Several of our Roses have written in the past few months about being stuck in the writing doldrums, or something similar, where circumstances and/or mood keep the Muse away. I’m no different. In fact, I’ve shared in previous posts that I’ve been stuck in that mode for quite some time. Recently, though, I’ve started coming out of it, and I thought I’d share a what snapped me out of it.
It all started last fall when I was trying to write my short holiday story for our blog. We’d had the first line for months, and ideas had been floating around in my brain since, but I was having a hard time coming up with an actual story. The date of my first post kept creeping closer and closer like some creature with its claws out, ready to gouge me! Each time I’d post a monthly blog, I’d see more and more Roses who’d finished their stories and had them queued up for publication, and I still hadn’t started mine!
By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was starting to worry, and for the first time I started to doubt my ability to get the story done. I knew I could ask one of my fellow Roses to swap dates with me, and I’m confident someone would have graciously agreed, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that I needed to find a way out of this myself. Because there was no real reason I was behind—no family crisis, no visitors, no illnesses. Just my normal routine.
Finally, I settled on my idea and started writing. The story was shaping up, I was feeling confident and about three-quarters done. Then the writer’s worst nightmare happened—less than a week before my posting date, I somehow wrote over my document with something entirely different. And – poof! – like that my hard-fought words were gone. DID I MENTION IT WAS LESS THAN A WEEK FROM MY POSTING DATE!?
When I realized what I’d done, I wanted to cry. I think I did let out an inhuman-like wail that caused my husband to come running, then pooh-pooh me like it wasn’t a real crisis. (What does HE know anyway?!)
After a frantic search of my computer, I located three or four old versions that I’d somehow had the foresight to save under a different name, so at least I had a foundation. The basic plot hadn’t changed, but a lot of the details had. I remembered enough that I knew it was salvageable, but the clock was ticking.
I couldn’t take any time off from the day job, and by the end of the work day my brain is dead, so I did the unthinkable. I sacrificed my morning exercise and promo/email/blog-raading time to work on the story before work. Thankfully I got the story done (although probably with a few glitches I didn’t pick up on in my rush), but in the process, I discovered something amazing.
Writing at 4:25 a.m., when my brain is still half asleep, released the creativity I’d been missing for so long, but more than that, it rekindled my love of writing. Somehow my brain likes writing before dawn. Who knew?!
I’m a creature of habit, AND the kind of person who likes to get the icky tasks out of the way before I let myself do the fun stuff. So for several years I’ve been following the same pre-work routine: get up early, exercise, take care of the writing “business” stuff, then try to write, then go to the day job. It hasn’t worked. I think by waking myself up with non-creative things, I locked my thinking into that business-like frame, and once there, I couldn’t get it back, even on weekends when I didn’t have to go to work.
Bull-headed, I didn’t quite recognize this about myself until after the first of the year and I’d settled back into that routine. I’d been making slow progress on my WIP, but at the rate I was going, it would take another year to finish. I knew something had to change.
When I’d managed to write the holiday story in record time, I assumed it was the deadline and the thought of having to admit failure that lit the fire, and that was true. It forced me to come up with a solution. Analyzing it after the fact, though, I remembered how good it felt, even under pressure, to put words and sentences together first thing after waking. So I took a leap and rearranged my pre-work routine. For the past couple weeks I’ve been getting up at the same time, then stagger downstairs, get myself a cup of strong tea, and settle down to write. And miraculously, it’s working!
I’m averaging 500-700 words each morning before work, finally making progress on my long-neglected WIP. In fact, I’m having a hard time yanking myself from my laptop to get to the rest of my day. (Back to reality? Nooooooooo!)
On the negative side, the “business” needs are suffering. I’m posting far less frequently on my Facebook page, for example, but I figure hardly anyone was reading it anyway, so no real harm. And once I have this story in production, I can ramp up my efforts.
So if you’re stuck in the writing blues and missing your Muse, maybe try to figure out when you get the most joy from writing and refocus your efforts on that time of the day or place. It can’t hurt to try! And if you're in a place where you're having a tough time finding joy in anything, give yourself time to heal, to recover...to regain your balance. The joy will find you when you're ready.
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Learn more at LeahStJames.com.