Ten Things to do When You’re in a Writing Slump

But you really want to

You’re doing the dishes or baking cookies, or maybe you’re sitting restlessly at work because you have this great idea that you just need to get out in writing. But there’s something stopping you. Either you can’t seem to form the sentences when you have your laptop open, or your pen in your hand and notebook on the desk. You know what your story is supposed to be about, you know what’s going to happen. But either there’s a plot-hole that you can’t work around yet, or you’re just in one of those moods where nothing seems to work. Life gets in the way, you have no time, you feel like you have no time, or you’re just having an off day/week and can’t seem to get to it.
Whatever the reason, you’re not writing and your characters and scenes are nagging you internally and you feel like you’re betraying yourself because you aren’t doing that thing that you just love so much.
Does that make sense? If yes great, if not these ideas can still be of use to you.
I go on these slumps a lot. I do my daily tasks and sit around more often than not visualizing the entire story finished, with the plot nice and cleaned up and finally walking up to my brother and cousin and friends and saying “I wrote a story from start to finish”. But I haven’t. Sometimes because of clear factors like fear, or trying too hard to figure out one element and or detail. Whatever the reason it happens and I bet I am not alone. So I’ve tried some things every single time. Some have worked better than others, and some I’ve had to modify to work a bit differently. So here goes everything!
1. Write with friends.
My friend Sierra and I talk a lot. Sometimes we have as story that needs work but we just aren’t in that zone. So we have a game we like to play when we really want to write but don’t know what to write. We sit on Skype (usually) and we take a few minutes ahead of time to grab coffee, open up a new word doc. And find inspirational things. Anything goes: lyrics, pictures, quotes, songs, small video clips. One time I couldn’t think of anything new and sent her a picture of my cousins playing in a park. You start up a timer and write for a good five minutes usually, no editing just writing about whatever gets you going from the newly found prompt.

 

2. Read a book.
I am pretty sure that this is one of the more obvious things to do if you’re an aspiring writer, but I like it when people read. Books are fun pick one up and read. Read a book you’ve never read, or a book you’ve read 100 times, I don’t care. Go with what your gut says and read something. I go through days where I can’t focus on anything too new so I go to my bookshelf and go “do I want to read a Harry Potter book again or Anne of Green Gables?” after that it’s all about what mood I’m in. Do I want to laugh at Lee Jordan’s commentaries during Quidditch matches or get all of the feels about Gilbert Blythe? Maybe I want to go start that book that I have yet to read even though it stares me in the face nearly every day? Anyways, reading is fun. Sometimes you read a good book and get inspired by even the smallest detail. You read that awesome new book about Fairies and now you somehow want to write a murder mystery in the woods because the description about the woods was so good that’s all your creative little mind can see? Do it. I think we all do that anyways, but still a good idea in my opinion.

3. Get out.
Seriously, get up out of your room/house/yard/whatever space you reside in. Get out, go to a diner, be creepy and watch people. Go to a bar during happy hour. Go to the park alone. Is it cold? Wear a sweater or two and stay there. Touch a tree, listen to nature, feel the sun in your face. Whatever. Go to the mall. Watch kids play. Watch people pay more attention to their phones than the guy serving their meal. Write about it. Talk about it. You can find motivation and inspiration in nearly anything, as long as you’re in a good state of mind. It may be a shitty draft that makes no sense, but so what? Do it anyways. Take a journal and a pen or two or a pencil and a sharpener, a quill, whatever your preferred method of writing is take it with you.

4. Workout.
I’m not a doctor, or a regular gym-goer. At all. However, I think by now we’ve all heard that working out has a ton of benefits, not just for your physical well-being but creative as well. Your body gets well-rested when you work out and somehow it just gets you pumped up for whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. So go for a walk, jog, go to the gym. Whatever you want to do, just go out and have some fun. Play tag, manhunt whatever makes you happy…. actually manhunt sounds amazing right now.

5. Sign up for NaNoWriMo
NaNo takes place in November, I know I know. But, you can still join your regional group for NaNoWriMo and talk to them on Facebook. Which is something I wish I had done sooner because my region has some pretty cool people. I started talking to them a few weeks ago and they’re so supportive and fun and random. I was pretty motivated, especially because one of them mentioned she was at work and when she got a chance you better be sure she was writing. So join NaNoWrimo, meet people, read your NaNo e-mails and be motivated by authors. And join in the fun for Camp NaNo and regular Nano because even if you don’t do it daily, you’ll write something and you may learn more about your story. Maybe I’m a bit nutty but I think that while writing there’s always something new to be discovered about your story.

