Wednesday, August 17, 2011


First, I'm not even sure why I'm blogging during WriteOnCon, since it's basically the most awesome, online, FREE writers' conference out there. If you are looking for a great place to learn more about publishing and writing, I highly recommend it. And the writers who work tirelessly to put it on are amazing, amazing, AMAZING people. So go spend your time there. I promise I won't be offended if you don't visit this week. (Okay, I'm honestly NEVER offended if you don't read. But still. WriteOnCon is awesome.)

I have to talk about slumps today.

I am in a serious writing slump. Yes, I get into slumps. I think my reputation is that of the fast writer who can whip out a book in a couple weeks and never struggles with getting words on paper. But while I certainly can write quickly at times, there are other times that I stare at the screen wondering how I'll ever finish the book.

Right now I consider myself lucky if I can manage a 5-page chapter in a week. That's...not even a page a day. This is very far off my usual pace. It's frustrating, especially because it's not really the book's fault. I know what is supposed to happen in the next chapter. The block has nothing to do with the plot or characters, etc. I have things planned. I even know the book has merit and that I'm not "ruining it." I know it's not gone terribly off track and that the conflict is solid.

So what is it?

Honestly, it's a lot of lame excuses. It's feelings of doubt in myself as a writer. Not the book, but myself—like, even if it's good why would anyone read my stuff anyway? Yes, I still feel like that fairly often. Like I'm not special and there's not a place for me out there in Published Author Land. As I've said before, it's funny how some things don't change even after that book deal, and your opinion of yourself is one of those things.

And then there's the "My schedule is all messed up!" excuse that I've been milking all summer. My kids being home all day. My husband working evenings now. Summer movies. Sickness. Vacations. Have there been times I could fit in writing? Certainly. Have I used them? No. I've parked myself in front of the TV or computer games instead, and I know I have no one to blame but myself.

To add to this, I'm letting myself off the hook in general. I haven't set goals for this book. I haven't seen the need, since it's basically #4 in my queue, behind TRANSPARENT, SIDEKICK, and HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW. Not like I have to get it done anytime soon, but it's funny how I actually become a very cranky writer when I don't have deadlines and goals to hit (I'm currently waiting at various stages with the other three). Here I should just be enjoying it and taking my time, and instead I am losing passion and doubting myself because it feels pointless, even when it isn't.

There's only one way to get out of a slump—you have to pick your lazy butt up and get to freaking work. Oh, how I wish there was an easier solution, one that involved more sitting on the couch eating dark chocolate raisins and watching anime. But there isn't.

Because a slump isn't like being stuck when writing. When you get stuck with a story it's often good to step back and think for a second. A slump is not that. A slump is of your own making, and the way back is self-discipline.

So I guess I'd better make myself a schedule, write out a love list, look over my notes, and get back into good habits.



  1. Hoo, boy - I came up with lots of justifications for my slump just this morning, and while some of it is legitimate (need to take care of myself in order to take care of those I love, etc.), others...not so much. I can so completely relate to not feeling worthy-who cares what I write anyways weight that sinks my motivation. But yes, your words are a much-needed kick in the pants. Get back into good habits and stop making excuses! **sigh**

  2. "There's only one way to get out of a slump—you have to pick your lazy butt up and get to freaking work."

    ^My favorite line.^

  3. Yup. Slumpy slump slump here too. Not that it's any excuse, but I blame summer. For some reason it seems so much easier to write when it's dark and cold and snowy outside!

    Could you talk a bit more about what kind of schedule you set for yourself? I think setting goals/deadlines would be useful for me, but I'm not sure what's reasonable. What does yours look like, if you don't mind my asking?

  4. Very tempted to work on that "Dark chocolate raisins" solution instead of my book. :/

  5. Ah yes, we all face The Slump. Doesn't that sound like some big ugly monster? It feels like one too, sometimes. Something we have to wake up and battle or sit on or kick out of our house every day!

    But I'm okay with that. Or I've learned to accept it, anyway.

  6. It's totally possible to get burned out, too. But if you feel as though you SHOULD be working, and you're right, I understand why you feel the need to get back to work. Writing, like most everything else, ebbs and flows. Cut yourself some slack. You'll be back pumping out a book every few weeks in no time at all.

  7. This is a good post, Natalie, but I think you left out the most important part - both as advice and for your own edification:

    Sometimes you have to forgive yourself. (Or, as my mother would say, give the devil his due.) Especially someone like you, who writes quickly and lives at what can be breakneck speed (I can't even imagine throwing omgsmallchildren! into my own schedule, so. mad props.)

