Writing Slumps: What to Do When You Feel Uninspired
I have heard that writer’s block often occurs because of a lack of inspiration. Some claim that writers have difficulty writing because they are lazy or afraid. I have even heard some writers claim that they get tripped up over what they want to write because they don’t have enough time to finish their work. Their stories end up sitting on the back burner for so long they eventually get tossed into the half-written novel pile, never to see the light of day. Whatever the excuses or thoughts, it is clear that all writers hit slumps. In fact, most writers live in slumps and have writing spurts randomly placed throughout their careers. Is that a bad thing, though? Writers write is the saying, but does that mean that you always have to be creating stories every day of the week? Is there nothing else to do with your writing ability other than make novels for the world to read? Is it possible to be a writer and not *gulp* WRITE?!
For the last few months since I started this blog, I have been posting up all these ideas and plans I had for the future of, not just this blog, but my novels and other writing projects. A lot of these ideas came to me during the stress-filled days of college. Some of these ideas were great- collaboration efforts with other writers once a month and an increase in author interviews. Some ideas were not so great- video book reviews. (I love to read and review books but videos and I are not friends.) I created a master list of all these story ideas I had waiting in the wing to write and these giant dreams of the grandeur that would follow finally being done with my ‘busy’ work (aka writing papers on random subjects to prove to my professors I actually learned something in their class.) Then the reality of writing hit me. I was drained. I had titles for stories and the premise in place, but the words wouldn’t come to me. On my first full week of ‘writing’ for a living, I didn’t write one word. I couldn’t. My creativity had flat lined.
Following graduation in June, I created a very wonderful schedule for myself. I had all these dreams of writing every day, just like a full-time 9-5 job with coffee breaks and chats around the refrigerator water machine with my kids and everything. A week later, I ended up trashing my schedule. I realized that after two long years of school with no breaks (literally from August of 2014 till June of 2016, from one semester to the next to finish early), I needed down time. I also needed to have time to reflect on the long, hard journey I just completed and actually give myself time to enjoy life again. Yes, time off. Rejuvenation. Relaxation. REST!
A month later and with zero words written down in story form, I have to tell you. I feel like Dr. Frankenstein! Not in a creepy way, but more like- “I’ve done it!” Yes. I found it. The Oasis of Creativity, the holy grail of the writer’s world, the answer to slumps— creative vacations.
Writing slumps are your brain’s way of telling you to take a break. They are the way your mind begs for a vacation to just relax, dream, and swim in a pool of nothingness. Yes, your brain really does know when you are pushing it too hard. Slumps are the brains way of telling you that you need to step away and do something else. Experience the world- hike, camp, travel the world, try something new, go somewhere new, anything other than pushing your mind to write and write and write. When the words stop flowing it is your minds way of telling you to stop, drop, and do something different.
Rest is where the mind renews itself for the next wave of hard work.
Now, rest doesn’t mean don’t think. It doesn’t mean you can’t dream about your stories. It does mean, however, that you step away from the keyboard and notepads. It means letting your inner creative being do something different. Try making pottery. Take up painting. Do some household chores that have been piling up. Play with your kids. Experience the world in a new way. Garden. Dance. Sing. Love. But for goodness sake, don’t write. Let it be. You will thank me when your creative vacation is over.
Being uninspired is just another term for the overworked mind. It is a plea by your mind for new, fresh experiences. According to The Practice of Creative Writing author, Heather Sellers, “creative writing…is devoted to exploring the complex aspects of human experience. We read to be entertained, yes, but also to learn and understand more about who we are, how we function, why we are here, and what our lives mean. We read creative writing in order to see into the human condition” (Sellers).* But in order for you to be able to write with insight, you need wisdom. Wisdom of the human condition comes through experience. Experiences mean that you need to, time and again, go out into the world and do, see, learn, grow. Insights are “your specific observations about how and why people behave as they do, why the world is the way it is” (Sellers).* When you take a ‘creative vactation’ you give yourself time to rejuvenate the mind, body, and spirit.
Here are my top ten creative vacation tips to improve your writing and help you get over a ‘slump’.
Read more. Yes, I said it. Not just fiction, but non-fiction. Don’t just do research for your book, enjoy the process of reading and absorbing information. It really is helpful to the mind.
Meditate. Whether it is in prayer or just for your mind-body-spirit connection, find time to just do nothing but relax and listen to the quiet sounds of nature.
Explore. Whether it is the outdoors or the city your live in or a country you have always dreamed of visiting, go out and see the world you live in. You would be surprised the power of exploration has on the creative mind.
Laugh more. Laughter isn’t just good for your heart, it is good for the mind.
Observe others. We call this people watching. Some people call it creeping, but I call it passive research. Just go out and listen and observe human interaction. If you feel like it, participate in the interaction. Making friends is important after all.
Try a different creative avenue. Painting, drawing, crafting, building, gardening, make music, listen to music, dance, design- there are literally hundreds of creative things to do in the world. I’m not saying go master them, but picking up a new hobby is excellent for the mind. It not only helps with your writing but it taps into a part of your creative self that has been previously unexplored. Remember, exploration, even in the mind, is good for the building and strengthening creativity.
Spend time with family, friends, and loved ones. Your spouse, your kids, your siblings or parents- take the time to build those relationships up. You might be surprised at how much your family and friends have to offer you creatively. Do things they like to do and ask them to show you their creative hobbies or crafts.
Try new foods. Just like learning to do new creative things, trying new foods is an experience. It opens your mind to new possibilities and can fuel creativity.
Put down the electronics. In our world of constant connection, we are bombarded with electromagnetic interference on a daily basis. Turn off the phone, put down the IPad, and step away from the television. Experience the world through your many senses. Insight is gained through experience. Explore the world through your senses to gain deeper insights and improve your writing, and your mental health.
Enjoy yourself. We tend to beat ourselves up when we take breaks as if we don’t deserve them. Yes, you do, and you need to. Enjoy your down time and don’t compromise it for anyone or anything unless absolutely necessary. We all need periods of rest, and that includes your mind. It is your money maker, so take care of it!!
If you find yourself in a creative slump, I hope you will take my advice. It was through a forced vacation that I learned the power of creative mental breaks. I have found inspiration in places and people and new experiences that weren’t there before. I am grateful for having stumbled onto the creative oasis I did. Writers write, but when they aren’t writing, writers are dreaming, exploring, resting, and loving the world they live in so they can come back stronger for the next round of writing.
* Sellers, Heather. The Practice of Creative Writing. 2nd ed. New York: Bedford St. Martin. 2013. P. 304. Print