“I attack the paper, struggling like a lion.”
Vincent Van Gogh
We’ve all had those days when nothing much seems to be happening: We can’t really jump start our writing, our energy level seems low, we feel deflated because we aren’t getting the recognition for our work that we crave, or we find ourselves struggling with some problematical and resistant piece of our writing. When this happens, it’s easy to sink into the Sough of Despond and just wait to see how low we can go. I’ve been in that kind of a slump any number of times, and it’s no fun. In fact, it’s downright draining.
What to do? What to do? If you find yourself in this kind of a spot, here are a few things I’ve tried that have helped me from time to time and might work for you as well:
Instead of trying to talk yourself out of it, simply accept that you are in a low moment. There’s an ebb and a flow to writing, just as there is to any creative endeavor and to life itself. What you resist persists. So instead of resistance offer yourself acceptance and compassion for where you are. Just giving yourself this small gift may lighten your load and make you feel better, more hopeful.
Find something productive, but easy to do. Instead of just letting yourself languish, you can use this down time constructively in a way that may move your project, whatever it is, farther along. You might do some research on one aspect that you need to flesh out, or spend a little time analyzing a piece of writing you feel is very strong and has some relevance to your work, or even read a chapter in a handbook on plotting or a chapter or dialogue to see if you can get some ideas. If something sparks, then try playing with it: Rewrite a patch of dialogue and see if you can spark it up using what you’ve just learned.
Write a letter to yourself — an encouraging, supportive letter. In it you can talk about things that are going well — scenes you’ve strengthened or a character you’ve made stronger. Give yourself a boost by pointing out to yourself what you’re doing right. Then talk about the rough patch you are going through and see if any ideas for handling it bubble up. Or you can write a letter to a character you seem to be struggling with — just let your words flow without censoring or judging them. Maybe your character has something to tell you that you are not listening to.
If any of these techniques strike a chord with you, I’d love to hear about it. And you
have some strategies for down times that have worked for you, I’d love to have you share them. We’re all in the same boat — all striving to stay afloat as we write on.