10 Tips to Beat A Writing Slump

10TipsToBeatAWritingSlump

(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.

Sound familiar?

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.

Recommended Reads: Anon, Sir, Anon. Rooftoppers. Pendragon’s Heir. The Mysterious Howling. The Blue Castle. Anything by L.M. Montgomery really.

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.

Take walks. People-watch and listen in on conversations (it’s research). Do something you’ve never done before. Play with a child. Throw sticks with a dog. Count how many things you see–birds, red cars, dragons (okay, maybe not that last one, alas). Cloud-chase. Put on the mind-set of a secret agent. Get lost. Imagine you’re from a different country and you’re seeing and hearing everything around you for the first time. Compliment strangers. Go out looking for adventures with wide-eyed wonder and curiosity, and all five senses alert.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. Breathe. 

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.

What is your advice for conquering a writing slump?

10 thoughts on “10 Tips to Beat A Writing Slump

  1. Awesome post! And you know, the nice thing about these options is that you don’t have to try them all at once—you can do just one of them or a combination of things depending on what kind of a slump you’re in. For instance, if you’re sick of reading or can’t stand to read your own work at the moment, listening to soul-stirring music or getting outside could be just the ticket. Other times your mind seems to have run “dry” and you need to get some beautiful words back into it, so you read.

    I tried the list-making thing the other day, per your suggestion. 🙂 I started with a list of every conceivable project I might be working on, and then broke it down. Stories Where I Know How the Plot Goes. Stories Where I Don’t Know the End Yet. Stories Where I Don’t Know What Happens in the Middle Yet. Then finally, a list of the ones I felt most kindly inclined towards, irrespective of what state the plot was in. By the time I’d sorted all this out, I’d picked something to work on!

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  2. Annie —
    I can’t believe it. This is //exactly// what I needed today… this week… this month. Seriously, every single point is such a good reminder and so clear and pertinently helpful. I’m bookmarking it right now. 🙂 Thank you so much for the hearty encouragement!! ❤

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  3. Annie… You are brilliant! This post was so refreshing! Writing slumps are THE WORST. I start to panic when I fall into one, and then I just feel depressed… Thanks for the reminder that nothing sad like that lasts forever. I must employ some of these techniques sometime. ❤

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  4. These are some great tips! I love #3.

    “Give yourself freedom to think without the boundaries of time and numbers, and write like there’s no tomorrow. Give yourself permission.”

    I haven’t had time to write lately b/c I created a ridiculously difficult reading challenge for myself, and, well, much preparation for CHANGES about to happen. Honestly, I could probably set aside an hour each week to write, though. I spend at least that much time doing nothing particularly useful…

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  5. These are all such great tips. ^_^ In fact, they are good, healthy things to do ALL the time, to avoid getting burnt out, too! 🙂

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  6. Bookssss yes. That’s normally what I end up doing — reading lovely books reminds me of everything I love about writing and my own story, and inspires me to go out and create something just as lovely. I needed this!

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  7. I adore this, Annie. I have found that lately I am rarely getting into writing slumps – the joy! – and I think that is because I am constantly writing. Mostly poetry these days, which is not the same as novel writing – but still, there is something quiet and beautiful in being able to finish a piece (a good piece, in my own humble opinion) within half an hour. A different sort of satisfaction than finishing a novel – but no less real. xx

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