When Writers Slump

We all get those times when our get up and go got up and went, leaving us behind. It’s an effort to get up in the morning Man Using Laptopand to start on our daily activities, like going to work, doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning. Whatever tasks call us. Those times when our daily routines seem unusually burdensome.

Even writers have these times, these slumps, where getting our tires rotated is more intriguing than sitting at our computer and trying to fill the screen with words. Anything to avoid that keyboard.

Some call it writer’s block. Although author Terry Pratchett says: “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”

For me, a slump is when I’m not focused. My mind wanders anywhere and everywhere except the project I’m supposed to be working on. My muse—the boys in the basement of my brain—sense this and start playing poker or fantasy baseball.

William Faulkner’s inspiring statement: “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning,” gets limited lip service. When I’m in a slump, it’s easy to let other things distract me—Free Cell, Facebook, email.

Rabbitt Trail 1Even research can be a distraction. Begun in the name of the current writing project, seeking information on medieval castles can lead to willingly followed rabbit trails and a couple of hours are gone. And the initial question was answered in the first ten minutes.

So how do we break out of these slumps?

For me, I look at what I’m doing and make tweaks. If I find I’m checking email or Facebook outside of the time I scheduled for it, I’ll set a specific time and schedule an alarm.

If I’m slumping in my writing, I change how I’m writing. Take my laptop to a different spot. If I’m writing in Word, I’ll set my view to Focus View. In Scrivener, I’ll set it in Compose mode. These settings remove everything from the screen except the document I’m working on.

Or, I’ll write the old fashioned way, without a computer. Pen and pad and write long hand. This might be a brainstorm, or a scene, or notes on where to go next.

One of the more effective techniques I’ve learned recently is to use writing blasts—set a timer for one hour, put the timedocument in Compose mode or Focus View, and write until the timer beeps, dings, or howls.

What are some things you do to bust out of a slump?

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