Getting Back on the Wagon as a Writer

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!

About the author: Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk), and the forthcoming Faraway Saga (YA Dystopian/Cross-Genre). Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot. Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Stephen can be found on
Twitter: @sgzimmer
Instagram: @stephenzimmer7

guest blog: the dark side of louisville

charles suddeth

Charles Suddeth was born in Indiana, living on a farm right on the Ohio River as a baby. He grew up in Michigan and has spent his adult life in Kentucky. He is widowed and lives in Louisville with his two cats. He is a graduate of Michigan State University. He belongs to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), International Thriller Writers, Green River Writers, and the Kentucky State Poetry Society. He spends most days hiking and writing in Tom Sawyer State Park, within walking distance of his house. He often spends weekends at writer’s retreats or workshops. He started writing in the sixth grade and has never stopped. He has published numerous poems and short stories. His books: Halloween Kentucky Style, middle readers, Diversion Press, paperback, 2010. Neanderthal Protocol, adult thriller, Musa Publishing, e-book, 2012. 4RV Publishing will release three books: Picture book, Spearfinger, 2013. Young adult thriller, Experiment 38, 2013. Picture book, Raven Mocker, 2014.

The Dark Side of Louisville

Charles Suddeth

 My thriller, Neanderthal Protocol, takes place in and around Louisville, Kentucky. All these locations don’t figure in my novel, but they lurked in my mind while I wrote the manuscript.

Ghosts: Waverly Hills Sanatorium, reputed to be one of the most haunted places in the country, is a TB hospital that closed in 1962 after thousands of people died. It has been featured in several TV programs and movies. The most famous attraction is the Tunnel of Death, where bodies were whisked away at night. Do you have the courage to tour it? Not everyone does.

More Ghosts: Tom Sawyer State Park was built on the grounds of an 1870’s mental hospital, often called Lakeland Asylum. Once housing 3,000 inmates, the building is gone, but two unmarked potter’s fields hold possibly hundreds of bodies. Nearby, a bricked-in cave was used as a morgue. Ghost tours are available in October.

Things Best Left Unspoken: At the height of the Slave Trade, Louisville contained as many as 44 slave traders and four large slave pens. The term, Down the river, originated in Louisville, because slaves were sold, dragged to the Louisville wharfs, and steamboated downriver to cotton plantations in the Deep South. Thankfully, nothing remains but historic markers.

Murder: On Bloody Monday, August 6th 1855, members of the Whig Party and the Know-Nothing Party rioted against immigrants, mainly German and Irish Catholics. At least 22 people were killed in downtown Louisville and a nearby neighborhood, Phoenix Hill. Many of the churches where people sought refuge are still standing.

More Murder: The Pope Lick Monster (the Pope family were early settlers) is a half-man, half goat rumored to dwell under the lofty railroad bridge spanning Pope Lick Creek. It hypnotizes its victims, luring them onto the narrow train trestle until they are run over by trains. Despite No Trespassing signs, several people have been killed. By the monster?

Boom! The Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, located directly across the river from Louisville, covered about 15 square miles. It made gunpowder and rocket propellant from World War 2 through Vietnam. Rumors floated through Louisville about people and Jeeps blowing up. Part of it is now Charlestown State Park, but tall fences circle the remainder. Signs announce, No Trespassing.  Even without signs, I wouldn’t set foot on those grounds.

Gone but Not Forgotten: The United States Bullion Depository, AKA the Fort Knox Gold, holds the government’s gold. No one has been allowed inside since the 1970’s, because they don’t give tours, even to members of Congress. Rumors persist that the gold has vanished, but no one’s talking. Is the Federal Government broke?

Now you know the Dark Side of Louisville. If you’re afraid to visit Louisville, lots of great writers live here so you can visit the city via books.