft. If that’s uninspired, I fine tune the chapters I’ve already typed. Switching the kind of writing I’m doing helps me immensely.

  3. Considering that your Chunky Method saved my career five or six years ago, I can’t wait to read your new book. It is certainly a good time to read it! I love your practical ideas. Thank you!

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