Writing Slump – How to Avoid Them
Every now and then, all writers suffer from a writing slump. But what exactly is the slump? Is it writer’s block? Is it general apathy with writing? Is that moment when the novel stutters to a stop and you don’t know what to write next?
The slump in question refers to a period when writers seem unable to write because they’re not feeling creative, they’re not inspired or they haven’t any ideas to work on. It’s an apathy of sorts, sometimes created by life in general and sometimes by negative influences. It’s a creative dry spell.
The writing slump shouldn’t be confused with writer’s block. They’re not the same. One is the inability to write, through various things the writer has done to cause the block, while the other is a lack of motivation to write in the first place.
From time to time, writers have to refocus. Slumps occur when other things take over – social media, family, other work commitments etc. The time writers normally spend being creative and inspired is constricted by other pursuits. How many are guilty of spending too much time on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter etc.? Writing fiction slowly takes a back seat.
How many of us get wrapped up in our day to day lives, looking after the home and the kids? Plenty of writers work normal jobs and try to write around that, and sometimes they’re just too tired to be creative.
I often have major writing slumps. But I don’t worry about this because I know, as with everything in life, it tends to balance itself. I know that I will get back into the swing of things again, when my mind and my creativity is ready to do so, because ideas and creativity work under their own steam. I know that I can’t force them into being. I also recognise why I’m in a writing slump, and so I can make adjustments to help get back on track.
In other words, it’s not something that should be forced. There’s lots of different advice that writers should write anyway – anything – just to get something written, but that just doesn’t work. Nothing works if it’s forced. They also advise to have different projects on the go, but that’s paradoxical – if you’re in a slump and not in the mindset to write, it won’t matter how many projects you have, you won’t want to write any of them in the first place.
So how can writers overcome a writing slump?
The first thing is to recognise you’re in a bit of a slump. Generally, the signs are easy to spot:
- There have been no new ideas lately.
- You don’t feel creative or inspired.
- You spend too much time on social media.
- You’re too tired to bother with writing
- You don’t have much free time anymore because of work or family etc.
- Your circumstances have changed, so writing is difficult.
If you know you’re having a dry spell, don’t panic. It’s normal to experience these slumps from on and off. It will get back to normal – you have to be patient as you try to adjust.
Forcing yourself to write is counterproductive, so if possible, have a change of scenery. Go out for a while; a park, a favourite place, or take a weekend off. Maybe even a holiday. Go and observe the world around you. People watch. A change of scenery sometimes helps writers to refocus, away from the noise and grind of daily life.
The same is true about ideas. Don’t force ideas into existence. They will be as convoluted as forced writing. Ideas work best when they come naturally, when you least expect. And the fun part is always expanding on those ideas, plotting and making them work.
Stay off social media for a while. It’s too addictive and is every writer’s excuse for procrastination. The time spent away from it is time better spent being creative.
Set aside some time to do some reading. Read your favourite authors. This is one of the best ways to fire up writing; reading others really does inspire and gives new fire in the belly.
Sometimes talking with other writers about what they’re doing can kick start the creative process again, and they can offer encouragement and feedback. Sometimes, just hearing about what other writers have accomplished is enough to have a metaphorical size ten up the backside to get motivated.
Recognise that everyone has busy lives, and sometimes we have to find time for ourselves. Even if it’s one hour out of the day that can be your writing time. Knowing that we have that time can often help us refocus.
Don’t make goals. This is another snippet of advice that is counterproductive. If you make goals whilst in a productive slump, then it just adds pressure to achieve them. And when you don’t achieve them (mainly because you’re still stuck in a slump and generally not motivated), then you’ll feel even worse and that is instantly turned into negativity, which can be hard to shake.
A writer’s only goal is to write a good story.
Don’t feel bad that you’re in a slump. They can last weeks or even months. It goes eventually. Just be patient, recognise the cause and try to adjust things so that you help get that creative fire back again.
Next week: Should you follow fiction writing rules?