Friday, January 23, 2009

5 Things To Do When The Magic's Gone

I'm not sure if it's the miserable weather, the sluggish economy, random, widespread peevishness or all of the above, but lately I've been seeing a lot of posts from writers who have the blues. And in most cases, it's on both a personal and a professional level. If you're not going through it now, chances are you've experienced it at some point in your writing career. You know the feeling; you can't really put your finger on it, but you just have a general "meh" attitude about everything. Like Grumpy Bear from the Care Bears with the raincloud picture on his chest. Not a happy camper.

Well, you can add my name to the list. I've been in that boat all year, and I'm just as clueless about my "meh"-ness as you are. It's as if the power has short-circuited in the creative part of my brain, and since I don't know which fuse has blown out, I can't fix it. Know what I mean? I just keep thinking, What gives, man?! I'm a writer. Words are supposed to just--ya know, appear--in my head, right? Right?

So. What to do? I've been thinking about it all week, and recently I came to an interesting conclusion. In my humble opinion, the act of writing is similar in many ways to a long-term relationship. The longer you do it, the easier it is to get into a routine, and although it's good to have some structure, too much can kill your Muse the same way it can kill a marriage. When that happens, some of the same suggestions relationship experts give to couples can help you regain your passion for writing. Bear with me; this analogy is a good one.
  1. Remember why you fell in love (with writing) in the first place. I'm reminded of the movie Brown Sugar, a romantic comedy starring Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan. The two of them play best friends who realize they're also soulmates, mainly due to their mutual love of Hip-hop music. Music plays an integral role during the ups and downs of their relationship, and in the end, it is what brings them back together after a falling-out. It should be that way for writers as well. Remember what it was like to fall in love with words--the power of that moment--and write about that feeling.
  2. Listen (to your inner writing voice). This idea applies primarily to your characters. You know that moment in the writing process when your characters seem to jump off the page? That's not you going crazy--it's the magic coming out. Listen to it, even when it doesn't make sense. More importantly, learn what your unique writing voice sounds like. We each have one, and even if it tells you to write something silly or impractical, do it anyway. Drowning it out with logic it is the first step toward permanent writer's block, and besides, you never know where that weird little voice might lead you.
  3. Try something new. Are you a stickler for composing at the computer? Try writing longhand for a few weeks. Work exclusively in your home office? Take a field trip to your nearest library or park. Sometimes a simple change of scenery or writing medium is all it takes to get the creative juices flowing again.
  4. Enjoy the little things. Like most careers, writing is a job that emphasizes the big accomplishments--publication, bestseller status, a three-book deal with a six-figure advance. We all want those things, but let's not forget about all of the wonderful little milestones we encounter along the way. Finishing a novel, for instance, is a remarkable achievement, and it's something millions of people will never do. Celebrating the little victories will keep you energized on your way to the big ones.
  5. It's about the journey, not the destination. It's easy for us writers to get so caught up in the goal of publication that we forget to enjoy the process of writing itself. We rush through everything, cranking out stories the way Kraft cranks out mediocre slices of cheese. Then, we wake up one day and find we've lost touch with our characters, themes and the voice that brings our stories to life. We may want to publish our work, but first and foremost, we are storytellers. As long as we remember that, our Muse--whatever form it takes--will never be far away.


  1. I'll add one: take breaks from each other. (Nice to work on different sorts of writing projects sometimes, then when you return with fresh eyes, new ideas and ways to help trouble areas sometimes appear.) Nice post.

  2. Ooh, good one, Angie! Very true. I always have several projects going for that exact reason (and possibly because I just like to bounce around a lot!). Thanks for the input :-)

  3. I get writing blues/guilt because the writing takes away from family time. I feel especially that way about writing which doesn't pay anything. I wish you had a tip to address that scenario! I'll look back here, in case you think of one.

  4. Good point, Anita. Balancing writing time with family time is a huge challenge for so many people, particularly those who have full-time jobs or are just short on time in general. I may have to focus a whole post on that issue. Thanks for the suggestion :-)

  5. Yes...a whole post would be good!

  6. I would love to hear good ideas for how to balance that the family/writing issue myself. I find myself staying up until 2am to do my writing just so that I can spend some time with the fam and not become so guilt ridden that my main character gives up the quest and goes to bed for a week. LOL Let me know if you guys figure it all out! :D

  7. Hi, Jenn! I'm intrigued that time management is such an issue in the writing community. I always thought it was just me! I'll create a post about the topic later this week, and depending on how people respond, I may turn it into a series. Thanks so much for your input!

  8. Excellent analogy, LC! I've not been feeling "meh" but I will admit to some trepidation when I see the lack of serious job postings out there.

    Alas. Time to stop buying shoes and start using that money for groceries. How boring.

  9. Thanks, Lori! It's hard not to feel anxious right now with things being so uncertain in the job market. And yes, groceries are probably more important than shoes, lol!

    I admire the fact that you've built a successful writing career that's keeping you afloat during these difficult times. I hope to follow your example! Happy writing!