When The Inspiration Fades

24 Jun

Current Status: Under-caffeinated (aka lethargic)

Food Consumed: Mini quiches

On The iPod: Infinity Guitar; Sleigh Bells

Word Count: 715 +

There always comes a time in every new writing project when the “honeymoon” period ends and you’re left feeling flat and, basically, uninspired. For a long time I struggled through these lulls in inspiration and words. I was angry with myself, and so most of the time I wasn’t much fun to be around. I punished myself murderously for the drying up of my words, for losing interest in the story, for wishing I’d never bothered to pick up the pen (or laptop, as the case may be) in the first place. Sometimes my writing block would last a few days, other times weeks. On a few occassions, it’s even been months.

How did I break through the word drought?

Back then, I honestly don’t know. I had no tricks up my sleeve. Literally. All I could manage to do was write the words when they came to me and then spend those times when they didn’t supremely pissed off at myself. I wrote, I fell in love with my words. I stopped, and then I hated them. It was a vicious cycle – and you’ll hear me refer to writer’s block in this sense a lot on this blog, because it is a vicious cycle – and I couldn’t seem to break it no matter how hard I tried to put the words on the pages.

So, what’s changed now?

A lot of things. I’m older, for a start. Not that I think age has anything to do with it, but from my aging has come experience, and I have a certain “wisdom” about the craft that I didn’t have when I started to get really serious with my writing, even a year ago. I’ve also met a lot of great people through various online communities (though mostly through Twitter and Facebook) that have helped me to hone my skills, either through encouragement or little tips that they’ve offered me along the way.

Mostly, though, my attitude towards my writing, and writing in general, has changed. I attended my first writing conference in May, and the day of workshops really helped open my eyes about where I was headed and what I wanted to get out of my writing. Now I’m more serious about my writing than I’ve ever been before, and I know through the experience of the workshops and the feedback I have received from my writing peers that I have the skills to take me as far in the publishing industry as I want to go – I have confidence, and that’s something I’ve not had until now.

Confidence is truly a writer’s best friend. Without it, we’ll be doomed to be amateurs forever!

So, what do I do when the inspiration fades?

I take my iPod and my novel’s playlist and I lie on the bed and just listen. I’ve chosen that particular list of music for a reason, so if it doesn’t inspire me to re-visit my novel then there’s no point even having the playlist, because that’s the only reason to create one in the first place.

I look over my visual inspiration posts on my blog and then I close my eyes and let my mind wander. If I’m really stuck I’ll turn my playlist on and just stare at the pictures so that I’m saturated with inspiration from both mediums.

I tweet or email or text or call – or all of the above! – my critique partner and let her know where I’m stuck and ask for suggestions. Sometimes the best medicine for a slow scene is a once-over by another set of eyes.

I write a poem from the POV of my characters. This is something I’ve only started to do (at the suggestion of my CP), and I’m having marvellous results with it. I promise to post the poems once they are finished, but to tell you the truth, I don’t even have one complete yet because I’ve rushed back to the manuscript so fast! (At least it’s working!)

What do you do when “The Block” sets in? Please share any tricks and tips you may have for beating writer’s block so I can add them to my list!

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8 Responses to “When The Inspiration Fades”

  1. Fleur McDonald 24/06/2010 at 5:16 pm #

    This is a fantastic post and soemthing every author goes through. For me, it’s always, without fail, on the fifth chapter. I can’t seem to make it past there without losing my enthusiasm and belief in myself.

    I go back a re-read all my publishers emails, (Ive kept them all!) that tell me I can do it. I go for a walk and try and focus on the story – not so much the characters because they take a life of their own, while I write, but I need to get the story bedded down. Oh, and I always ring my friend with the tough love ‘get off the phone and write!”

    If it’s wine time, then I have a wine too!

    • thewritingant 24/06/2010 at 7:30 pm #

      Thank you so much for your comment, Fleur!

      I lose inspiration and faith in my work about 80 pages in, like clockwork, and it is so hard for me to push past when my heart and brain both say that those 80 pages I’ve just toiled over are utter crap.

      I like your walking idea – that’s something I haven’t tried but I’m sure it works. I love a good, relaxing walk!

      xx a

  2. mairmusic 25/06/2010 at 4:47 am #

    Very interesting! For my music book I had a hard time and just ended up muscling through at the end, but there were many trickle offs in the past couple of years where i lost my way. For poems, I usually read someone whose work I love and marvel at and get inspired by their skill, or sometimes a particular line. To be inspired by mood is dangerous and often results in boring drivel.
    http://mairmusic.wordpress.com/

    • thewritingant 25/06/2010 at 9:53 pm #

      Thanks for your comment! I’ve been known to read through books of poems, too, in the search for inspiration. Sometimes just a single, beautifully-weighted line is all it takes to get the muse back on track. πŸ™‚

  3. Lila Swann 25/06/2010 at 7:48 am #

    Ah! I’m afraid that I’m one of the luckier ones who doesn’t deal with Writer’s Block in its truest sense. I never look at the page and have no idea that to write, mostly because I’ve outlined and planned everything out, so all I have to do is just sit down and write. I always have a problem with writing too much, which I shouldn’t complain about, because it’s a wonderful problem to have.

    HOWEVER, I do experience Writer’s Block in a different form – the Excitement Block. I know what I have to write, and I know which characters are going to be there, but I’m not excited about it. And of course, the writing is at the same quality in its basic form – grammar is still functioning, for example. But there’s sparkle missing. It’s terribly obvious when I’m writing just to be writing, and when I’m writing out of love.

    I totally agree with your suggestions of the playlist and inspiration posts. Another thing that I’ve always found helpful is that I write out interview scenes with my characters. I write myself in, as the interviewer, and write in one of my characters (usually whichever one is troubling me, or boring me, or whatever). And I just ask questions, try to figure out the motivations, what’s troubling them, whatever. It usually gets me excited enough to write like mad.

    • thewritingant 25/06/2010 at 9:56 pm #

      You don’t get writer’s block?! YOU LUCKY THING!! πŸ™‚

      Oh, but you’re a “plotter” – yes, I can see how that would help keep the block at bay. (I’m a pantser. I like to fly by the seat of my pants, so to speak, and I can never seem to plot more than a few pages ahead of time without getting bored. I’m just not a plotter, no matter how hard I try. And any plot I do write in advance I don’t stick to, anyway).

      The interview idea is a great one, thank you! I’ve added it to my list of things to try the next time I’m well and blocked.

  4. Kathy 25/06/2010 at 8:59 am #

    Great post. I’m going through this right now. I also use my Itunes playlist to get back into the headspace of the story. Great advice.

    • thewritingant 25/06/2010 at 9:57 pm #

      Thanks, Kathy. xx

      I think I must have jinxed myself with this post because straight after I did it I fell into another slump. But I’m determined to get through it so I’ve tried all my tricks – I actually plotted a new ending – and I think I may have tricked myself into keeping writing instead of stalling (I hope, I hope!)

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