I recently read a very interesting article that has made me second-guess what I’ve always thought was writer’s block getting me down and stopping the words from flowing.
Like all writers, I thought I was the only one to suffer from the “Murky Middles” – the block that hits me in every project, without fail, around the 20,000-40,000 word mark (depending on the length of my manuscript). When I write I have the beginning close to perfect. I know how I want it to end, but something in the middle always seems to fail, and I find it slow and boring and tedious to write. Apparently, though, this “getting-stuck-in-the-middle” business is part and parcel of becoming a writer: it’s what we do.
I won’t re-hash the article, because it is wonderfully written and something every writer – aspiring or professional – needs to read. So, if you haven’t read it yet, HERE IT IS, what are you waiting for?
I will, however, pinpoint a few things I found really helpful from the article – like writer fatigue, for example. Before reading the article, I’d never even heard of writer fatigue, but now I know about it and the symptoms, I know I’m definitely suffering from it. I think it comes from working fulltime, spending quality time with my family (I might not have children but I’m plenty close with my parents, husband and siblings, so family time is important to me), having time to myself, general domestic duties AND also juggling writing and trying to fit the polishing of a novel in there somewhere.
* Everything you write feels weak and reads crappy (in your opinion)
* You write the same sentence different ways, so your characters are saying the same thing over and over and you don’t even realise
* You re-read your paragraphs and you don’t pick up your mistakes (except for the crappy writing)
* You try to force the words after long, HUGE days and you get frustrated with yourself when the writing doesn’t happen (crappy words ensue)
* Your word count is stalled, yet you have plenty of plot and summaries to enable you to break through the block
Fatigue is Your Fault, Not the Plot’s
When I tally it up, I don’t think I’ve had a lunch break during the working week for going on four years now. Where most “normal” people will pick up a book and sit in a corner and read while they eat their lunch, I pick up the pen and I write – hard and fast, too, since I only get 30 minutes to crunch out those words and I want to make the time count. After work there’s the hassle of dinner, and then I jump straight onto the laptop and I will write for hours, sometimes until midnight or well after.
If you’re a writer you’ll be able to sympathise with how difficult it is to switch off the brain and sleep after a session like that. My head might hit the pillow at, say, 11pm, but the plots and the characters and their voices keep swirling around in my head for hours after. And I do this EVERY DAY, because if I don’t I get so frustrated with myself for being so lazy. Every day should be used to further the novel, in my mind, and any day that isn’t is a wasted day.
Now that I’ve taken all of this into account, I think I can safely say I have writer fatigue. I’ve probably had it for a while and I just didn’t know it.
The remedy is that I take a few days, weeks, a month away from writing and the novel to do other things. Not necessarily relaxing things, but something that’s so far away from writing to energise me.
I’ve recently found the joys of fishing and kayaking, so I’ve decided that I should take a kayak out as often as I can, even if only for a hour or so every second week, just to energise my mind and let the water and the soothing strokes of the paddle take away the stresses I get from writing.
It’s not an instant fix, but it’s a start.
Do you suffer from writer fatigue? What kinds of things do you do to take your mind away from your writing and re-invigorate yourself?