Downs and downs

I’ve been in a complete writing slump.

With both my magazine column and my story, I’ve only been drawing blanks.

The words won’t flow, and I’m starting to think that I could be the least creative person on this planet. And to make matters worse, I’ve been unable to even look at my own writing, trashing ideas, notes, and my self-confidence every time I open a draft.

As for my column, I decided to go with a more scientific topic, which will give me less space to be cringy. Did you know that 2021-2030 has been named the Ocean Science decade by the UN? The little nerd inside me is ecstatic.

But my story, well. I hate it. Not the concept of it (it’s a piece of sea fiction with a strong female lead. Wait, I just noticed the ocean theme overlap), but where I’m going with my plot (spoiler: nowhere)

And yes, the setting is difficult to write and needs an awful lot of research (and the consumption of even more nautical fiction, yay!) but friends, what even is storytelling? The number of dead-ends and their discouragement companions that I’ve met over the past several months is sad.

I tried storytelling guides and plot-building tools, but I’m still struggling. And sometimes, it’s better to receive a direct point of view. I know that writers face this, and the more experienced ones have overcome plenty of times.

So, let me know how you break your way out of a writing block that feels like it isn’t planning on leaving anytime soon. Please?

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51 thoughts on “Downs and downs

  1. Hello, what I do when I raw a blank, I take a “Time Out.” I’ll read, I’ll visit Pinterest, Google and type in anything out of the blue just to read it. My idea of a “Time Out” is by not writing, but consuming all there is to read, and visual ideas through Pinterest. It then jolts my mind to be creative.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. It seems like you can still do a better job than me when you’ve gotta case of being blocked. Whenever it happens to me, I go outside. It doesn’t matter where you life, there’s millions of things happening out your door, if you look closely enough 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Hellooo
      I really think you and I should do something about this comparing ourselves to others business. One of the reasons I drove myself into this is that I kept looking at my fav writer’s writing and wondering why I can’t write as well as she does. But thank you for the tip!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I do that all the time! Just remember that there’s a 99% chance that your favorite writer started out an anxious mess, I know mine did and it keeps me in check 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Honestly, I think it is a blessing to be paid to write, so I would start with giving thanks for paid writing opportunities. I wrote an article for a professional journal once, and my payment was two copies of the journal! It seems silly but remember that you have a talent for writing and that the opportunity for paid work was a gift, and I think that can get you in touch with the part of you where words and concepts make flowing connections.

    I would loooove to be paid to write, and would write about anything! maybe soon I will get my chance.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello! If you’re referring to my column, I just want to clarify that it’s contribution-based and that I don’t get paid for it.
      But thank you, I guess I managed to get the column for a reason at least

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Taking a break from writing helps a lot. I think writing about something else helps too, as well as reading.

    When you’re writing, and you hit a dead end, ask yourself what was the purpose of the story. Why did you start writing it? What does the character in the story want? How is he/she going to get there? How can you, as the author, block him/her from reaching his/her goal?

    You said that you hated what you were writing. Why do you hate it? Once you figure it out, ask yourself, how can you make your story better. Maybe you can use that as motivation to write.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I definitely take a break. Failing that I force myself to sit and my desk, stare at the screen and write until my forehead bleeds. Eventually I work past the block, and can go back and edit it later 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I feel your pain. I have been writing my second book now for about a year. Though I feel as if it is at an end, I know I have to add to it. I am not sure where to go, and I do not want to fill holes with repetitive and derivative crap. Not quite sure if it helps to know you are far from alone, bu I find solace knowing that I am not the only stranded soul on this plane of existence.
    What I have found helps (and generates probably too many words for what I want to write) is that I just start letting myself ramble in text. When my mind finally lets me shut down, I take out the trite and poor-excuses for storytelling and move forward from there. Sometimes you just need a bit of inspiration and it leads to something magical.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Aw man SAME. I’m kind of glad I’m not alone, but I guess rambling will help me out more than taking a break. What if I take a break that’s too long that I grow too scared to go back to writing?
      So thank you! I’d love to read your books sometime 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Since your post says you keep coming back to your writing with the same problem, I don’t think it’s about taking a break. I’m new to your blog so I don’t know the stage of your story, but I’m guessing you’re in the middle? All of us in my writer’s group talk about the muddling middle where we lose confidence and lose our way. It happens pretty much every time. It’s a thing. JMGard’s suggestion to ramble is a great one. If you’ve taken a break to clear your mind, then buckle down and Keep Writing. Write the worst thing you’ve ever put on a page and Keep Going. Your story and inspiration will reemerge. If you’re concerned about sorting out the mess, write in a different color until you see the good emerging so you can easily find your rough section when editing. If you can get through the sticking point for about 5,000-10,000 words, usually the story will really take off and get exciting to write again from there on through the ending. So there’s hope!
        Other suggestions: Draw or find your characters in online images, Draw or paint the world your story is in. Capture and collect story images and let your mind wander on what the next part or the end could look like. Find a creative friend, preferably another writer, and tell them out loud what happened in your story so far and ramble about where you got stuck. You may come up with the next part while you’re talking and explaining, or their suggestions – or your bucking of their suggestions – may help form a clearer idea of where you want to take the plot next.
        Good luck!

