If Walls Could Talk: Climbing Out of Your Writing Slump
You ever talk about a problem someone else is having (that you’re also having) and hope that if you help them, well, it might help you too?
That’s what we’re doing this week!
Writing slumps happen to all of us. Whether we are having trouble with a work-in-progress, life gets crazy, or outside influences drive us to it, it happens.
And it’s the worst feeling. Writing is piling up, assignments are due, projects need finishing and you can’t seem to bring yourself to do anything about it.
I’ve had a few in my writing career and I’m honestly in the middle of one now. There’s just been a lot going on and I’ve let things pile up and at times I feel buried and that I can’t get out.
What do you do when you get in a writing slump?
1) Take Time Off
After what I like to call “the great breakdown of 2013,” I took the entire month of December and a chunk of January off from writing. I think I maybe wrote 300 words in six weeks which is something I hadn’t done since I’d seriously began my writing career.
But boy, did I need to.
I’d had some stuff going on personally, I’d burnt myself out writing, and that six weeks fired me up. In fact, because I took that six week break, it kickstarted the chain of events that would lead me to write Badge City: Notches.
Maybe you don’t take six weeks off. I know I can’t, these days.
But I’ve been taking a few days off from writing here and there, just to see what happens if I give myself that space. It might help. In fact, the only thing I wrote last week was my column here.
2) Get A Change Of Scenery
I never understood the appeal of people going elsewhere and getting a hotel room or AirBnB and just writing until I did it once. Last year, I tagged along with a friend so that we could do some shopping. The day before we were going to go shopping, she had a wedding to go to, and didn’t have a plus one, which left me in the hotel room all afternoon long by myself.
It was nice and I got a good few thousand written that afternoon. And then, I understood the appeal of a change of scenery.
A good third of Notches got written on Spring Break when I was visiting my aunt and uncle. My uncle liked to joke that I borrowed his office for a week and it became mine.
I’m on vacation next week (don’t worry, I already have an idea for next week’s column, so I may go ahead and get it done before I go) and I’m going to take some editing with me and work on it and hope the change of scenery inspires me.
3) Do A Writing Warm Up
This is something I honestly should try more often. I tend to try and dive straight into whatever project I’m working on because, as I mentioned last week, my schedule is busy and there are days where I don’t have a lot of writing time to spare.
There’s a project that I did purely for fun a couple of years ago that’s come to mind recently. I’m thinking of dusting it off and playing with it, seeing if I can make it better. There’s a fair chance it will never see the light of day but it’s okay, I’ll get it out of my system.
And it might help me to get back in the swing of things.
4) Don’t Push Yourself
This goes hand in hand with my post last week and might be another reason while I failed. I pushed myself harder than I should. When you’re in a writing slump, especially one that’s caused by you being burnt out, the last thing you should do is push yourself.
I know, some people say that you should just get back on the horse and that once you get going you should be fine and everything will be sunshine and roses. But the truth is, that sometimes pushing yourself and trying to get out of the slump that way will have the opposite effect.
I try and write around 1,000 words a day when I’m not in a slump. Instead of forcing myself back on the horse, I might try something smaller. 300-500 words a day for a few days and then increase it until I get back to 1,000 and am able to sustain that again.
Read articles, books, catch up on the blog of your favorite writers (if you need a suggestion, can I point you over to Kara Dennison?).
When I go on vacation next week, I think I’m finally going to settle down and read Andrew Cartmel’s third Vinyl Detective book. Maybe that’s something I need to do, read more.
They say the best writers are avid readers, they are the ones whose offices and bedrooms look like libraries. I’ve gravitated to mysteries the last few years, since that’s what I primarily write. I read some other genres, primarily science fiction.
Maybe dust an old favorite off the shelf, read it in front of the fire or in that favorite chair of your’s while sipping a cup of hot tea. Remember why you loved it, feel inspired again.
And maybe, that will help get you out of the slump.