• I Haven’t Written a Word in Six Weeks

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 52 comments
    Sep
    28

    Discussion questions: Are you, like me, in a writing lull? What activities have you prioritized over your writing lately? Make a list, like I do below. How do you feel about those decisions? How will you make changes, if necessary? Do you find that your writing time is affected by the seasons? (i.e., do you, like me, write much less in the summer because you’re outside runnin’ around?) Let’s talk about it in the comments.

     

    I just forced myself to look at the Properties tab on the Word document that contains my novel.

    Last modified,” it reads: “Sunday, August 11, 10:29 a.m.

    I haven’t written a word in six weeks.

     

    Here’s a non-comprehensive list of non work/sleep-related activities I’ve prioritized over my writing since that long-ago Sunday:

    — A five-day trip to Boston (in fairness, this was to record Yak Babies episodes, so at least I was talking about books and writing)

    — Eight to ten hours of playing baseball every weekend

    — Two or three hours near-daily at the gym (includes about forty-five minutes total of walking to and from, even though I could take the subway in half that time)

    — Entertainment: Reading; TV; movies; attending Mets games; watching random shit on YouTube

    — Probably about 100 games of computer freecell (though this often serves as a break during the workday)

    — Handfuls of hours per week of fantasy baseball: Research and reading; following scores; discussing with others in my league

    — Near-daily 90- to 120-minute excursions to the dog run (with my dog; I’m not insane)

    — Staring at the ceiling

    — Just walkin’ around, lookin’ around (that’s an old Seinfeld reference)

     

    So, where could I cut into this time?

    The changing of the season is about to do some of that work for me: MLB, hence fantasy, baseball ends this weekend; no more Mets games at Citi Field, either; and my baseball season will end in early November, freeing up a ton of weekend time, plus a weekday hour or two presently reserved for batting practice.

    Also, it’ll soon get too cold to spend an entire hour or two at the park with my dog. Her loss is, perhaps, my novel’s gain.

    Maybe I’m a cold-weather writer? A fair-weather friend to my own writing?

     

    Ninety percent or so of my TV time comes at the end of the day. I’m conflicted about this; sometimes I’m fine watching TV, other times I think to myself, Why am I doing this instead of writing?

    But often, at the end of a long day working with words, the last thing I feel capable of is producing my own.

    (That’s a post for another time: workday reading/writing burnout.)

     

    You know, I feel better now than I did when I started this post. Sure, it sucks that I haven’t written in six weeks. I definitely could stand to spend less time on fantasy baseball, something I’ll try to take into consideration next year. And the TV? Well, you know.

    But the rest of it, I feel OK about. I keep busy in ways that, for the most part, fulfill me. Playing for both summer and fall league baseball teams eats a ton of my time, but I love playing baseball, especially now that I’ve reached an age where I can see that window closing. So I don’t regret it.

    (I mean, I may regret it Saturday morning when I wake up at 7 a.m. to travel to Ozone Park for a morning doubleheader, but hey.)

    Of course over the past six weeks I could’ve skipped a few outings to the gym and/or the dog run and done some writing instead. But I didn’t. And now I must choose to either beat myself up about it or keep it in mind for the future. I think I’ll choose the latter.

     

    I want to hear from you. Have you been in a writing lull lately? What activities have you prioritized over your writing, and how do you feel about those decisions? If you feel badly about some of ’em, what will you do to address it?

    And I feel like we’ve touched on this in the past, but do you find that your writing time is affected by the seasons? Do you, like me, write much less in the summer because you’re out living your life?

    Let’s talk about it in the comments.

     

    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2019 writing project you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

     

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    Raymundo

    I always feel like I’m in a lull, though I write everyday. I agree with examining activities and evaluting whether they are also important and fulfilling, or procrastination. For me, at this time, I’m trying to do a lot and it’s hard to juggle activities. Setting priorities is important, and you must do so in the face of the tendency to avoid hard work (which writing a novel is). Lately, I’ve subordinated my novel to writing reviews (which implies much reading; also, reviews offer quicker gratification). Seasons don’t affect my writing much since I don’t do the usual outdoor activities… Read more »

    Raymundo

    Yes, that’s true, even though I just finished drafting a key scene that puts me well along on having an Advanced Reading Copy done. I’m just so ready to have a completed work, I can’t write fast enough, which causes anxiety, etc. I think all writers, probably all artists, are in an ongoing existential crisis. Maybe that’s where real art comes from.

