1. Michael Timothy
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    Michael Timothy Member

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    Cure for a writing slump

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Michael Timothy, Oct 22, 2013.

    Lately I’ve been writing a lot. But I’m not happy with any of it. I’m happy with the fact that I’m writing, but I know that everything I’ve written in the last week or two is going to need a big rewrite if it’s ever going to go anywhere.

    I know what you’re thinking. But this is not normal for me. Editing and rewriting is obviously always part of a writer’s job, so I’m no stranger to it, but I’ve noticed a serious decline in the quality of my drafts. My heart just isn’t truly in any of the projects that I’ve conceived, even the ones I’ve worked on the most. I don’t connect to any of my characters and the plot doesn’t really excite me at all.

    That’s the core of my problem and the reason for my creative slump. I used to be able to create stories I related to, with detail, even though it was still a sloppy first draft. Again, I’m not trying to indicate a loss of proficiency, but a loss of the interest that makes stories interesting in turn.

    It's not so much a case of writer's block as it is writer's slump. I'm sure others here have experienced this before. It may even be naturally recurring for any writer. At any rate, I'd like to know: What have you done, if anything, other than "just keep writing" to climb back out of a slump?
     
  2. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Oh hey! I know this feeling! (I don't know why I'm excited though... o_O)
    Anyway, I cannot propose a cure, but I can suggest a couple things that might help. My primary suggestion is taking a bit of a break from writing. When we write a lot, we start to lose a little bit of the thrill that entices us to it. We disconnect with that thing that inspired in the first place. (I say us, but I really mean me, and I speak from my own experience). What I've found is that, taking some time aways from writing and expressing my creativity in other ways has helped me distance myself far enough from a project to re-discover my initial inspiration.

    Without it, even though I want to write, and try very hard to do so, nothing comes out right and I just can't feel the "heart" or "soul" of the work. It can be good or bad, but it's not alive for me. It doesn't move me. So I step away and experience the world until I am stirred again. I cook, I clean, I draw, I exercise, and I go places. I know my writing will still be there. When it's time for me to write again, I'll know by the little word games that start happening in my head and the fun ideas, and scenes that come up. I get moved in my spirit by the idea of something unfolding and that's when I set out to write.

    Another suggestion might be just to try a different form of writing, something that challenges you or that you haven't tried yet. You may just need a break-away from the day-to-day writing.

    Hope that helps a bit!
     
  3. Fatback
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    Fatback Banned

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    Go out and about... Adventure, spectate and put yourself in different spaces.... Also listening to classical scores can help push you out of a slump.... Mozart... Bach.... Brainfood
     
  4. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Well, there you go. You've identified the problem, because if you're not turned on by the stories, no reader will be.

    Without seeing some of the writing I can't make any specific suggestions, but based on what I've seen, most of the time, what you're running into is caused when the writer, in looking back over the work they've done, sees that it's not what they hoped it would be, but doesn't know why, or how to fix it. The characters don't live for them, for unknown reason.

    And if that's the problem it's the first thing to address. If your scenes aren't working as they should, ask a few questions about the writing:

    1. Is every scene written so that before the end of the first page the reader knows whose skin they're wearing, where they are in time and space, and what's going on?
    2. Is the reader made aware of the protagonist's short term scene goal quickly so as to orient them?
    3. Is your protagonist using/experiencing more then sound and vision?
    4. Does your protagonist have their scene goal disrupted quickly, so as to cause tension to enter and give a reader a feeling of uncertainty and a reason to worry.
    5. Does that tension continue to escalate as the protagonist tries to get things back on track?
    6. Does the scene end in some sort of disaster, in that the protagonist has to abandon the goal and research, rethink, retrench before beginning the next scene?
    7. Are we with the protagonist in real time, or with the storyteller (even is the storyteller is, nominally the character at some later time).
    8. Are there times when the story stops so the narrator can explain, via an info dump or through backstory?

    If the answer to everything but seven and eight is anything but yes, there's part of the problem.

    For number seven, you want the reader to experience the adventure, not hear someone talking about a slide show they can't see.

    For number eight, every time you talk about anything the protagonist isn't personally, and actively focused on you have a POV break. It might be that it's necessary. It sometimes is. but never forget that a reader is, first, seeking to be entertained not informed. Any time you stop the action to tell the reader anything they're not actively hoping you'll tell them—right then—you just killed all momentum the story may have had.

