It goes without saying that the life of a writer is one that is rife with all manner of tragedy, glory, failure, happiness, and three bushels of sorrow. When one claims that the experience of writing is most akin to that of a rollercoaster ride, they have successfully achieved in providing a perfect analogy for the hobby.
From the day that one first picks up a pencil or starts typing the first pages of one’s novel, one can feel the various shifts in mood while one writes. One moment you feel like a literary genius whom is typing out the next classic that would be read in high schools
for ages to come, words appear easily into the realm of your mind, and all of your ideas are the most original concepts you’ve ever heard of. For all that you care, you’re on top of the world and there is nothing that could burst that bubble of yours.
But on the least expected day, it just pops.
Sometimes there’s a reason. Maybe you feel sick, sad, or like you’re running out of steam. But most of the time you don’t have the slightest clue. For all you know, you just woke up one morning and the words stopped coming. You didn’t change ideas or your perspective on the story recently, in fact, it could be argued that you reinforced it. But those same thoughts you’d lauded as being masterful and inspiring have now become mediocre and decaying. This is the dreaded Slump.
Why is this happening? I have no idea, and I doubt most people can give you a solid explanation. Yet this is going to be a common feature for the rest of your writing life, whether you like it or not. It is an individual’s ability to grow past the Slump that separates an aspiring writer from a writer that has something other than short stories under their belt.
Yes, yes, I can hear you asking. What can I do to solve this? Is there even a solution? I know that right now you may be shuddering before the herculean burden that has been placed upon your
shoulders. I can sense the pangs of pain as your arms feel like they’re about to detach themselves from their sockets. How could anyone possibly write a novel, if it’s this difficult?
Well, my friends, there is a solution to your conundrum. As with many of the issues that the author faces on a daily basis, there is no cure. You’ll have to live with it for the rest of your life, but there is hope. While there is no antidote in sight, there are a methods you can practice that will help you mitigate your suffering. Luckily for you, there’s a certain QuestingAuthor whom is willing to share these with you and for the low price of just a few minutes of your time!
1. Read an interesting book while you write
Often, one of the main reasons that we begin to lose inspiration in the manuscripts that we work on is because we just haven’t been reading recently. Maybe you haven’t found anything that seems worthwhile, or you feel burnt out, or maybe you just decided to allot all your efforts to making your own work. All of these things are understandable, but you need to comprehend the massive enhancement of your writing that you’re missing out on when you don’t read other books.
Always having dedicated reading material for when the Slump strikes can serve to
galvanize you into writing all over again. When you read a good book, you’re able to see the different styles in which a novel is made. You can see how other writers that have shared in your same troubles have been able to surpass them and finish what they’ve been working on.
If there was a piece of description that gave you trouble previously, you might be able to see how that other author handles his description, you’ll be able to see how similar plot lines to yours are made into cohesive stories, and you’ll also be able to compare the way your characters are written to the way that others write their own. Think of yourself as a mimic with every author that you read (This doesn’t mean to blatantly copy them). Every new writer that you experience is a new skill set that you can choose to acquire for yourself. In our limited view, our minds come only to very few conclusions on how to solve our writing problems. Yet when we see how others tackle the issues, we might be surprised at the sheer triviality of their solutions.
And if you’re still not convinced, then look at it from the perspective of your envy. There’s always a part of us that gets a tinge jealous at the success of other writers. We think that if they could publish a book, then we could certainly do the same…or even better! This faux competition can serve to force you back into your desk and start pumping out words all over again.
Writers share the same struggles, so while we’re at it, we might as well help each other out.
2. As much as the Muse has the potential to leave, it may also return
There is an unquestionable dichotomy when one revises the first day that they began working on their novel and compares it to their current condition. Unanimously the writer will always claim that those first two weeks of working on their book were some of the most exhilarating that there ever was. They recall it as though it were a myth. When they see the troubles that their work brings them in the present day, they can’t possibly fathom a time where they were absolutely enamored with it.
The writer tricks himself into believing that that magic is long lost and far from being recovered ever again. With a touch of fatalism we define those days as times that were bound to end sooner or later. Because, especially when it comes to writing, good things don’t last forever. But the author is wrong with one of these assertions.
To claim that one would never even be granted a sprinkle of that original magic is not only a misguided notion, but one that is a pure lie. For you see, if that magic that one has for their book has left them, they would have stopped writing long ago. Yet we don’t. That magic still remains inside of us, perhaps under countless layers of self-doubt and self-loathing, but it remains there nonetheless. And the best part is that it’s not going to stay there forever.
As much as we need to convince ourselves that the Muse is going to fail, we must inversely be aware that the Muse is bound to return to us at one point or another. That Slump that you’re feeling is just as temporary as those random bursts of inspiration that hit you on occasion. Writing will always be a war of attrition and we must be aware that as the attackers we will always be at a disadvantage. But if we persevere, our enemy will starve out before we do.
3. Make sure you have a clear picture of all the awesome stuff that is going to happen
I would have to say from my own humble point of view, that the shred of advice that has gotten me through the worst of times has been this one. This is the main reason why I would always advise to have at least a vague outline of one’s book written down. But I’d like to share a personal story first.
When I first started writing, I fancied myself as a Seat-of-the-Pants writer. In case you’re not aware, these are the individuals that use no outline to complete their work. When I wrote I always told myself that the mental image I had in my mind of the events that were going to happen would always be superior to anything that I would be able to plan out on paper. At first, this went smoothly. My first few chapters got me excited for exploring this new world that I’d created, and sparked the flame of curiosity in my heart.
But when I started approaching the middle of the book, I realized that I had no idea how large I intended the scope of my work to be. This is no way meant to insult Pantsers, in fact, I feel that Pantsers should be proud of themselves if they have been able to achieve their goals. But that just wasn’t how it worked out for me.
Eventually, I ran out of ideas. Quite literally. My novel ballooned to the point that I couldn’t even think of what direction I wanted to take it. It dawned upon me that I would have to write my way through a jungle of dull scenes in order to reach the end of my book. But I didn’t know what would happen at the end of those boring moments, so there was nothing to spur me into writing through them.
This is why it’s important to mark out the points in the novel that you are excited for. These are the scenes that never leave your head even when you leave the computer to go out for a walk. These are the scenes that come into your mind on a daily basis, the same scenes that you imagine being placed in a fictional trailer for your work. I found that outlining these provided not only the incentive to trudge through the garbage, but also an ability to properly build up to the occurrence of these events. When you have a clear idea of what could happen, you have an easier time visualizing it in your mind.
In short, the Slump is a reality that we will never be able to escape during our lifetimes as writers. It’s a pitfall that doesn’t discriminate based on a person’s skill with their craft. Even the master novelists of all ages have been unable to avoid it. But with these tips, I hope you’ll be able to gain a new insight on them. As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.