Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Getting Out of a Writing Slump

For the past few days I had been sinking into the longest and deepest writing slump of my life. At the start of October, I had decided to do NaNo. It would have been my first NaNo and I was tremendously excited. I decided to plan a rough outline of the MG novel I would be re-writing as well as outlining books 2 and 3.

But, someone up there had different plans for me. Every time I started rewriting or planning the outline, it was dismissed by my inner editor as being too mediocre, too clich├ęd, too  stereotypical. My inner editor constantly shouted, “Try something different. Go for the unusual. ”

I think being on submission too did its bit. Querying is a nerve twisting process, especially for writers like us (being in  India we are too far away from the hub of the publishing world) who have no access to  conferences or cannot get a referral. Most agents I wanted to query were closed to submissions. They either wanted to work with a writer they had met at a conference or a writer who was referred to them by one of their clients.

My writing  (crit) partners rallied around me, but every writer’s advice clashed with the other writer’s.  I was driving myself crazy.

My best friends during that 14 day long slump were all the writing craft books I had bought. At any moment you could see these books lying on my bed. I would be frantically making notes on how to hook the readers from page one, how to move the conflict  up to the first page, make the story question apparent as soon as was possible.

I had  done very little writing in the last few days, though I brainstormed a lot. To get away from all this, I plunged into reading. Reading is very theraupetic. I read two books from the Kane Chronicle Series, I enjoyed Hunger Games, I read Animal Farm. I also went out a lot; caught up with my non-existent social life and stopped thinking of both the query business and writing that perfect book.

Slowly the sun shone out from among the dark and stormy clouds. I think it was my faith in God that provided the ultimate break through. The break through finally happened, though I didn’t feel the effects immediately, I know the cobwebs covering my creative cells are falling away and the writer’s block is melting.

This was literally the worst phase of my writing life. I definitely don’t want to go through this again. Has something like this happened to you? Have you been in prolonged writing slumps? How many days has the slump lasted and how did you manage to get out of it? Please share your stories, we all can benefit a lot from it.  


  1. i ma glad you finally got the right path ...Mam...love your writing

  2. Rachna, you have succulently brought out the pangs of inertia during phase of writing! It took me all these years despite yearning to write!From your experience I feel I was not alone despite your long innings in the world of writing!Very useful tips ..

  3. Day? How about years? For the first twenty years of my writing life I was a poet and quite happy being one, thank you very much. But one day the poems dried up. I had not written a word for three years. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t see a writer any more. I didn’t know how to be the man I was turning into. The master plan was … well, let’s be honest, there wasn’t any plan. I was in a dead end job. My marriage had failed. I was suffering from Depression – whoppin’ great big capital D there – and I was back sleeping in the same bed I had done as a child only with a new mattress to help my bad back. That mattress felt like the only good thing I had at the time. Finally I decided to sit down and just write. A something. An anything. I certainly never sat down to write a novel. Who in their right mind sits down to write a novel? I was just working things out on a bit of paper and then a second bit of paper until I ended up with 181 printed and bound pages and a title, Living with the Truth.

  4. Oh yes!! Like you, I start reading more when this happens and that always helps. I find it actually a nice time now--a time to recharge my brain.

  5. Glad you battled through the slump Rachna. I have not had any prolonged problems, but taking some time away I think is essential for anyone trying to be creative.

  6. reading a book from the same genre(as the book I am writing) always works for me when nothing else does. I have been dilly-dallying for a ms for almost 1 year . Every time I sit down to write, something holds me back. So true that when you are in India ,you are not exactly in the epicentre of things for certain types of genres.

  7. @ Bunu..it took a lot of effort to get out of this slump.

    @ Rahul.. all writers go through such slumps, each one has a different way of dealing with it.

    @ Jim..you have gone through a lot. 3 years is a long time to stay away from writing. Its good that you took a hold of your life and resumed writing.

    @ Terri..reading helped divert my mind and I felt that I was doing my homework, even when I was not tackling my Manuscript.

    @ Slamdunk..you are lucky. I just hope you never go through what I went. It was too depressing, I felt I just could not write.

    @ Bhargavi..I bury myself in the world of books, not only in my genre, but any book that appeals to me. It helps lift the clouds of despair and unlock my creativity.

