(inspired by this article about reading slumps)
You’re tired. You have no energy. The well of inspiration is officially dry. You’re so busy sometimes you forget your own name. You’re discouraged. The idea of spinning words together into something coherent makes you weep. Or you simply can’t decide what project to work on next.
It’s called a writing slump as I’m sure most of you already knew.
Last month I had the worst writing slump I can remember. I was busy constantly, and whenever I had a chance to sit down and scribble a few words the thought of writing made me cringe. My creativity was low. I missed my characters and my worlds so much I started to get panicky, but I just didn’t have the energy to do anything about it.
So, what do we do when we struggle like this? I’ve compiled a list of tips (because, as always, lists are life) that helped me smash the Nazgul-ish creature that likes to stalk us all at some point in our creative endeavors.
1. Read beautiful books.
If you’re anything like me, when you read a gorgeous piece of wordplay, you want nothing more than to sit down and at least try to make something as beautiful of your own. Immersing yourself in the work of people who possess amazing talent with words can have huge potential for inspiration. Mull over the descriptions. Memorize quotes. Seep yourself in the beauty. Create.
2. Go on an adventure.
A few weeks ago, I went outside to track down our renegade chickens. It required tromping about over damp, brown grass with my hands tucked in my jacket pockets and wind whipping through my hair. The day was so fresh and wild it reminded me of late autumn instead of mid-winter. I shouted at the top of my lungs for the chickens–that felt wonderfully exhilarating. After they came racing helter-skelter out from the fringe of trees, I trotted back to the house where my kitten, a roly-poly thing, scrambled up my legs demanding attention. I played with her, and took deep breaths of the pure breeze, and listened to sounds all around me: cars roaring past, cats purring, a lone bird singing, dead leaves rustling, the pine trees whispering in the breeze. I spent a total of twenty minutes outside and it gave me more energy and inspiration than anything else I’ve done recently.
- Set goals.
Instead of saying you must write these many words or you must write for this amount of time, give yourself permission to write towards whatever goal you want. For however long or much you want to. I tend to stress myself out because I am so focused on writing 1,000 words in a hour, but I’ve learned a changed mental attitude does wonders for keeping my creative energy from running out.
Give yourself freedom to think without the boundaries of time and numbers, and write like there’s no tomorrow. Give yourself permission.
- Make a list of ideas.
(because, again, lists are life)
I like to take a piece of blank paper–there’s something delicious about tangible lists–and write down all the story ideas and quotes and characters that make my heart beat faster. The ideas that make me want to explore them further, that give me shivers of excitement, that make my heart ache because I can tell there’s so much potential for beauty in them.
Bonus: after you’ve made lists, put them somewhere you can see them often enough that they continue to fuel your inspiration.
- Re-read your own writing.
One of the quickest ways to knock that writing slump over the head is to re-read the parts of your books that you love. Not the writing that makes you cringe, but the writing that you know deep down in the marrow of your bones is good writing. Read it and fell in love all over again.
- Make a conscious effort.
This one is more difficult and a little touchy to talk about. At first glance it implies writers fall into writing slumps because they don’t try hard enough–which is simply not true. But, I do know that last month there were times I could have written, moments when I could have created the time to write, if I had only made the conscious effort to.
When it comes down to it, we have two jobs: the person who writes and the person who keeps the writer on-track, making sure they get done what they need to. Sometimes I forget that.
- Try something new.
Never written in present tense? Try it out. Never written from a female POV? Try it out. Never written a novella or short story? Try it out. Never written in second person? Try it out. Never entered a creative writing contest? Try it out.
- Listen to soul-stirring music.
Probably 90% of creative people are inspired by music. Listen to evocative songs. Soak it in. Write about what it means. Feel the emotions. Make up stories or characters based off the music.
I recently made a collection of “mood” playlists solely for writing, and I thought I’d share the linky in case anyone else finds them inspirational. Let me know if you do!
- Seek out other writers.
This one is almost paramount to a writer’s life. Nothing gives us more inspiration and courage and energy than a good talk with fellow creatives. I have the privilege of living in a houseful of sisters who write and I know several lovely writers who live in my state, but I know not everyone has that. Make friends with writers on-line. Ask advice. Exchange snippets. Join writing groups. Call or Skype with fellow writers, and if that terrifies you (*cough*thisismesometimes*cough*) use email instead. Reach out to other creative artists. The writing community as a general rule is just so giving and kind and encouraging. I love you people.
Creative people tend to be too hard on themselves and writers are no exception. Give yourself permission to relax, to not stress. Take off days when you need them. Spend time in prayer. Nothing gives me quite so much combined energy and peace of mind as when I take a walk and just talk out everything with my Heavenly Father.
Be gentle with yourself. Let yourself slow down and watch the sun set. Breathe.