note: This is a guest post from author Stephen Zimmer
Writing can involve periods of feast or famine when it comes to output, and many writers can find themselves in situations where they have largely ceased to write and create. During such times, it can take a lot for a writer to get back on the wagon and start moving forward again.
The reasons for these periods of shutdown can take many forms.
For writers who still have to maintain other jobs to pay the bills, the demands of the workplace can become a primary reason as to why output slows to a trickle or even stops. Increased hours, new responsibilities, changes in shifts, relocation, and many other things involving a regular job can conspire against a writer and leave them too exhausted or with little available time.
At other times, “life happens” events can result in a writer’s shutdown. From the needs of children, to traumatic periods such as a death in a family, to the needs of a spouse or significant other, a great number of things can crop up in an unexpected fashion to shut a writer’s productivity down.
Then, there are more internal obstacles that can arise. Failure to reach a goal, such as a daily word count goal or a target date for finishing a manuscript, can have such a negative impact on a writer that they simply quit writing.
I have witnessed all of the above time and time again among the writers I know and interact with.
No matter what the reason, getting back into the groove can be a challenge. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for writers who find themselves in this situation. A writer must find what works for them.
For myself, when I was in a really bad place following the passing of my mother in 2013, it was the emergence of a new character and accompanying story ideas that pulled me back into the writing chair. That character was Rayden Valkyrie, and the ensuing novel Heart of a Lion. Taking on something fresh and new gave me a clean slate to work in, which I think helped to a great degree in helping my mind get back on track.
I think there are many other approaches to try. For the writer who might feel like a failure due to falling short of meeting self-imposed word count or manuscript goals, I would suggest setting aside those kinds of things and just focusing on writing regularly, no matter the volume of output. Even a couple hundred words a day will keep you in a rhythm and writing mindset, something that is far more important than the volume of output on a given day.
If unavoidable demands of life or work are getting in the way, perhaps set your sights on finishing a shorter project, like a short story or novella. Completing a project always has a good effect on a writer’s outlook and self-esteem, and it can also help mitigate friction that might build from resenting the job or elements in life that are creating obstacles for you.
The good news is that a writer can get back on the wagon and start moving forward right away. It does not cost money, it only needs a little investment in time, and requires only willpower. Reconnecting with the creative elements within yourself will have the added benefit of positive results in your outlook and approach to the other things in your life.
If you find yourself in an unproductive zone, do not hesitate to take that step today. Once you have accomplished that, then put your focus to one day at a time and you will get back up on that wagon!