        Liked by 3 people

  7. If it inspires you to write something on your current works in progress, I found this piece enlightening enough to follow you and read more of your blog. 🙂 I have had a hard time writing after participating in National Novel Writer’s Month. But I think if you’re willing to expose a little of yourself in your story, you’ll find the motivation your main character needs. Also, try setting a timer. Anything from 5 min to 30 or more. I learned the trick from my online writing group. Something about the artificial deadline makes me write more in that 15 min time span (that’s my time of choice. Long enough that its meaningful, short enough I don’t zone out during) than I do in a whole day otherwise . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh! Thank you! That’s something to be grateful for 🙂 Everything else on my blog is different though. This was a piece born out of sheer desperation (lol) but welcome, nonetheless.
      I guess having that connection to your main character does ease the process a bit, I’ll try it out. And yes, the timer trick works wonders! thank you 🙂

      Like

  8. I have a few books that have writing prompts. It’s a way for me to break through my writers block by challenging myself with things I normally wouldn’t write about or something fun. There are a ton out there, it allows you to write something quick, fun and even if it sucks ….. you wrote!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is timely, as I’m in the same boat–er, situation. I’m stuck in the muddle of the middle, and can’t seem to get unstuck. My plan is to power through it–it’s a first draft, so it’s going to be crappy. The problem is making myself actually sit down and write something. Anything. Sometimes free-writing works for me–like journaling. Just stream-of-thought writing seems to at least get the gears moving again. Good luck!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I would say just don’t be so hard on yourself. Let your mind breathe. Take more walks, do other things that you love. Travel to the beach or countryside- get a change of scenery, that is usually what works best for me. Fokus on NOT writing. Do not try to write while taking a break, if you get inspired, the words and ideas will come all one their own, there will be no reason to force it, wait for that moment and when it comes, embrace it.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Hey Maryam, I had to laugh reading that, cause it’s quiet familiar. What I do when the creativity has disappeared is take a break. Go for a swim, interact with others. Watch a few movies. Take your mind of it.
    I usually find the power to write, when I’m fired ( angry, frustrated) up about something or somebody. I find the daily writing prompts on WordPress quiet good to get the juices flowing. If you just sit with for a few minutes and see what starts coming through. Write whatever is in your head, at the time. Even it if seem’s nonsensical. Don’t stop, keep it flowing, don’t censor what you write. After the rubbish is cleared away, then the creativity should, and usually does surface.

    Finally feed your mind with reading of all sorts. Read everything and anything, even out of your genre. That’s what Stephen King, that famous writer recommends. You can’t write much,if you don’t read much. Thanks for checking out a recent post. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I appreciate it.

    Michael.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Take the pressure off by writing something else, something that doesn’t matter. Don’t write poetry? Try that. Or a short story. Or think about something you saw today, at the shops, on the bus. Just a few paragraphs – make something up. Or give yourself a challenge: a ‘story’ in 200 words, or 100 words. There is obviously no single answer, you just have to try stuff…

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I typically write my way out of it. It might be a different part of the same story or it might be an entirely different project. I’m a free writer and don’t tend to plan much of what I write save for a very general sense. In that way it allows me the freedom to change up what I’m doing without completely screwing up an outline that’s planned twenty steps down the road. I used to pre-plan everything and I would write myself into a corner and get frustrated. Using free writing has opened the floodgates for me. I’ve had to biggest year’s output of my career (closing in on 700,000 words as we speak).

