Tag Archives: writer’s block

How to Fight Writer’s Funk When Depressed

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Writers and Depression

Depression often seems to go hand in hand with being a writer. I’m sure there is some psychological reason for this–something to do with how our creative brains work. Not to mention constantly dealing with rejection in this hard to break into industry.

Regular followers of my blog may have noticed I have been rather quiet the past year. The reason for this is because I have been battling depression. I lost motivation for updating my blog, for interacting on Twitter and for submitting my work. I also lost my motivation to write. I felt blocked. Normally my brain is entertaining a million story ideas at any given time, but in the midst of my depression there was nothing.

A Therapist’s Suggestion

While attending therapy, my therapist would give me tasks she wanted me to complete as part of my battle against the depression. These tasks included exercising daily, eating well and self-affirmations. She also wanted me to write–it was supposed to be something to do for me, because she knew I was a writer. Every session she would ask, “Have you written anything since I last saw you?” I would always say no and mumble some excuse as to why not. She would write on a piece of blank white paper my tasks to complete before our next session and in capital letters she would always include

WRITE!

But the words wouldn’t come.

How to Get Out of that Writing Funk

I am finally getting back into the swing of writing again. Properly writing. My therapist’s push for me to write helped, but I also found some other ways to help me get back my motivation to write. If you’re going through your own writing funk, maybe these can help you, too.

1. Read. A lot. I realised not only had I not been writing, I hadn’t been doing much reading either, preferring to watch mind-numbing television or get sucked into the black hole of the internet. At the start of the year I challenged myself to read fifty books in a year, knowing that reading is a great way to inspire writing. It worked. The more I’ve read (especially in the same genre as my WIP) the more my creative juices have returned. I’ve been keeping track of my reading on Goodreads’ reading challenge. (See my progress here.)

2. Write. Anything. This came from my therapist. She told me it didn’t matter what I wrote, just write. It doesn’t have to be a story. Just grab a piece of paper or open up Word and write whatever comes to mind. In the beginning I wrote a lot of my negative thoughts and feelings. It reminded me of when I was an angsty teen and whenever I felt depressed I would write dark poetry. So write angsty poetry. Write a stream of thoughts. Write fanfiction. Just write!

3. Reread old writing. Go to wherever you keep old, forgotten stories. Open those old files or pull out those old notebooks. Reread your old work. Remind yourself how far you’ve come as a writer. You might even get inspired to start rewriting some of those old ideas using the writing skills you’ve gained since you last wrote it.

How do you get motivated to write again when you’re in a writing funk or suffering from depression? Please share in the comments.

Photo credit: Sander van der Wel from Netherlands via Wikimedia Commons

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How to Deal with Writer Burnout (Guest Post)

Before I introduce the next guest poster to the Graceful Doe’s blog, I just want to let everyone know I haven’t forgotten about April’s Helpful Writing Sites post. I will be doing another combined post at the end of May. I would also like to thank everyone who has voted for my blog so far for the 2012 Best Australian Blogs People’s Choice award. There are just 5 days left to vote! If you would like to vote for my blog, just click the ‘vote for me’ link in the sidebar; my blog ‘The Graceful Doe’ is on page five of the voting form.

Now onto the next post in my guest post series. Freelance writer Jenny Ellis has some tips for dealing with something most writers face at some point: Writer burnout.

How to Deal with Burning Out on Writing

People have this common misconception that writer’s lead these whimsical lives where they sit in coffee shops and drink coffee all day while pondering life and staring intently at their laptops. The truth though? Writing for a living is no small feat. It’s hard to churn out content day in and day out and have each and every article come out worthy of being published. As a writer I can tell you that my life is less than whimsical and I spend an equal amount of time stressed out as I do drinking coffee and staring at my laptop (because let’s be honest, the coffee and laptop scenario does happen too). In fact, after weeks of writing day in and day out sometimes I get a little burned out and it becomes rather difficult to even think about writing another article or chapter or whatever I’m working on at the time. And while I think that burning out is nearly inevitable from time to time, I have found some tools for dealing with it:

  1. Switch to editing – Sometimes it’s the mere act of coming up with new content that has become a chore, and shifting gears and doing something else related to writing can be exactly the jolt that you need. Often times I find when I’m editing a piece that I’ve let sit for a while that once I start re-reading it I’m flooded with new ideas for how to change the piece into something better. Before I know it I’m re-writing entire sections with gusto instead of dreading penning any more words.
  2. Do something different – As writers I think we all tend to get wrapped up in projects and we become slaves to our laptops. I know I can spend hours staring at my laptop with unblinking eyes as I pore over new material, old material, and proof-reading. It’s usually when I start feeling burned out that I realize that I haven’t taken a genuine break from writing in a while. So I take a walk, I get outside, I call a friend, I just take a break to let my mind recharge a little. Allowing yourself to rejuvenate can do wonders.
  3. Write for fun – Amidst projects and deadlines it’s easy to get a little flustered and just shut down. You likely started writing because you love it, right? So take a break from everything that you’re getting paid to do and write something that you feel like writing. Maybe it’s a journal or personal blog entry, maybe it’s poetry, maybe it’s a song… whatever it is let yourself take a break and have some fun with it!
  4. Bounce ideas off a colleague – If you’ve hit a wall and you’re feeling burned out it could just be that you’re only allowing yourself to view a piece in one way. Let a trusted friend or colleague read what you’re writing and be open to constructive criticism. Toss ideas around with one another. Finding a good idea or a new twist could be just what you need to ignite the passion that writing requires.
  5. Don’t stress too much – When you write for a living and you’ve suddenly reached a period of burnout it’s easy to start stressing out about getting things done on time and wondering if you’ll ever get out of this rut. However stressing is just going to make it even harder to get back into writing, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Decompress a bit and allow yourself to recognize that you’re burned out. Your writing mojo will come back sooner when you’re relaxed and receptive.

