Thursday, September 15, 2011

Writing Slumps

Everyone has them. Sometimes your excitement about your story fizzles. Sometimes you're just feeling burned out. Sometimes other emotional or physical factors are exhausting you and you don't have much left to stoke your creativity. Sometimes you're just too dang busy.

I think breaks from writing are fine. It's ok to decide you need a vacation from your writing, that you need to work on something non-writing-related for a while, or that there's something in the "real" world that's temporarily taking precedent.

But how do you get back to it?

For me, writing isn't a habit as much as it's a regular part of my week. That is, I don't have the habit of writing at X time in Y place everyday for a set number of words or a set amount of time. My life doesn't really allow that. Instead, it's a regular thing--almost every day, I'll write something, somewhere. And I get a lot done. But the lack of habit makes getting back in the groove a little tricky.

I'm in that place now--the past couple weeks have been very busy outside of writing, I've had other creative endeavors with deadlines (sewing photos coming soon!), and I've felt kind of emotionally spent for no real good reason. So I need to get back on track!

A few ideas to try:

1) Create a schedule. If you're not usually a scheduled writer, but write more sporadically, make a date with yourself to write. Schedule the time--make it a habit for a week or two until you're back in the swing of things. This may mean prioritizing writing over something else--but you can put aside just about anything for a week, right?

2) Write something new. Sometimes the reason you're avoiding writing is your current project. Maybe you're not feeling as excited as you were in the beginning. Maybe there's a giant problem that you don't know how to tackle. Yes, you're going to have to get back to that eventually. But in the meantime, I find that writing something is better than dwelling on how you're not writing anything. Try a short story. Play with another project. It's not cheating. It's reviving your creativity. It also lets you write without boundaries--if you're feeling clogged, even freewriting or journaling gives you an outlet to start using your writing muscles again.

3) Try revision instead. Occasionally easing myself back into the writing waters by editing something I've been working on revs me up. The older and more distant I am from the revisable project, the better. This may sound really self-involved, but I get excited realizing "Hey, I wrote that! And...I could do it again..." Then there I go, back to the project I was stuck on.

4) Take yourself out. Try writing someplace new. When I'm home I find myself distracted by those millions of little things that kept me from writing in the first place. The laundry, the half-hemmed skirt, the floor that desperately needs sweeping. Get away and devote the time to your work. I find that, laptop in hand, surrounded by other people working (I live in a college town), I feel pressured into being really productive. Plus, I can tell myself "You came here to work. Now work!" Bonus: The pumpkin spice latte is back. Just saying.

5) Keep an inspiration book/board/computer file/whatever. While you're brainstorming or writing, keep tabs on the things that motivate you. For me, it's often music--there are certain songs that capture the mood I want out of a project, and just listening to them makes me want to dive back in. Maybe you're more visual--and a bulletin board chockablock full of pictures will get you excited. Or maybe it's just a collection of words, ideas, and research nitbits. Whatever it is--if you're slumping, either look at it or start collecting it. The process of associating another medium--music, art, poetry--with your project can get you back in your project's good graces.

What tricks do you try to get back on track?


Connie Keller said...

I make the "15 minutes deal" with myself. I will put my butt in the chair for 15 minutes and try to write. If nothing comes of it, then I'm free to go after the time has elasped.

Usually, after 15 minutes I've "found" my story.

Jillian said...

I like Connie's suggestion. Knowing I'd be free in fifteen minutes if I'm unproductive might motivate me to try...

Rowenna said...

Thanks, Connie! I like that idea--make a deal that you only "have to" for a short amount of time. I do the same thing when I don't feel like working out :) Once I'm there, I'm more likely to make it worthwhile!