  8. I agree, reading is therapeutic! When I hit these seasons, I usually try too hard to get out. If I relax, read, and just go with the flow, things are always better. Glad you have broken through.

  9. I'm sorry you've had a rough time with writing lately. *hugs*

    I went through a very similar thing the last few months. I was slumped and discouraged. A writing buddy reminded me to try and just have fun with writing. So I decided that's what I'd do. I signed up for NaNo, came up with a random idea, and just started going crazy. It's not a story I'll probably ever do anything with-- it's just a fun challenge. And it's helped me a lot!

    I'm glad you're pulling through the rough times. :)

  10. its not the frequency but the quality that matters.. and for that case you have always been an inspiration :)

    Weakest LINK

  11. I haven't fallen into a slump like you have described. I have been distracted with other things that writing took a back seat for a few days or a week.

    The thing I would tell you is to silence your inner editor. I have said it before that I feel editing before you finish writing is the main hold up for most writers.

    Don't paint the walls of the bathroom when the rest of the house hasn't been built yet.

    The last 'slump' I was in went for about 10 days with no writing. I finally got over it by telling people around me to leave me alone. It was kinda hard to do, but nessasary.

  12. I've been through writing slumps too. They aren't fun. Usually I just write my way through them with things like lists, (trees, colors, titles, ideas, etc.) because they will come in handy later when I'm out of my slump. Or I walk or clean house or garden, and read, read, read. I agree that reading is one of the best ways to fill the well again and get your mind hopping.

    I'm glad you are out of your slump now. :-)

  13. Ha, I went through all that when I was writing my outline as well. I think I dismissed about five separate ideas for novels before I settled on the current one...and I still have to listen to that annoying voice of doubt.
    To get out of it, I have to either take a mini break, or just charge on through the slump and keep writing no matter what. I'm a believer that no writing is wasted writing.

  14. I am not a serious writer...I write for fun. But I feel that it is is always good to take a break and read a lot.

  15. Really glad to hear you are on the road again at last. What a miserable time! Maybe you were taking on too much at one go? All the best from now on!

  16. Hi Mam,
    I have also started blogging. Nothing serious and deep like yours. Just merely out of a fondness of writing in which you also,obviously, played a major role :)
    I'm glad to learn you are feeling better now and being the awesome writer that I know you are :) Take care :)

  17. I feel ya! I have had similar slumps myself. The best way to get out of it is to kind of sneak up on your own writing (like a sleepy cow) and try to surprise yourself, i.e. don't tell anyone, even yourself if you can, that you plan to write, then just go at it on a blank page one day and see what happens. Sounds odd, but it's worked for me.

  18. I totally understand. We all go through it, just in varying degrees. One time, I went through 6 months of no writing. Crazy, right? But the break helped me step back and re-evaluate what is it I really wanted to gain or accomplish from writing. Was it for personal pleasure only? Did I want to pursue publishing? Why did I want to write in the first place?

    The result: I ended up realizing I write because I love it. It didn't matter whether it would eventually lead to publishing or not. For me, writing was and is part of who I am. I haven't had a slump since. ;)

    Glad to know you got out of it. Reading always helps me, too. I get inspired by stories. :)

  19. Nice to visit the blog of a namesake :). I especially enjoyed reading your profile. Hmmm.... writing block. I guess it happens to all of us. Sometimes, nothing you pen down seems good enough. Reading helps or even doing something else that you enjoy. I feel if the mind says no, rest for a while :).

  20. I have had lots of little slumps. I've sat in front of my computer doing everything possible to avoid writing because I knew I couldn't put down a single word worth anything. I did similar things as you did--read books on the craft, other books, caught up with family and life in general. What I've found is that when the time comes to write again, it just comes. The joy will return. It always does because deep down inside of you (and me) there is that passion to create something worth sharing.
    Sometimes you can't force it, and that's the worst thing, because we want so much to be in charge of our own lives.
    Hugs Rachna!

  21. I think also, that feeling of HAVING to write during NaNo doesn't always help either. You have said that you want to finish this novel by the deadline, and you feel some sort of disappointment when you don't reach that goal.

  22. Oh I hear you. I have been there too. I think you were right to read during your slump. It's what I do too. Sometimes I go out and get some fresh air into my brain or just some fresh thoughts from a change of scene. Sometimes I watch films to switch off and allow my brain some chill out time.