    I’ve also used Ian’s technique (above comment) and just picked a person, a place, and a thing, and made up a story about them. It gets that writing machinery engaged and flexes those writing muscles and can help you back into the story you’re stuck on.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I sleep on it. I walk. I watch movies or TV and either enjoy what’s in front of me, or let it draw me into thinking about its construction and dramatic successes or failures. All things to switch off and restart my mind. I allow myself to daydream about anything, (walking and the foggy time after waking are perfect for this, for me) see where it leads, maybe to a “what if?” moment that inspires or intrigues. I start an imaginary conversation in my head: the most mundane starts can lead to the strangest places!

    And after all that hasn’t worked, I try to sit down and persevere through it. But first, a cup of tea. One last procrastination before beginning again. So now, I’m off to get myself a cup of tea, Chapter 18 has been waiting for its second sentence all day long…

    Good luck!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Maryam, sorry you’re in a slump!! I normally read a book (but not in a competitive way!!) or watch a film or do something that inspires storytelling in me. I also like rereading what I have written previously to get back into the flow. Taking a walk can work wonders. But sometimes you just need a bit of time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The important thing is that you ARE writing, even if it’s not in the way you want to.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi Maryam.

    Somethings that I try when I’m stuck, change your outlet, from making something out of sticks and string to even writing something completely out of your comfort zone. I try to understand that my characters and I are taking these journeys together. We can support one another in the best of writing times to when we’re just throwing a crumpled up draft back and forth until inspiration hits again.
    Sometimes just watching my life and see how very often many days of excitement are just like odd rocks jutting our of an endless stream of everyday life. It helps me to reflect.
    I hope this helps in some way. Don’t worry about getting back on the horse, you’ve never gotten off, but don’t forget to ask the horse what they think every now and again.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I don’t have the habit of writing. When my thoughts aren’t flowing I write five sentences. I think of the Becauses and the Whys. I write it down as facts. Then I move on. Sometimes those five sentences pile up onto each other and become more than the sum of their parts.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I think sometimes the only way through it is around it. At least in my personal experience, I’ve found trying to force the issue only makes it worse when things aren’t working. But I’ve come around to accepting that the ebbing and flowing is a healthy part of the creative process, even if the ebbs sometimes last longer than we’d like them to.

    Our minds are always gathering ideas, even when we’re not aware of it. Sometimes what’s needed is to take a bit of pressure off of yourself and step away for a little bit, if that’s possible. Even if it’s only for a day or a week. Read a few of the books on the “to read” pile you’ve been meaning to get to. Have exciting, maddening conversations with friends and strangers. Try keeping a dream journal if you’ve never done that before — some fascinating ideas and images live in dreams.

    The whole time it feels like you aren’t “working” you’re really drinking and being filled up again. When the time is right all the accumulated inspiration will come pouring out of you, just as long as you’re in a state of readiness. There’s a great saying I wish I could remember the origin of: “Visions come to prepared spirits.”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Writers block sucks and we’ve all been there! I find that sometimes doing a little free writing can help. Just spend 5-10 minutes writing whatever comes to mind, even if it’s gibberish. It kind of puts you in the mood to write. This doesn’t always work, sometimes I’m too frustrated to even free write. That’s when it’s a good idea to take a break from it and come back in a few hours. Or the next day even. An energy shot sometimes gives me a good jolt of writing prowess too, though I can’t say I condone anyone else using that as a crutch 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I fooled myself into finishing the first draft of my novella. I’m notorious for leaving things undone, so as I have a magazine for seniors in nursing homes, I began my story in the magazine. Then I had no choice but to finish it. I’m having a problem now to do the rewrite. I’ve procrastinated for a year even though the feedback was very positive. My New Year’s resolution is to finished the darn thing or else. I sympathize with your dilemma. However, setting a timer does work. So does banishing your interior editor until the thing is written. Make a contract with yourself and post it over your desk, that you will not edit as you write. Just spill it all out and let the rewrite take care of itself. Just don’t wait a year like I have.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Breaks are good. Hopping on an exerbike with some kind of reading [either creativity or writing books work well, but if you want fiction or ‘other’, that works too. Also, if you choose to stay ‘on topic’ [i.e. your plot premise, setting, etc. ] maybe just cruise through image sites like Pixabay and enter a few pertinent keywords and see what comes up. Key point (at least for me ;-]): Have hot drink and treat with you. [not while you’re exerbiking…messy, messy, messy.
    Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. So, I know this post is old, but…

    What helps me is to think of the problem differently. It’s not that you CAN’T write, it’s that you don’t like what you ARE writing. Right? Thinking of it this way, there is no such thing as a dead end; there’s only something that you don’t believe is up to your ‘snuff’. And that’s okay! It doesn’t have to be good. Fill in the blanks, leave them highlighted, or bolded, or whatever, and leave them alone. Continue writing at the end (or wherever you need content). Start writing something else. Write a poem. Do some stream-of-consciousness journaling. Come back to the trouble spots a few weeks later, and all of a sudden you’ll feel like a literary genius and maybe you’ll even ‘fix’ everything (if there is such a thing).

