July 20, 2011

conquering writing slumps

This past week, I hit a sort of writing slump, right after writing a blog post about how amazing I am with my word counts of awesome. Serves me right. We also had new windows installed in our house, which took three days of a dude banging a hammer on our old aluminum frames. And on top of that, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part two released last week… ‘nuff said.

So, I expected Monday, with my computer back in the office, blog post written, no windows man banging on window frames, and no emotional finale to my childhood, I would be able to write. I sat at my computer and stared at the screen. I literally stared at the same sentence for over an hour. Eventually, I said eff it, and started working on the pre-writing for the next novel I plan to write (that fantasy one I was hinting to you about). I figured if I couldn’t work on the task at hand, I could at least do something moderately productive.

I still couldn’t do it. I stared at the computer again. I wrote my first brainstorming question, and stared at it. At this point, I really didn’t know what to do. Fear crept in. What if the writing slump continues? What if I can’t write anything all week? Oy vey.

So I took that brainstorming work, sat down on the couch with a spiral notebook and a purple pen in hand, and I began working. I think I wrote three or four pages, front and back, of pre-writing material. Something at least. I typed that up and hoped that the act of getting my fingers on the keyboard would help unclog the unwriterly slush in my brain. It didn’t. That was all I managed to do on Monday. An entire day lost to writing, after an entire week lost to writing. This did not bode well.

I sat down Tuesday with the mindset that I was going to get something done. I wasn’t going to give up until I had 1500 words written, even if they were ugly, crappy, stinky, and not worthy of life. Again, I sat down at the computer, stared at my 12pt Times New Roman font. My eyes glazed over.

I knew exactly what needed to be done. I had skipped a scene in the latest chapter, and I needed to write it in. But staring at the document, the task seemed so daunting. It would take a lot of work to iron it out… oh look, Twitter! Facebook! Google+! Youtube!

I wasn’t going to finish anything at this rate.

So I printed off the muddled chapter, took the sheaf of papers into my bedroom, laid down on the cushy pillows and bleach-smelling sheets, whipped out my pink pen, and went to work. I wrote three-thousand words yesterday. Three-thousand words. BY HAND.

I hate handwriting. It gives me muscle cramps and callouses, and I have a difficult time reading my loopy, scribbly, misspelled words. At least MS Word autocorrects me when I type too fast. My hand isn’t too smart. It inserts humps and squiggles that don’t belong, and I apparently like to add Es to the ends of words. Perhaps it’s all those years of people misspelling my name. How hard is it to remember that I have an E at the end of my name? Oh, it’s not? Thought so.

But I did. I handwrote three-thousand scribbly pink words, on the back of my printed chapter and then, when I ran out of room, in my spiral notebook. (One of my friends pointed out an interesting article about handwriting at the Huffington Post)

I learned something important. Sometimes, you really do just need a change of scenery. I needed a big change of scenery. I had to move into another room, seat myself in a different position, use a different medium, a different mode, and I had to change the color of my writing in order to get my brain going again, in order to focus. I think part of my success was being away from the internets, but I’ll just gloss over that bit.

Hopefully, I can tackle my work-in-progress on the computer today. If not, maybe I’ll sit atop the washing machine, take up a felt-tip marker, and write on my arms. Whatever works, right?

Chuck Wendig posted on his blog this week 25 Ways to Defeat the Dreaded Writer's Block (AKA, 'Denying the Unicorn His Due') . It's a fun read, NSFW, and he has a lot of tips you can use to beat writing slumps.

What do you do when you’ve hit a writing slump? What works for you?


  1. What works for me is to wait it out. If I'm blocked, it usually means there's other things in life that need attention. Once they're taken care of, Olga (my BDSM Muse) comes back and starts smacking me until I've got the momentum going again.

  2. I used to wait it out, but then it got to the point where it was difficult to get going again. It's write or die in this house ;)

    Also, your Muse frightens me.

  3. I've been in a writing slump for a bit. I would suggest just writing stream of conscious to simply get words out, as if you're exercising. Then think about the story and pretty soon you're writing! Actually, I need to take my own advice!

  4. When I hit a writing slump, I prefer to wallow in self-loathing. I think that the opening scene of Apocalypse Now pretty much sums up how it goes:


    Then I go and do something productive...like write. Or reenact Heart of Darkness. Whatever comes first.

    Seriously, this is why I try to keep myself busy and always have multiple projects to jump between, even when I have a major one due.

  5. Awesome post! I'm a never-ever by hand person...my handwriting is wretched (always has been). But a change of scenery--decamping to a coffee shop or even just to the front porch--works wonders! I also let myself take a short break if I'm really stuck--sometimes telling myself "You're not ALLOWED to write for the next two days" does the trick!