Burning out is one of those annoying things that come with any profession, though it can be especially hard to deal with as a writer because you’re so used to the creative juices running freely. Your writing will be its best when you’re happily letting the words roll onto the page, not when you’re forcing them, so don’t be too down on yourself if you end up a little burned out every now and then. Allow your creativity to return and then the words will flow.

Jenny Ellis is a freelance writer, and a regular contributor for aupair care. She welcomes your comments at: ellisjenny728 @ gmail.com.

Image by PocketAces via stock.xchng

3 Symptoms of the Week 2 Blues (and How to Cure It)

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 10

Total number of words written: 16283

Words Written Today: 250 (so far)

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: 1 fun size Crunchie, half a cup of Milo–by which I mean just dry Milo, no milk or hot water involved (so far, but it’s only 2pm) (have sadly run out of milky ways) I should probably also mention the caramel popcorn and starbursts, but technically they’re not chocolate 🙂

In NaNo land there is something known as the ‘Week 2 blues’ and unfortunately it seems to have hit me the past few days.On top of that, it’s been a super busy week in Mummy land. I’ve had antenatal appointments, immunisations for Miss 2 (which turned out to be much more of a drama than it was supposed to be), an afternoon at the cinema with a group of playgroup mums and the usual weekly shopping trip. I’ve just signed my son up for the local Christmas play, so we’ll be attending rehearsals for that every week, the first one was on Monday. I also decided this week the fridge was in desperate need of a cleanout, not to mention the cupboard under the sink. And November’s calendar is filling up fast!

Sunday and Monday were both low word count days. On Sunday I consumed at 3 cans of Coke, ate a great deal of chocolate and ended up getting KFC for dinner, but still didn’t get near the daily word goal. I did go to the movies in the afternoon, though, and even though I lost a few hours writing time, I think I needed that break and to get out of the house to reenergise.

Since there’s nothing I can do about life’s happenings, I’m going to focus on getting over these week two blues.

The Symptoms:

1. Motivational high of week one has pretty much all fizzled out. All the excitement of going into a new story, all the buzz of new ideas, that spurred an initial surge of words spewing onto the page has died down.

2. It’s getting harder to push words out onto the page. You find yourself staring at the page, letting distractions take over. Whereas in the first week the words seemed to flow onto the page easily, this week you feel like you have to pry them from your brain.

3. You know where you want your characters to go, but don’t know how to get them there. You have your plan, you know what your next plot point is, but trying to get them there has you stumped.

So how am I supposed to get past this week two slump? I know other NaNoers who have simply quit, deciding NaNo just isn’t working for them this year. Some have changed stories and gone into a new idea with renewed motivation (I did this last year). Some have decided to take the pressure off by not worrying about the word count and just writing what they can, when they can.

I still love my story idea, and I want to keep on, so here are some ways I’m going to try to tackle the week two blues that have worked for me in the past.

The Cure:

1. Stay focused on where I want my story to go, but also let it surprise me with plot twists and extra details. My characters have just found the first clue to a conspiracy that I had not planned at all. It was an interesting surprise and a nice addition to build upon my plot.

2. Push past the ‘writer’s block’ by just writing. Write or Die has been a big help with this in the past in getting from one point to another.Wordwars/wordsprints are helpful too, and there are always NaNoers around on Twitter who are up for some word wars.

3. Decrease distractions by writing on my laptop (which has only Word programs and is not connected to the internet).

I am so grateful for that week one padding I built up when my motivation was still high, it has helped a lot this week. At the moment I’m trying to keep just ahead each day. I find if I think, “I only have to write 900 words tomorrow to reach the goal”, it gives me motivation going into the next day, because the goal isn’t as overwhelming as staring at the prospect of writing 1667. And then when I’ve hit the goal, I think, “Well now it’s only 700 more and I’ll have written 1667”. It breaks it into chunks, which makes the goal seem easier to reach.

Author Jody Hedlund has a great post on writing after the initial passion has fizzled: How to Keep Writing When the Honeymoon is Over

How is everyone else going? Have you been hit with the week 2 blues? How are you coping with them? What strategies are you using to keep on going?

The Best Cure for Writer’s Block

I think all writers encounter writer’s block at some point, whether you are in the middle of a novel and you’re not sure how to progress to the next scene, or you don’t know what you want to happen next, or you want to write a short story, but don’t even know what to write about. There are lots of causes for writer’s block, but what is the best cure?

