The common accepted wisdom for writers is you must write every day. While I try and stick to this rule as much as possible it does beg the question; What if you have nothing to write?
Here are a number of strategies you can use to ensure that you have something to write, but you shouldn’t beat yourself up just because you missed a day to even three. Sometimes, especially if you’re writing fiction, your unconscious mind needs a little bit of time to pull the story together before it is presented. I don’t consider this so much writers block as writers pause. Isaac Asimov, arguably one of the most prolific writers and certainly one of the most prolific writers of science fiction, recommended that you have many different projects which you can work. That way if you run out of something to work on and you need to pause you can switch another project. It is said that Isaac Asimov had three typewriters, all with different projects, and when he ran dry on one he simply changes seats and began to work on a different book.
Personally having the willpower to write every day is not so much the problem as having something to say and although I have many projects in work at the same time sometimes I just get tired of writing. They way I look at it is writing is a job and like anyone else with a job you need to take a vacation and have a little holiday in order to re-energise yourself. When training for a marathon I read a very good piece of advice in the runners magazine which can also apply to writing.
The advice goes like this; If you don’t feel like running get dressed up in the gear and go outside and run for is five minutes. If after five minutes you still don’t feel like running turn around and go home.
The reasoning behind this is fairly simple. Sometimes as a runner your body is trying to tell you it needs rest and recuperation and it makes you unwilling to run. Sometimes it’s just your lazy mind that can’t be bothered. If you get dressed up in the gear and you run for five minutes then you’re already outside, your already sweaty and if it’s just your mind trying to dissuade you then you’ll just carry on running. But if it’s your body is trying to tell you to stop you’ll still feel bad even after five minutes and you’ll need to turn around and go home. This method keeps you from over-training or injuring yourself.
As a writer it overcomes a tendency toward procrastination. Use this method as a writer you do a very similar thing. Get out all of your writing material and determine that you will write for five minutes. At the end of the five minutes if you still don’t have any words on the paper and nothing is coming to you this is your unconscious telling you things haven’t “cooked” enough in your mind. Normally however after five minutes you’ll just carry on because by that time you’ll have got into the flow.
Remember also even if you only write for five minutes you still written for the day. I don’t personally like word targets although I generally manage 2000 words a day once I start, I much preferred to just right for a certain amount of time.
Another option for marathon runners is cross-training, which is to say, you get on a bicycle, or go to a spin class or step aerobics. For a writer this could mean editing your previous work, writing query letters to editors, mailing submissions or researching a project or different projects.
Sometimes the best use for your time is to go and read a book.