This is the first of two posts about writing slumps; in this post, we’ll be tackling some of the non-writing things you can do to get out of a slump … and in the second post, next Monday, we’ll take a look at getting back into the writing zone again.
Are you writing?
Do you want to be writing?
Every writer I’ve ever known has gone through some sort of “slump” at some point, when they do want to write but they simply don’t seem to have the time, energy or focus to do so.
Writing slumps are normal. Going through a slump doesn’t say anything about your ability to do the work, and I firmly believe that you’re still a writer when you’re not currently writing.
Your writing slump might come after a long period when you have been writing – or maybe you’ve never written much at all, even though you want to: you’ve started off in a slump.
Slumps are often linked to a particularly busy or difficult period in your life, a time when a lot of your energy and focus is being used up by other things.
- You’ve started university and you’re living away from home for the first time
- You’ve started a full time job and you’re commuting to work
- You’ve had your first child (congratulations!)
- You’ve had a second (or third, or fourth) baby
- You’re going through a period of ill health (physical, mental, or both)
- Your day job has been particularly hectic
- You’re grieving the loss of a friend or family member
It might be that you’ve come out of a very busy or difficult period, but you’re still not writing. That’s normal too: it can be hard to pick up where you left off, if you’ve not written for months (or even years).
Why Getting Started (Again) Feels So Tough
Whether you’ve already begun on a writing project or have yet to start, it can be really hard to get going again.
For me, this is always a bit like exercise: I never feel like getting started, and it seems like just beginning is a huge step – but once I get going, it all feels much easier and I enjoy it!
I even feel like this about watching a new T.V. series: trying it feels like a big step, but once I’ve watched and enjoyed an episode or two, it’s all too easy to keep going…
It’s natural and normal to find it tough to “get started” with your writing. I think there are several reasons for this:
- Once you’re moving (i.e. writing), it’s easy to keep going; the initial resistance means that getting started takes quite a lot more energy.
- When you’re part-way through a project, you’ll hopefully feel excited about writing more – you may well look forward to writing sessions.
- If you haven’t begun on the project at all yet, it probably exists in a perfect (if nebulous) form inside your head. Getting started means turning all that perfect potential into imperfect reality!
Even little projects can be tough to get going on. When Kitty was one and I was pregnant with Nick, I wanted to write a sentence-a-day journal for each child. It took me weeks just to get round to buying notebooks, and weeks more to actually begin writing in them. (Three years on, I’m still keeping those journals.)
In next week’s post, we’re going to take a look at some writing-related things you can do to make getting started a bit easier: in the rest of today’s post, I want us to look at laying the groundwork. Writing is, after all, just one part of your life … and it doesn’t always make sense to look at it in isolation.
Do You Need to Take Some Deliberate Time Off from Writing?
Sometimes, if you’re going through a temporary rough patch, it may be best to simply take some time off from writing.
Perhaps your day job is manic this month, but it’s going to calm down in a few weeks. Maybe your youngest starts school in a couple of months. Perhaps you’ve got exams coming up but they’ll be over soon.
Or maybe you’ve got a particular health condition, and it makes sense to put your energy and focus into improving that (perhaps through diet and exercise, if that’s applicable) before you start thinking about writing.
If it feels right to you to have a proper break from writing, have a break! Whatever you might hear from some writing gurus, you do not need to write every day, and there’s nothing at all wrong with having time off.
If, though, you feel like you’d miss writing too much, look for ways to do a little bit of it. Maybe you can set aside one hour each weekend to play around with your writing: I know it’s not much, but it could be an opportunity to step away from the pressures of the rest of life and do something just for fun.
Practical Non-Writing Things to Re-Energise You to Write
If you’re stuck in a slump, try some of these to pull you out:
#1: Make More Time for You in Your Life
If you’ve got a new baby, or if you’re working long hours, or if you’re caring for a relative, or anything similar, it can be very hard to find not only the time but also the energy to write.
If it’s possible, hire someone to help (a babysitter, a cleaner, a gardener, whatever makes sense for you).
If you can’t afford that, sit down with family members or friends to figure out how they can support you. I’ve found that people are often more than willing, they just won’t necessarily think to offer!
#2: Make Space for Your Writing
I find that decluttering can really lift my mood – and I find it much easier to relax when I’m not surrounded by mess!
Can you set aside a special place in your home for writing? Maybe it’s a little desk in the corner of your bedroom. Try to keep the desk as clear as possible so that it’s a welcoming, enjoyable place to sit and write.
(If you’ve got a shed or garage that might make a decent writing space, can you set aside a weekend to clear it out?)
#3: Get Organised with Day to Day Life
Since having kids, I’ve been forced to become more organised: if I’m not, my 30 minutes writing each day all too easily gets eaten up by emergency trips to the shops / laundry loads / etc…
Whether or not you have children, being organised can help you find the time and energy for your writing.
These are some basics that work well for our family:
Create a meal plan for the week on Sunday nights, and order food online (plus occasional top-up shops during the week, when we’re near the shops anyway).
Batch cook where possible – I make four batches of chilli at a time, because it hardly takes any longer than making one!
Have one central location for incoming papers and other admin: parenting blogs tend to call this a “command centre”. We’ve just purchased a new charger with three USB ports (thank you, IKEA!) so we can plug in phones and tablets in one place!
Keep to a simple morning and evening routine for regular chores (dishes, laundry, etc). This avoids things piling up and getting in the way of writing time.
Find a to-do / calendar system that works for you. We have a family calendar in the kitchen, and I’ve just switched from using Nozbe (app/software) to using a physical planner (the Inspire Now journal), because I’m hoping that’ll help me focus on bigger tasks rather than lots of little, less important ones. David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, while a little involved, has some great tips for corralling tasks (whatever type of planner you use).
If you take one thing away from today’s post, make it this: you can improve things so that you have the time, energy and focus to write.
You might not be in a position to make those improvements overnight, and you may have to settle for spending less time writing than you’d ideally like … but every little step you take to move forward will make it easier.
If you’re in a writing slump right now, you’ve got my sympathies! I’d love to hear from you in the comments – what’s behind your slump? How do you think you could get writing again?
Next week’s post will take a look at some of the writing-related things you can do to feel enthusiastic about writing again. To make sure you don’t miss it, pop your email address in the box below and I’ll send it straight to your inbox:
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