Friday, May 24, 2013

Hitting the Wall

At writing conference I went seeking some bits of wisdom to help me with what I call the slump. You know what I mean. You sit at the computer and stare at a blank screen. Finally you get up and eat popcorn. You wipe your greasy fingers off. Then stare at the screen. You type a few words before finally giving up to clean the dirty cracks between the window sill and window with a Q-tip. Because it has to be done. Now. Somehow it seems more important and even more fulfilling then entertaining the complete mind-blank yet another hour. The next day you try a new story, or a new writing exercise, only to have similar results. Eventually you want to hide from your computer entirely because of the complete and utter failure you're becoming in its presence. Success can be found in other places, after all. Like in dirty diapers, clean toilets, mopped floors, baked cookies, returned phone calls. Life is full of filler activities, plenty to do and try to get done. During this time there are no good  books to read because books make you feel like a failure too. (All those perfect words, worded so perfectly...) And so it continues until after weeks and months you think:
Am I a writer?
Is this really who I am?
I could eliminate this stress.
I could quit.
Then I could bake lots of cookies. And my children would never be neglected again because I could read them numerous picture books.
And then the voices would leave me alone telling me I'm not good enough. Instead they would tell me I'm average. And there's nothing wrong with average.
(depressed sigh.)
And that's what the voices and I were discussing last night. Before the earthquake...and the second earthquake...and the fifty after shakes. 
At conference, I didn't really get any ideas for how to overcome this slump. I went to great classes that helped me with technique, voice, character shaping, etc. But they didn't tell me how I personally need to get over this particular slump. 
Neither did the earthquake. (I just added that for dramatic effect.) 
But at about 2:43 pm today I was suddenly struck with inspiration for a story. The first chapter, the characters, their drive, their goals, their motivations, the conflict, the dialogue. It was all there. And the only thing that brought this on was a walk with a stroller in my pajamas. That easy. No popcorn required. Weeks and days of wondering and BOOM, I whipped 6 pages out in an hour. 
I say it was easy, but the waiting wasn't easy. In fact, I don't think I've ever come closer to quitting as a writer. So, it makes me wonder. How do YOU get over the slump? Do you have tricks to speed it up? How do you keep motivated?


  1. Sounds like you were trying to get ready mentally or the conference spurred you on because you must have been thinking about a story during your walk. Exercise is a good stimulation. What probably helps me the most is to just start typing something dumb and let it turn into something better and better. I might start with "So I'm want to write about Joe who goes into the barn and sees . . . . Then visualize those details, etc. It can't help but get better and gives a little feel good while the ideas start to flow. Good luck.

  2. Loved your post! I feel like that, too sometimes--especially the part about being average and what's wrong with that, even down to the depressed sigh! So true! And I loved the dramatic details of the earthquake. Made me smile.

    I'm so glad you've found your story. Me? I just have to make myself do it--and turn off "research" ie, FB and blogs and email.... Not an easy thing for me.

  3. You both are so wise.
    Renae, you're absolutely right, I think sometimes we're afraid to write just dumb stuff, forgetting it's a great way to get your story out.
    Maria, I think I'd have a lot more hours in the day if I deleted my FB account!! :)
    Sorry I'm so late getting back to you guys. Thanks for leaving comments. They really helped me today. :)