    So, maybe some things to work on?

    Hope this helps.
     
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  5. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I say take some time off of your project and then just free write. Write about whatever comes to your mind and have fun with it, even if it is complete nonsense, as long as you are enjoying yourself and getting that desire back that's what matters.
     
  6. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is another great, informative, and humble response by Jay, and a good opportunity for me to say that your all posts are much much more helpful than those by the self claimed "writing gurus" on this site, and without a trace of ego or arrogance. Thanks, man ;)
     
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  7. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    It's easier to rewrite a page of bad prose than a blank page of no prose.

    Wish I had your dedication personally.
     
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  8. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Simply put, I took a break (without specifying to myself how long). But I'm not sure what kind of schedule you have and if your life literally revolves around a need for constant production, constant writing.

    I've also told myself that if I ever feel the way you do again, I would use the same remedy.

    So far it's worked, because I realized these feelings (for me) come from taking myself and my writing too seriously. Not to say that writing shouldn't be taken seriously, but I think, as John Cleese believes, there's a difference between taking something seriously, and solemnity. The former allows for fun and humor to breathe and live as we do in our writings, while the latter chokes the life out of it.
     
  9. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Michael Timothy As others said, there seems to be two ways to resolve your type of problem: take breaks or raise stakes :)

    You either dump things you hate and take a long walk into wilderness/park/as far away from your work-space as you can; or, you call your mother to tell her not to call the cops if you don't answer the phone in next 3 days, take a shower and open an Excel table to de-structure and re-structure what you work on.

    Sometimes, I think it's very hard to say "This sucks" and just delete the crap you wrote and start all over again, with something fresh and exciting. There is one part of our creative selves that is so afraid of radically changing that it holds us back, creating that sickening feel in our stomachs that you described :) But that's the dirty ol' conservative that needs to be kicked out. You are either going to cut him down by meditating on a tree or by methodically approaching your work.

    In my experience, combining the two by taking a laptop up the tree is not the best way to do it - the squirells freak out of laptop vibrations and too much cursing :p
     
  10. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Worth mentioning is that you sometimes need to take longer breaks. I've quite often been enlightened to my work by just taking a shower (I tend to get my best ideas then...) or taking a stroll through the woods, but a couple of times I've had to take breaks of weeks to actually clear my brain.
    Though in those cases it's been about writer's/programmer's blocks and not declines in quality.
     
  11. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Komposten Sometimes the decline in quality (or author's connection with the text) leads into a block. Sometimes, it's a symptom of struggling with a block that's already emerging - our system is just not ready to face one, so we produce crap to fight it back. :)
     
  12. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I, too, find myself at times struggling to find my heart for writing. One thing that always helps is an annual writers retreat that takes me and a handful of other writers into the remote hills of Kentucky for three days - no tv, sporadic availability of internet, and someone else to do all the cooking. This year's event found us there amid 30 and 40 degree temperatures but warm support and camaraderie - not to mention really good food. I came home having written more in that one weekend than I had all the previous month. Still on a writing high.

    Sometimes, just getting away from it all and being able to focus on the work and nothing else really does help.

    Good luck with your writing. Hope you find your heart soon.
     
  13. Panda_John
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    Panda_John Member

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    I find that all of my mental blockage can ultimately be traced back to stress. I'll look at something I've loved working on and just think, wow, I hate this. I find mostly what I need is time as well as to remind myself that nothing is ever perfect in life and harboring anxieties does nothing but make things worse. Once I come to this realization and truly except it (I do this at least once a week) all is well again.

    I hope you find your way through your slump soon!
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Take a break and read a really fun and exciting book. Take your mind off writing for a spell. When you come back, chop mercilessly at everything that does not excite you. Write a new story if you have to. Skip scenes and jump to the part that does excite you. Or take the story in a different direction. For me, creative slumps usually occur when the story isn't right and I don't know why - best cure is actually to just delete the entire scene and write it again, letting it go where it may instead of trying to steer it in any particular direction.

    But before that, take a break and read a good book and go do whatever refreshes you :)
     
  15. pinelopikappa
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    pinelopikappa Senior Member

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    I was just reading yesterday an old interview of David Grossman, and he describes how he agonizes over he right word, etc, during editing and rewriting. He gave me the image of a man close to despair while he does that. So, maybe you are in good company and on a path that takes you further. Maybe you are in a process of becoming a better writer, nomatter how it feels.
     
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