Recently, I experienced a slump in my writing. The ideas were there, but I couldn’t find the energy or the motivation to write them down. I still might have been a writer without actively writing, but I wasn’t a fulfilled writer.
Life interrupted my writing.
I was still getting up at my usual godforsaken hour of 4am, yet my mind was clogged and burdened from the day before, from tasks I had yet to complete. The laundry I hadn’t finished. The bills I hadn’t paid. The Christmas decorations that were still up.
What do writers do when non-writing responsibilities hijack the muse, or whatever we want to call our creative center?
First of all, it’s important to understand why this happens. In all my experience of being a writer, trying to fit the craft into random spaces day to day, one lesson I learned is that fear is a muse’s mortal enemy. Fear, like a chameleon, can disguise itself depending on certain conditions. It can show up as self-doubt, a bad cold, procrastination, etc.
One of the most common masks worn by fear is “Interrupting Life.”
This makes me think of one of my son’s favorite knock-knock jokes:
Every time my life gets in the way of my writing, that joke comes to mind for some reason. Probably because I see a solution in that joke. If speaker B didn’t ask who is knocking at the door, the interruption can’t be fulfilled.
Life interrupts my writing because I allow it.
Sure, there are some circumstances you can’t avoid. And you have to pick apart the tasks or issues that can wait until your writing block is over from the tasks or issues that must be tended to immediately.
The key phrase here is WRITING BLOCK.
You’ll have a much easier time committing to your writing if you schedule it in its own block–whatever that might look like for you. My block is generally 4:00-5:30 am, or longer if it’s a non-school day.
Once you establish a block of time, you are on your way to making a habit of writing every day (Time Warrior preference), or on a regular basis.
But my problem went deeper than not sitting down during my block to write. My problem had more to do with lack of passion, lack of creative energy. I was in a writing slump, where my creativity flowed like sludge clinging to pipes.
Why was I doing all of this, which seemed to be getting me nowhere fast. What was the point? Why bother getting up at 4am to work on fiction that wasn’t generating interest by any literary agent or publisher?
Why was I writer?
It was a big question, and one that reaches back to when I was about eight years old and wrote a story about a good wolf. Back then, being a writer was easy. Nowadays, there was more at stake. It cost me a lot more. I wasn’t sure it was worth it.
JOURNAL IT OUT.
I use this phrase with my clients and students. Anytime they hit a block, I tell them to journal it out. Even if it means switching from the draft in a notebook to a hardcover, sparkly journal–take a few minutes and journal out everything they know and don’t know about the offending moment that is acting like a thorn in the side.
I took my own advice and journaled out why I was a writer. Pretty overwhelming, but truths that had lain dark and quiet rose into the light of awareness. This was why, I remembered. I’d answered a calling (a yanking), and I can’t back out now.
Touching base with my purpose was like my reset button. My writing journey is in my hands. Moving forward is up to me. And I needed to go back to base camp and make sure everything was in place for my next steps.
BACK TO THE BASICS.
This idea may seem trivial, but trust me, a tidy habitat with working equipment sets you up for success. Picking the best time of day to write falls under this category; sometimes we self-sabotage by picking a time of day where we’re most likely to be interrupted. Like I’d said earlier, that wasn’t my problem, so I tended to other areas of my writing habitat.
My desk was cluttered with other factors of life, like bills, grocery lists, school notices.
I was trying to write with my emails and the web open.
Stacks of books crowded the floor.
I tackled my study with gusto, clearing my desk, putting reference books within easy reach, filling out short- and long-term goal worksheets, taping the structure of my WIP on my wall. I created a habitat that fostered creativity and productivity, and I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment.
From there, I designed a writing ritual to help prime me for my writing block. By running through a series of short but meaningful activities before I sit down to write, I am warming up the muse, cluing her in to the fact we are going to be working soon.
Part of my ritual includes freshly brewed coffee, soft fairy lights, and my personalized writing soundtrack in the background. By this point, the conditions of my environment are perfect for writing, and I am eager and ready for the challenge.
Getting out of a slump requires a combination strategy of inner and outer tool adjustments. Sometimes, our usual writing practice isn’t effective enough to withstand a particular project, season of year, or Life demands. Tweak and refine to find your best writing strategy that can propel you to the page on a regular basis.