Like most of us, I’m up at 5:45, shower, check email and promote things on Facebook, then it’s dressed and off to the day job for 9 hours. Then home again, dinner, clean up, then back to the writing until 10pm. I read for thirty minutes and lights out. Weekends are worse: juggling errands and trying to get more hours in writing and still maintain that closeness with my husband. Sound familiar, doesn’t it?
I’m editing one manuscript, plotting the sequel in the series, plotting a romantic suspense; trying to write a proposal for four books for an editor, blogging, and the occasional article for our church publication. Oh and if I travel for work, I’m taking two laptops through security. I’m traveling a lot this summer.
Life is tough enough without adding “writer” to my list of things to do, but can I stop? No. My friends at work all know when I’ve not been able to write because life has intervened. I’m cranky, seriously cranky. It seems that writing is my stress buster. Even my doctor agrees: it lowers my blood pressure.
So how do you handle that moment when you hate the manuscript, write yourself into a corner, or can’t bring yourself to pick up the laptop and edit one more word?
I am there. I almost hate these people. Every time I edit, I find something to hate about this story. I’m plotting myself into corners on the other two stories. And how in the heck do I create a book proposal?
I can hear those of you now. Just keep writing! Put words on the page no matter how bad they are; you can edit them later. Can’t edit what’s not on the page. Yeah, but have you ever been at that place in your manuscript where you just wanted to chuck it and go play?
The beauty of writing is you don’t have to always have words on a page. There’s the plotting, brooding stage where you are working on your story in your head. These words don’t count towards your page goal, but do help get those nasty plot issues worked out. Not only that eureka moments can happen when you least expect it.
I had such a moment on a plane home from a crazy week of cross-country travel. I was sitting there trying not to grip the seat, eyes closed waiting for take off when it came to me: the answer to the tangle I’d plotted myself into on the romantic suspense. I quickly jotted it down.
Suggestion #1: Find a quiet, happy place where your mind can play.
Like the plane episode, you can use dreams, a nap, music, or whatever it takes to let your mind play. If you’re interested in using your subconscious as part of your creative process, check out Kelly Stone’s book Thinking Write. She even has her top 10 creative tips on her site.
Suggestion #2: Read something new and different.
Reading is part of my insomnia-preventing bedtime ritual. I read for so many minutes every night. I usually re-read rather than start a new book. I have this nasty habit of staying up all night to finish a book if I start something new.
Lately, I’ve put aside the writing to just read and give my brain a break. I’ve been checking out authors I’ve never read, but hear everyone talking about on twitter. I love the library for this. (Crass Political statement: Never, ever stop supporting our libraries!)
Read out of your comfort zone. Find something different to stimulate your brain. Read craft books to work out issues you’ve got with your writing. I find this one especially useful. I’ll pull out my GMC book by Deb Dixon or one of Michael Hague’s books and brush up on my craft skills.
My husband is probably laughing now. I am on a computer up to 16 hours per day easily. My day job requires me to be on a laptop for work. My writing has me on a computer after the day job. I’m on Facebook and twitter. I’m checking email. I’m connected via my laptop and/or my phone. I’m connected all the time. I can’t stop.
Sometimes your brain cells and eyes just need a break. Because of this, I shutdown the laptop and pull out a notebook. I’m never far from a pad of paper and a pen. I jot notes during the day when thoughts occur.
There is something therapeutic about putting pen to paper. A good pen with the ink flowing across the page is soothing to me. Add a good fountain pen, and I’m in heaven. I can watch the words slowly form and come together. Another plus? It’s portable. You can write anywhere when you have your notebook.
Try playing the “what if” game. Throw oddball roadblocks at the characters who are not cooperating and see what happens. Try practice writing in deep POV and then go deeper into the character and see what happens. You might find something that jump starts your writing and find something to love about your story again.
Whatever you do, don’t stop and don’t give up. Taking a break to prime the pump is one thing. Each of us gets burned out now and then no matter what we do. As writers we are lucky. We have a community to vent to, get support from and give us each a smack in the head when we need it.
So what do you do when you’re burned out and nothing is working? I need all the suggestions I can get!