Are you in a slump? You are not alone. The majority of authors are juggling day jobs, school, family, and other responsibilities. Consistency can be difficult to maintain. You get on a creative binge, churning out page after page of your next great story, and suddenly life intervenes, plugging that creative well. I have three suggestions to help you take advantage of times of drought or deluge.
- Log your time or your output
Some writers track pages per week or words per day. I use an Excel spreadsheet to track hours spent on actual writing and separate out critique, volunteer, and business hours. I even note life events that disrupt my writing time. Come up with a system that works for you.
Seeing your time or output can motivate you to keep writing until you hit your goal. It can relieve guilt during times when life legitimately gets in the way, and you can still see baby step progress despite adversity. Writing is the sort of activity that the more you do it, the easier it gets to slide into that creative zone. Write frequently, even if all you can manage is fifteen minutes at a time.
Once you start tracking time/output, you will begin to see a pattern of drought and deluge.
- Surviving Drought
Writing can be a lonely task devoid of reward. Inspiration may dry up from time to time. There are things you can do to make it through a creative drought.
Experiment with your writing schedule. If you’re too exhausted at the end of the day to be creative, try waking up an hour earlier, and writing when you have morning energy. Can you write during your lunch break? In a coffee shop for thirty minutes on the way home from work? Do you write best at night, when the rest of the household is in bed? Change things up. Try something new.
To stoke the creative fires, clear your head. Go for a walk. Meditate. Get away from distractions like your phone, television, all those things that scramble your brainwaves. Enjoy a creative hobby like sewing, painting, woodworking. Put together a jigsaw puzzle.
For a serious creative drought, dip into your reservoir of rough drafts and story idea files. Try switching gears to focus less on art and more on craft.
- Creating a Reservoir from Your Times of Deluge
Times of drought can result in stunted creativity and blunted motivation. In contrast, there are times of deluge – creative downpours where story ideas, character descriptions, and even entire scenes race out of your head and onto the computer screen. When the fever is on you, commit those ideas to paper or computer. Don’t sweat the polishing. That comes later.
Make use of those precious stretches of inspired writing to stock up for the times of drought. I’ve heard many authors relate how they pulled an old story draft out of a drawer, polished it, and sold it. Or maybe you’re talking to an agent at a writers’ conference, and he or she asks, “what else have you got?” Draw that idea from your well-stocked reservoir.
Keep a file of story ideas, either electronically or in a paper filing system. Hang on to those stories that just aren’t working. Maybe you need time to gain the right perspective on how to tell the story. When creativity dries up, or you don’t have a juicy stretch of time to brainstorm ideas, drag something out of your reservoir of unfinished work.
Learn the cycles and rhythms of your writing life by tracking your time or output. Stock your creative reservoir during times of deluge, so you have something to work on when the Muse has abandoned you. When your well is dry, focus on the craft side of fiction writing by editing rough drafts. You won’t stay stuck forever. Eventually, the deluge will return. Be ready!
Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She takes a turn in the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library. Working in the world of hazardous substances regulation, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. The two worlds collide in Survive Or Die. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction at http://www.catherinedilts.com/ Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.