Back In the Saddle Again

Posted: June 29, 2016 in Writing
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Those of you who are my regular readers may have noticed that I haven’t actually written about writing for awhile. That’s because I have been concentrating on querying and contests these last two months, and have not done much writing.

Apparantly it is too much to expect of myself to manage two jobs, family time, chores, sleep, tweeking Twitter pitches, polishing my query letter, researching agents, writing this blog, plotting a second middle grade book series, and making headway on my work-in-progress.

Sounds like a perfectly valid excuse, doesn’t it?

In fact, I hit a wall. The wall was made up of all different kinds of bricks.  Many of the bricks were rejections letters from agents.  A rather big one was failure to advance in a contest where things looked very positive for several days. One brick was a snag in the plot that I just couldn’t seem to get past. Another was simple burnout after forcing myself to write something — anything — every single day for a month, when that was not my regular process.

I pulled my manuscript out or called up the file on my iPad any number of times, only to put it away again. I just wasn’t feeling it.  This happens to everybody, I imagine. If you’re a writer and this has never happened to you, I’d prefer you keep that little nugget of sunshine to yourself.

So how do you get out of it?  Well, there are many ways, each of them appropriate for different reasons, and one of which may work for you.  Here are a few:

  • Leave it alone.  Forget about it.  Give yourself permission to take a writing vacation and figure out what thing you do get excited about, then do that for awhile.   At some point you will find yourself missing writing.  That’s the time to pick it up again.
  • Write something else.  Career writers need to be versatile in any case, and this is as good a time as any to branch out.  Try a short story, some flash fiction, that screenplay you’ve had in the back of your mind since high school.  You’ll gain valuable experience and maybe by getting out of your box you’ll see something that will revitalize that stalled project.
  • Write anyway, knowing you may throw it away.  Or write a different scene.  Jump ahead to later, or write the ending, or create a prologue you’ll never use.  Write a character sketch.  Invent a scene that will never appear in your book and see what your characters do.
  • Find some writing exercises or writing prompts and do them. Experiment with scenes you’ve already written as a way to learn a new technique or concept: reverse the gender roles of all of your characters and see what happens; rewrite the scene from a completely different POV; change the setting or time and write the scene that way.
  • Take this time of not writing to read some books in your genre.  I tend to avoid reading when I’m in the middle of a project, because 1) I am easily distracted and 2) I have limited time to write already.  But writers are supposed to read widely, and if you’re not getting anywhere on your book, at least use the time to explore other authors who wrote similar stuff.

There are doubtless many other techniques for finding your mojo, but these are all that I could come up with at the moment … and I am eager to get back to working on my own WIP. That hasn’t happened in a while and it feels great.

  1. David Walsh says:

    Thank you for the article., Also stuck at the moment on my second book of my Castle of Dreams series. Early reader / Mid-Grade fantasy chapter book.


  2. Sandra Coopersmith says:

    Excellent article, John. When I hit the wall creatively what tends to work for me is diversion of some sort together with good dark chocolate and, hopefully, a decent night’s sleep. Things tend to jell overnight and my brain seems to function better the next day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] of writing wisdom to share a fun project I did for my kids while they were on summer vacation. In a previous post I spoke about taking on another creative project as a way to deal with writer’s block.  […]


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