6. Make your own writing group.
My friends and I realized we liked to write a few years ago. Okay so we already knew we did. But we were having a slow time, we wanted to have people we trusted read and critique our work no matter how awful it may be. We needed the harsh, non-sugarcoated, evil, shred my story, destroy my hopes and dreams critique that came from someone we loved. So naturally we made up our own small writing group. We posted inspirational quotes, prompts yada yada. We each had a file/document where we would post our prompts. We had a rotation going on where you always knew who was next to pick the prompt. We would post our prompts in our appropriate documents and everyone else would read and explain what they liked or didn’t like, what worked and what didn’t etc etc. For me this was very beneficial because I am very, very, very bad about showing my work to people because I only like to share when I feel it’s decent enough. So if you’re like me and terrified of showing your crappiest of works, why not work with the people that you trust enough to see your awful bedhead in the morning?
7. Draw something!
Sometimes my mind wanders off, and I’m sure yours does too, when my mind wanders off sometimes I doodle. Simple as that, I go from squiggles to birds, faces, stars, hearts, whatever. Sometimes I make a face and it looks a certain way and I go with it. Sometimes it inspires a story or a short snippet of what the drawing is about other times I just like it for some reason. This year during NaNoWrimo (which was just soooo long ago I know) I decided I wanted a cover for my story. So when I had a particularly stumped time I started to try and draw my characters. I made some faces, and I made a drawing (still unfinished) that I actually was very proud of. It helped me get my characters out in a way that I could put the small details in. “He’s always got her back. Her family has x and y colors, no not that dark. He carries his guns like this. She gets hurt here. His hair is more like this. Her eyes are more grayish-blue. His look is more intense. She’s afraid for x and y reason.” Just last night I was so happy with my latest version of this that I showed my brother and as I tried to explain the scene to him (for the tenth time) I looked at my work and went “Sammy! He gets a sword to the shoulder saving her.” I just saw it. That’s the scene I saw and I’ll write it down soon enough but now I have it in my mind. Sometimes drawing things out helps. You can see exactly how some details are pieced together. It’s a creative thing to do. Make are that relates to your story or make art that’s on the complete opposite spectrum of your story. Whatever, be creative and have fun!

8. Write something else.
Seriously. Your main characters are being jerks and you’re finding it difficult to write their dialogue well? Can’t get past that annoying plot-hole? There’s that one teensy weensy detail about that minor character’s life that you know is relevant but you can’t seem to put it into words? Save what you have so far. Close it. Go on the internet and find prompts. Write a prompt. It doesn’t have to become a full blown novel. But write something else. You’ll get back to your story eventually. You know you will, that story is your baby or car or dog whatever it is that you like. So you know you’ll come back. Or grab a book or t.v. show pick a line that sticks out to you and use that as a prompt.
9. Cook or bake something.
Food is good for you. We all know we need food. So sometimes you just need to cook or bake something. It keeps you busy on something else besides your troublesome story and characters. I mean there’s no way I’m the only person that mumbles or even talks to themselves as I do mundane tasks like cooking and baking and realize I’m actually speaking as my characters. I mean seriously, if you do this I beg of you tell me so I know I’m not entirely alone.
10. Work around it.
Whatever it is that’s keeping you on this terrible annoying slump isn’t going to go away without you being proactive and working your way through it. Simple as that. So if it’s a plot-hole that you can’t seem to fix no matter how many options you give it, or a character whose agenda you aren’t entirely sure of. You won’t move forward without pushing through. Give birth to it, just PUSSHH. Yes, I did just say that. Seriously though. I had a character that I knew wasn’t entirely good. He was just too good the entire time and I knew from the beginning that he had a sketchy agenda and was helping the bad guys. But what was his motive? Was he brainwashed? Was he gaining something? What did they have over him? Finally I decided that since I wasn’t up to that reveal yet I could work up to it. Now I know, the motive is power. He has something to gain and is willing to give up everything for it. He’s willing to sell out his friends and family for it. So you know, the usual. One story I tried to figure out certain things that made no sense at all to me as to why they were in the story at all, because the overall motive of the villain and the way he worked his way into the main character were off from what I had written out. I got so frustrated I just wrote the crappy version anyways and kept going. Once I had SOMETHING written for that part I kept going. Eventually I had to refer back to that but I remembered how bad it was and decided to wing it. That’s where that mess was fixed. I went back to highlight and make notes on the first version of that horribly written and developed part of my story. Don’t even bother editing no matter how much of a perfectionist you are. You’ll get to the editing. Just write, and have fun with it. You know where your story is meant to go, help it get there.

Those are my ten tips for what to do when you’re on a writing slump, but still feel that tingling sensation that you should write. So write some words. Do you have tips I didn’t put on here? Tell me. Did you do any of these? Did I say anything new? Talk to me about it.

Disclaimer: I am not a published writer. I am no expert but I am an aspiring writer and I read about writing, I read fiction, etc. I write for fun, I have stories I am developing and these are things that work for me.

Best,
Gissel

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2 thoughts on “Ten Things to do When You’re in a Writing Slump

  1. Great suggestions! One of my favorite things to get the words flowing is to watch music videos. Sometimes the surrealism of them, combined with the words and beat, make for an atmosphere that I find myself trying to imitate in my writing. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s really handy.

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    • Thank tou! I do that too, not very often lately unfortunately but it’s a great way to write too. I make my friend watch clips or send her full songs in Spanish so she gets the jist of things and make her write out prompts for them sometimes.

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