    Wishing you the best with your creation. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I dont alwys agree with taking a break except, maybe long enough for my coffe and favorite snack then do a brain dump, Just write everything on your mind every bit of positive negative . Write write write don’t stop til you get it all out The writing of the story will come.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I do a couple of different things. I mindmap the thoughts I have on a possible story as you can put in images that appeal to you as well then it can work as an outline for the book. https://imindmap.com/ sells mindmapping software but you can get a free copy from here. For the first week you get everything and after that, you can use the way to mind map with 4 central shapes and insert images you get elsewhere.

    Another one is to make a mood board. Gather magazines, scissors, cardboard or corkboard and set them out as comes to you. The subconscious kicks in and when you look at what you have chosen you can see a theme and start playing with it.

    I did a blog about mood boards at https://wordpress.com/post/raallenauthor.wordpress.com/609 if you are interested. If you are in a writing group sometimes you can brainstorm ideas with them

    Like

  25. Try reading more and then just write whatever comes to your head. This is a good way to get your creative juices going even if what you wrote feels flat and lifeless. I have those moments as well, and I’m basically in one now, but I keep trying. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. >the setting is difficult to write and needs an awful lot of research (and the consumption of even more nautical fiction
    Maybe that’s part of your answer there – research, read. In doing so, you might run across information or an idea that sparks your writing. I’ve gone to look up one tiny thing, ended up reading more and finding other details that I used instead of or beyond what I was looking up in the first place.

    Good luck!

    Like

  27. I give myself a handful of words to use, as if bricks that will build my ‘house’. Usually around ten words. Interesting words that I might have read recently. Favorite words of mine. I take these ten words and I pose a challenge to myself. Take the ten or so words and make a story of out of them. In context. The activity helps me forget that I am in a slump, as I am tinkering and having fun with words I love to use.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Reading. I break writers block by taking a break from the pen and picking up a book so to speak. I read blogs, random articles etc. and often find inspiration. Also, with being more house bound in the winter, I stall. First sunny day, I’m outside in a park basking in it. My head clears in the solitude, silence and sun.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. I so relate to your post. I’ve been having writer’s block for the book I’m trying to finish. I’ve found reading to be helpful, as well as working on writing other stories. Part of my problem is perfectionism. The goal I set for myself to post daily stories on my blog has helped me not to care so much about little details in my book. Maybe it’s the lack of a “deadline” that’s also hindering me?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I enjoy your writing style.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I’m not sure what I do… I flap about, feel dejected and like giving up and then somehow, some way… the words just come on back to me. I learn to simply ‘wait’ until that moment when it all comes together and try to believe that it will even in those darkest moments.. not always helpful when on a deadline though, which I am on now with an article and, like you, feel that it’s just not coming together as it should. But I’m *believing* that it will!!! Lovely to ‘meet’ you and thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Sometimes, I have found, things just need a quiet space to foment. Let it go. Read instead, for now. Trust that it will come to you when you are ready. By the way – the ocean – it is a symbol of the unconscious. Maybe your unconscious needs the time to let things come to the surface the conscious?

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Hey Maryam, when the words and ideas ain’t coming, take a break. Stop trying to force it. Seems o me like maybe you need to stock up on your creativity. When I face a similar situation, I indulge myself in the creativity of others, whether that be live theater, films, debates, entertaining TV and radio.
    Play a musical instrument, anything but write, and then read a lot, if you enjoy it, of course ! Then, try sitting down and just write for say, 10 minutes, perhaps in response to a photo or verbal prompt, and let whatever, if anything comes, write, without censoring yourself, even if it looks like rubbish. If you do that over time, daily, or ever few days, in time your ‘muse’, your creativity, with make an appearance.
    I find when a person, blows off the fluff, of your writing, underneath there, is where the gold is. I would say, looking at some of your pieces, you have little to worry about in terms of creativity.

    Liked by 1 person

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