When I did NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2009 I discovered the best cure for writer’s block: Just write! Because during NaNoWriMo I had a goal of writing 50,000 words in one month, I didn’t have time to sit around procrastinating over a scene until the answer came to me – I wanted to reach my daily word goal. So I wrote. Sometimes what I wrote was pure drivel, but I was writing. I could always go back later and edit or cut out. By writing when I thought I was stuck I got past the writer’s block. Once I discovered this, I’ve never been bothered by writer’s block again. Here are some methods I use to write past writer’s block:

1. Write or Die. I loved this free program during my first NaNoWriMo. The idea is to set a goal and a punishment for yourself, then start writing. The punishment occurs if you stop writing for too long and could be as simple as a siren going off or as harsh as erasing what you’ve already written. Because you have to write to stop the punishment occurring, you don’t have time to stop and procrastinate. I used this many times when I got stuck on a scene on my novel. (Remember you can edit later, so don’t worry if what you write even makes sense at this point.) If you don’t want to use Write or Die, set yourself a timer, close down any other distractions on your computer and just write until the timer goes off.

2. The Writing Book by Kate Grenville. There are some great writing prompts and writing exercises in this book. I got assigned this book when I was studying writing at university, and it’s one of the few assigned books I still refer to. Stuck on your character? There’s a chapter on character. Don’t know where to begin? Try the chapter on getting started. Here’s an example of an exercise from the book:

Write for 60 seconds without stopping. Just write exactly what comes into your head, even if it’s only ‘I can’t think of anything to write this is a stupid thing to do.’

3. Plan Ahead. Particularly if you are writing a novel or a longer piece it can help to plan before you write. Obviously this is not for everyone and some people find it too restrictive, but I find it helps me have an idea of where I want my story to go. By knowing where my story is going, and what plot points I want to include, it gives me something to work towards. That way if I get stuck, I just refer to my notes, look at what my next important plot point is, and write towards that scene.

How do you get past writer’s block?

Image: Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

NaNoWriMo is Coming

image from NaNoWriMo

Last year I particpated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, well unofficially anyway. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It takes place in November and the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Last year I decided to do NaNoWriMo (though I never offically joined the site because I’d technically already started writing my novel and due to time constrictions in my life at the time I knew I’d never reach 50k words). I took part last year to get some much needed motivation to get my novel written (and stop procrastinating). I got so much more out of it than I ever thought I would. Some things I learned:

1. Making Time to Write

It’s so easy to become distracted (by social media, by television, etc) that writing goes on the backburner. I had started writing a novel, but I wasn’t giving writing the priority I needed to give it. I would procrastinate and become distracted mucking around on Facebook. To reach 50k in one month I set myself a goal of writing a set amount each day, which meant any time I had spare time to write that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t waste time playing Harry Potter on PS3 or even starting that new book I bought. I wrote. NaNoWriMo taught me if I gave writing priority over time-wasting activities I could get a lot written.

2. The Cure for Writer’s Block

Before NaNoWriMo if I got stuck with a scene I would sit there and stare at the blank page and sometimes even give up, hoping it would come to me later, only to return and stare at the blank page again with still no idea how to proceed. This is usually where the procrastination would come in. I would divert back to the old standbys of social media and video games while I ‘thought’. It didn’t work too well. Procrastinating wasn’t an option during NaNoWriMo, I needed to get those words on the page if I had any hope of reaching my daily writing goal. So I just wrote, whether I was stuck or not. I found ‘Write or Die‘ was great for this. Basically you set up a word/time goal and write until you reach that goal. If you stop writing for more than a few seconds you get ‘punished’ (there are several punishment options to choose from). Maybe what I wrote during these forced sessions wasn’t the most brilliant writing and maybe I had to modify scenes later on (that’s what editing is for), but I got past my writer’s block every time.

3. Turning Off My Inner Editor

I’m a real perfectionist when it comes to writing and one thing I always used to do was edit as I wrote. I would write a scene, or sometimes even a paragraph, then I would go back and fix all the spelling errors because I couldn’t stand having them there or I would rewrite the scene again and again until it flowed just right. It made writing a long process and often I would lose steam before I ever finished the story. For NaNoWriMo I forced myself to turn off my inner editor. I made myself refrain from reading back over anything I had written until I finished that first draft completely. Sure there were lots of spelling and grammatical errors throughout that first draft and there were a lot of scenes that needed to be rewritten, but I got it written. I got the story written out to completion without losing steam. I didn’t get 50k in November, I think I only hit 30k (which was still a huge achievement for me), but I kept up the steam until it was finished (in January). The first draft is just that, a first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect, that’s what editing is for.

I’ve decided to take part in NaNoWriMo officially this year(my NaNo page is here). Although I’m not certain I’ll reach 50k this year (I still have to balance my other time commitments), at least I’m starting from scratch this time. I’ve been tossing up between a couple of ideas, but I think I’ve narrowed it down to the one I want to write. Now to start the planning!