    Sometimes it's okay to take a step back and breathe. And sit on the couch eating dark chocolate and watching The Bachelorette (shut up). Your brain needs to rejuvenate. It may take a week. It may take a month.

    But so long as you're not up against an imminent deadline, sometimes those breaks can be good for you. And necessary.

  8. ER King and Rick—You are right. There is certainly a time for breaks and relaxation. But there's a big difference between Burn Out and a Slump. Burn Out implies that you've actually been working and are tired of it. I, uh, have not been working.

    I do believe in breaks, and I take them regularly. But the thing about a break is that it has a ending point. Like a week off. Or even a month. Heck, even three. You DECIDE.

    A slump isn't a conscious decision; it's a gradual slacking off until you hardly do anything. It's not Burn Out because work isn't getting done—there's nothing to burn out from! It's just this...blah. It's giving into that little voice in your head that says, "You don't have to write at this very moment, so don't. So what if it's writing time? Just open up WoW and do a few quests."

    ...At least that's what my Slump voice sounds like, heh.

  9. I've so been there. I think you're right. Sometimes the best thing to do is just power through and trust that the rest of it will come through later.

  10. lol, I love the ending of this post. :)

  11. *sigh* Thanks, Natalie--I needed this. I've been not taking advantage of the times this week when I wasn't exhausted to write, and only trying when I was too tired to get anything done. It's time to switch that and make myself work when I've got the energy. Then I can rest in the evening without feeling guilty.

  12. Okay, this post made me sit up and say "Oy." Because I might be in a slump, and didn't even know it...

    Here's the thing: what constitutes a slump? Is it simply not writing? Because you've been working your butt off to edit your books, and like you said yourself, those three are first up in the queue. Writing -- I'm talking pure writing, throwing the words on paper (er, the screen, hehe) as fast and as furiously as they pop into your brain -- seems like a different mode than edits. Especially line edits or
    total plot overhauls. And I'm not sure both can be done at once, especially during
    summer with littles at home and life taking precedence.

    So, IDK, I'd give yourself a break. :D Have some chocolate, enjoy your kiddos
    and the fading days of summer, and know that when Sept 1 hits, game on. :D

  13. Lynne, a slump is not just "not writing." If you're editing, then it's okay not to be writing and to be taking breaks while you wait on readers (*cough* me *cough*).

    I'm just the kind of writer that needs to be working on something almost always, because I turn mean and cranky when I'm not (so cranky right now, stupid slump). It's cathartic for me. It lowers my anxiety, much like exercising, and when I get slumpy about it, both me and my family tend to suffer.

    This could just be me though. I will not even begin to claim that all writers should work the way I do.

  14. I've been in slumps while writing, and sometimes it's about a lack of time, but in the last year, the prime culprit's been depression, which takes the wind out of the proverbial sails.

  15. I totally get that. For me, if I'm not working on something (and I'm counting edits! :D), I get an edgy vibe I can't shake--like an itch I can't scratch. :D

    I need to be drafting, editing, or at least ruminating about whatever project I'm working on & mentally drafting/re-drafting. I find I get most cranky --a crankiness born of frustration-- when I have a *shiny new idea* and don't have the time to work on it. Which happens more than I'd like. ;(

    On a side note, I can count the times I've gone running this summer on one hand!:D Ugh! *big workout slump* And I REALLY need to get back into running. It helps my inspiration, lowers my stress level, and clears my head. So as soon as my boys go back to school, I'm pulling out the trainers & slapping 'em on. :D

    And for the record, you seem so mellow, it's hard to imagine you cranky. :D

    *sends Peterbrooke Chocolate covered popcorn...guaranteed to cure slumps* So yummy. :D

  16. I feel this keenly... and my slump, though it always happens in summer when the kids are out of school, is more of the "why-would-I-waste-my-time-writing-when-I'll-never-be-any-good" kind. Very sad.

    Yesterday my husband came home frustrated. He's been working with a golf pro on his golf game and he's in the sucking stage, when nothing feels right and the balls going everywhere. Said he considered chucking his clubs in a pond at one point (a pond with gators, since we live in Georgia).

    I told him I considered chucking my computer in the swimming pool. I'm editing right now, yes, but I feel like my book isn't really getting any better. But I need to dig through it, toss the nasty voices to the curbside, and just keep working. I'm glad to know even very experienced writers sometimes fall into this rut.

  17. Boy, do I feel this...I've been in a major slump since the baby was born two months ago. I'm slowly getting back into it...just in time for me to start babysitting a hyperactive 4 year old in a week.

    Poor excuse though. I'm sure I can keep writing during her nap time (if she naps LOL) and in the evenings. :P It's making yourself do it that's the hard part!