Digging yourself out of a writing slump
Unslumping yourself by just daring to write something
Some days I feel inspirationless—or worse, discouraged—that my writing isn’t good enough, I haven’t got anything to say, or no one wants to read what I write.
And, well, that feels awful.
But I’ve found that the way through it is writing.
It’s easy to doubt myself. It’s also easy, in turn, to let that doubt freeze me, debilitate me, dictate my right to be a writer.
Well, I’m tenacious, and more than a little bit stubborn. Besides, I’ve never been really good at doing what people tell me to do (more on that later).
So I disobey my doubt.
I also write about what’s real. Sometimes I feel writer’s block comes from some perfectionistic image of what we’re supposed to write, instead of addressing the issue at hand.
Write it out. See what happens.
You’re upset about your marriage or the dog dying? Write it. You’re waiting for that package to be delivered or that email to come? Write it.
Capture for yourself the feeling of that moment—sure, the scene may never be useful for you—but the description of that feeling may become invaluable—because, after all, your characters may experience some of those oh-so-human emotions of disappointment, loss, anxiety, and anticipation. And you’ve just time-capsuled for yourself what it feels like to be in that moment.
Write through it and you may end up with some of the best nuggets, the ones you thank yourself for later.
Dr. Suess said “unslumping yourself is not easily done,” but one way through this feeling is to realize that not everything we write will be or is intended to be published.
We know this somewhere deep inside ourselves. We know this because we’ve been through the revision process. Yet, when we sit down to write, we put this unrealistic expectation of publishable material flowing from our fingertips.
I get it. We all want to be writing geniuses. Wouldn’t it be great to sit down and write the perfect novel from beginning to end, first try? Sounds great, but it should also sound laughable.
I’m sure it’s happened to someone, somewhere—perhaps several times. But it’s the exception, not the norm.
Accept your doubt, but disobey it. Write through it and see what happens. The worst thing that could happen: you write a flop. But it’s more likely you’ll generate a nugget to save for later, your doubt will dissipate, and you’ll be able to get on with the writing task at hand.
When have you had a time you’ve disobeyed your doubt?
I find that not only writing more helps at times, but there are also those times when it is best to take a break from writing all-together. This isn’t always for a long period of time, but for a little while– anywhere from half a day to two days even. Do something that relates to your writing or the characters. I seem to come up with more ideas after the two week hunting season when I do the least writing of the year. However, while hunting I find enough inspiration that keeps me writing for the next year. Every writer has something besides their writing they could do which will give them inspiration to last. However, do not go too long without writing and do not use this advice as an excuse not to write. There is taking a break and then there is not getting it done. Make sure to go back to it.
Hi Ty. I love this reflection. It is so true that sometimes giving ourselves a little breather to think can make a HUGE difference in our energy to come back to a piece. You are a wise writer. Thank you for your feedback.
“Accept your doubt, but disobey it.” Embrace the emotions, write them, but don’t be a slave to them. Very nice article, Annalisa.
Thanks so much, Andrew. I am glad you liked it.