Getting Out of Your Writing Slump: Part #1 – Get Re-Energised to Write

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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.

Maybe:

  • 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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8 thoughts on “Getting Out of Your Writing Slump: Part #1 – Get Re-Energised to Write

  1. Thanks Ali for your post. It could not have come at a better time as I find myself bogged down at this chaotic time of year (everything happening at once here!) and for some reason not finding the time, energy or focus to settle down and get on with my own next blog post. It is reassuring to know that it is normal and that I am not alone with my small problem. I will stay tuned for part two while I wait patiently for the muse!

    • So glad this came at the right time for you, Claudia! Life can just get manic at times, can’t it? I think it’s absolutely normal to go through these slumps — especially when things are busy. Hope you enjoy next Monday’s post. 🙂

  2. Hi Ali!

    This was perfect—I just wrote six chapters of my novel (about 18k words) in a few days, and sort of slumped after that. Haven’t written a word of chapter 19. But more than that, you hit the nail on the head. I read blogs about writing because I’m like any other writer, I want to feel less alone in our daily struggles to write, but it’s always seemed to me that I’m still alone. Most writing websites that I’ve found cater to adult writers, often those with families. But where’s all the posts that tell me it’s okay to be a writer at 18, a college undergrad?

    Which was why your point up above—that maybe the slump is because we’ve just started college—was perfect and made me smile. Almost makes me think you’ve looked at your survey results ahead of time, because I put that in there. The recent death of a family member, too. That was a hard one, and I almost felt like you were talking to me personally when I saw both of those possible reasons in your post.

    Sorry for the long comment, I just wanted to make sure you knew your writing is appreciated. This is probably one of my favorite posts (from you, but also from any writing site whatsoever) yet.

    • Of COURSE it’s okay to be a writer at 18! I need to write about this — adding it to my list now.

      I’ve not had a chance to look through the survey results yet, I have to admit. I put that in there because I went through a writing slump when I was 18 and started college. (I also lost my much-loved grandad a few months before that. 13 years on, I still miss him.)

      I’m so sorry you’ve lost a family member recently. There’s nothing anyone can say to make it better — it hurts to lose people, and I suppose that’s a measure of how much they were loved and how much their life mattered.

      Anyway, I’m glad this post came at the right moment for you. Sending all best wishes, and hope you can feel less alone as a writer.

      • Thank you 🙂 Yeah I know logically that it’s okay, but it doesn’t seem like we’re very…noticed in the writing world…idk, I’m not trying to grab attention or anything, it would just be nice for someone to acknowledge people like me as an actual group of people. I suppose maybe seeing it in a blog post would convince me that there’s more of us because a writer deemed it worth their time to reach out to us, as opposed to a single person (who wouldn’t be good for SEO or whatever)?

        But you just did, in this post, so I was grateful for that.

        Yeah, went to college in August, lost my grandma (and second mom, best friend, writing inspiration, Ideal Reader [Stephen King], mentor, and the person who slept next door to me) the next March. And promptly started failing three of my classes. 18 units + death of grandma = disaster—especially for the muse!

        Thanks again for a wonderful post.
        Emma’s last blog post ..Stars: Naming and Brightness

        • So sorry to hear about your grandma, Emma — that must have been terribly hard to cope with on top of all the inevitable pressures and changes of being a first-year in college.

          I think it’s perfectly reasonable to want to feel acknowledged and part of the writing community! I was part of a great writing group aged 14 – 18 but I was the youngest person there by about 20 years, and it can feel quite isolating not to know other writers of a similar age / similar circumstances.

          (Just so you know, I’ve dropped you an email separately, too.)

  3. I guess I have been in a major writing slump. I have had a bereavement (the second member of my family this year) and lots of family heartache. As much as grief consumes me, I endeavour to try to continue to write – even if only diary pages of some description.

    A few days ago, I was blessed with a new grandson who is absolutely gorgeous. This is a different type of distraction as I am helping with my daughter and her husband’s two-year-old, my other grandson while they all establish the sleepless night routine!

    Life has a way of filling up time. Alas I try to have a date with my keyboard for at least half an hour at night!

    • Oh Angela, what a terribly hard year for you — I’m so sorry to hear about the bereavements and the difficult times within your family.

      How lovely that you have a new grandson! My own children are two years apart and my mum was a wonderful help in those early days — I’m sure your daughter must be so grateful to have your support. It is hard work!

      I know what you mean about life filling up time, and I think half an hour a day is fantastic (that’s all I manage with my fiction — on a good day!) All those words really do add up. Hang on in there, go easy on yourself as you grieve, and I do hope the second half of the year has better things in store for you.

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