Monday, September 09, 2013

Anti-Slump Ten

Ten Things to Help Defeat Writing Slumps

Alter Your Lighting: The wrong lighting can make a writing space feel more like a dentist's office or hospital room than a place of creativity. Combat this by inviting natural light into your space (open the curtains or blinds over windows during the day) or by changing out your light bulbs to softer varieties (some energy-efficient bulbs are now available with coatings that make them seem more like incandescent light). You can also create a background for your monitor (and cover up wall paint that is reflecting too much light into your face) by hanging a warm-colored length of fabric or a shawl, quilt or coverlet you like on the wall behind your computer. Don't forget that a glare screen for your monitor (or changing the display settings) can also help if the light from it bothers you.

Challenge Yourself for a Reward: Writer's don't get a regular paycheck like everyone else, so it's important to set up something in lieu of that. One reason I never stop writing is because I have a system of regular rewards for meeting my weekly goals. Last week it was having lunch out with my kid; this week it will be a visit to Barnes & Noble in the city. Having something you really love or want dangling as a carrot at the end of a writing session or work week can be a nice payoff as well as motivation to work.

Change Your Space: A writing space needs to be an oasis of creativity for you, and if yours isn't working that way it may be time for some changes. Some ideas: try moving your work station and/or furnishings to alter the arrangement of your space; remove some clutter to give yourself clean surfaces; or add an atmospheric enhancer (scented candles, a stereo to play music, or hang some new pictures within your visual field).

Do Something You Hate More First: I really hate doing laundry, and when I really want to feel good about my writing session I'll do the wash first. By the time I'm finished being able to write feels like a reward, and I've also knocked out a chore I despise.

Meditate Before Writing Sessions: I've been harping about this method for years, I know, but clearing the cob webs out of your thoughts and finding the right focus can make all the difference. You don't have to tackle meditation by any traditional method, either. Simply take a half-hour before your next writing session to sit somewhere quiet, release any negative thoughts or emotions, and reach for inner calm.

Remove All Distractions: That phone/television/gadget you love? Turn it off and then take it out of your writing space so you won't be tempted to check it. Same goes for any other device that has nothing to do with writing. Unplug from the internet, too. Don't worry, it will all still be there when you're finished.

Skip Ahead: Often one difficult-to-write page or scene or chapter can act like a roadblock to creativity. If you can't write it now, why let it derail you altogether? Set it aside and move on to the next page, scene or chapter. This skipping provides two advantages: you can recover your momentum by moving on, and give yourself some time to let that tough part percolate in your subconscious for a while. When you are ready to try tackling it again, your mood will also likely be improved, you'll have more story finished and you'll probably feel better about the work -- all of which are excellent things to have when you make that second attempt.

Talk it Out with a Writer Friend: No one understands a writer in a slump better than another writer, and if you have someone in your writing life whom you trust, it may help to reach out to them and get some practical advice. Now, that said, I don't think you should use writer friends as constant creative crutches, as becoming dependent on them to bail you out whenever you get blocked can cripple you as much as the blocks themselves (as eventually you'll get to the point where you can't write anything without their help.) Nor should you expect a writer pal to have the answer to your problem every single time. But if you do have a big problem and someone you can trust, simply talking it out can release a lot of emotional frustration and dissolve some of the reasons for the slump.

Take a Walk: Physical activity + fresh air usually = internal change. I walk my dogs every day, and lately I've been taking extra walks to soak up the sunshine before the colder weather arrives. When it rains, as it has nearly every day this summer, I can go someplace where I can walk around inside (museums and malls are great for that.) If you're not an outdoor walker type, go work out at the gym, go window-shopping, or take a bike ride. The idea is to get your blood pumping and your muscles working (but as with all new physical activity, make sure you're healthy enough to do it and/or get the okay from your physician.) Most writers spend entirely too much time indoors, and if that describes you a daily walk might be just the thing you need to stomp over your slump.

Write Something New (and Short): We spend weeks and months and sometimes years working on the same project, and growing tired of it can contribute to a slump. To combat the long-term writing project blues, take a break to write something else -- something new, short and that won't take longer to write than a day or two. This can be a poem, short story, blog post, Twitter rant, Facebook entry or whatever you like. If the new idea seems more appealing than the big project, set it aside and use it as a carrot every week to motivate yourself to finish the original story (i.e., if you reach your weekly writing goal, give yourself one day to work on the new idea.)

Do you have any special tricks you use to get out of a writing slump? Please share them in comments.


  1. I do the Magic Keyboard trick. Works like a charm. I switch my keyboard for the spare. I usually use a Razer keyboard,but currently I'm typing this on a Microsoft Comfort Curve.

    1. What a great idea -- thanks for sharing it, Lynne. :)

  2. Turning the Internet off is definitely helpful. I've also been known to give myself permission to just write whatever I want for about 15 minutes. Sometimes I just need to release another writing style or character.

    1. I have one journal I've been working on for a couple years that is my go-to for the sort of break writing you do, Melody. In it I challenge myself to write short verse and make an accompanying sketch. It's slow going, but it's worked as a great way to instantly recharge the batteries.

  3. The remove all distractions is the big one for me. Mine come in a rather large sized pair of pups. They're barely over a year old and have an excess of energy to spare. I am learning to gate them off into separate rooms for an hour or two for writing time. (Hugs)Indigo

    1. You're braver than me, Indigo -- I don't have the heart to gate myself off from my pups. Although I will say over the years they've learned that mornings need to be quiet times, and usually nap on the floor quilt in my office while I work.