    Bobbie

    My lack of writing as much as normal has been work. I’m now working 40 hr/wk and that cuts down on my writing time. (So much for retirement.) Then there is editing for my book about to be released, finishing up another book which fell apart in the middle and went a different direction. It’s one that will probably sit on the shelf for a LONG time. I’m doing a first edit for the second book about Jillian while taking a Margie Lawson class. (Well, really like 4 back to back) I’m using that book as part of my WIP… Read more »

    Bobbie

    I’m working in a job I love. It is a lot of fun as I’m taking care of disabled kids and they are the bomb. I have time to do some things while at work, but not writing. I have gotten into a schedule and plan on doing NaNoWriMo this year The seasons aren’t the issue. I find when I avoid writing it’s because I don’t like what I’m working on. Whether it’s the character, the story, not exciting or whatever. When that happens, I put it back for a few weeks and do editing or working on other projects.… Read more »

    Bobbie

    It depends. This year, I will use a bare bones outline (or framework if you prefer) of a third novel in my Jillian books. I have a mind map of all the players (without names right now) and how the setup will be, but that is it so far. Over the rest of the month, I’m going to do a scrivener outline in the sense that I’ll put down a sentence of what the chapter/scene is about and what I want to happen. I’ve learned that blank slates are dangerous for me. The 500K word first book I did is… Read more »

    David M Inverso

    I’ve been writing 50 years and rarely finish anything. My own personal demons possess me. It isn’t until I find myself crawling on my back deck picking up pine cones while knowing full well that more are falling behind me that the question occurs to me, “Am I avoiding writing today?” Avoidance has a distinct feeling. I do know when I’m avoiding, if I pay attention. David, you don’t have to answer these here, but are you in a lull because you’re avoiding moving any further? Is there something unsettling for you about the point you’re at in your story?… Read more »

    david lemke

    I find that if I’m not moving it’s because I don’t know my characters enough. Maybe you need to do an extensive interview with at least your main character. You will find out stuff you didn’y know and that will open possibilities undreamed.

    Bobbie

    Do that interview with your MC and the Villain. You’d be surprised what you learn from them…that and doing an psychological evaluation of them. David did hit on what I said above, look at where the story is headed. Pick a route, try it, if it isn’t work, go back and take another path…or map it out like you did the first 4 chapters so all you have to do is fill in the details. That’s what I’m doing to Nano.

    david lemke

    If you want I can email you an interview. They cab get quite strange

    David M Inverso

    “How do you usually arrive at this recognition of avoidance?” Things I avoid have, on the surface, stirrings that hint at a storm of strong emotions beneath. Like when my MC first detects a lie from his significant other as to where she was. Writing about intense jealous means I have to feel intense jealousy and I absolutely HATE that feeling with all its underlying currents of cuckoldry, inadequacy, unwantedness, humiliation, righteous indignation, and etc. So, basically, I become aware that the reason I’m counting the rolls of toilet paper instead of writing is because I am avoiding facing such… Read more »

    David M Inverso

    “This is a new idea so we fear it!” – Lothar of the Hill People

    Thank you, David, for your cogent suggestions. I’d never considered writing non-fiction before. Just might work. Reimagining my father’s reaction to my work is another Jim Dandy…right up there with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – without having to touch the spiders! Thanks again.

    Now, on to your new blog post!

    david lemke

    Clearly, you need to cut out that gym time; that’s the whole bottleneck! I’m working on 3 main projects right now plus I started a new one. I checked properties and found that 2084 was last worked on the 22nd. That’s a long time. In between there has been two Parker games and the Skylight theatre last night (used to be the skylight opera) Also, I had to re-blacktop my driveway. I try to limit my TV time, 3 or more hrs. a night which is time I spend with Sue, but after 2 glasses of wine, I don’t get… Read more »

    david lemke

    Just so you know; I was joking about the gym time. At one period of time, I would workout, run a lot, 5,6 miles, swim 2 miles, and then we moved and I was no longer close to the YMCA.

    david lemke

    That’s a good Y. I love the pools

    Tadd

    I haven’t written anything GOOD in the last few weeks….LOL ‘he did this, she did this” ugh… well at least it’s getting written down so I can fix it later. As long as you don’t feel like you’re missing out by not writing, I don’t see anything wrong with it. I created chainmaille for 18 years before I simply dropped it one day two years ago to start writing. The funny thing is for some reason I don’t miss linking those tiny rings together. I’m OK with it. I say do what makes you happy. (But three hours at the… Read more »

    Tadd

    I’m not sure of the exact day it happened, but I remember just not feeling like doing it that day after how many years of literally daily work. It didn’t feel strange, it just…happened. The next day, the same thing, and now the rings and tools sit under my desk by the computer. I imagine it helped that my website didn’t get many views toward the end, either. :P But it wasn’t a sad feeling, it was just like…I’m done.

    Tadd

    ROFL! I doubt that my stopping is catching….You’ll be fine! Maybe, someday I’ll start again, my website is still up, just unvisited…lol But right now I’m having too much fun writing. You’ll get your mojo back, you’re just…recharging.

    david lemke

    Sometimes we change; activities that at one time we would fight to the death to defend, just drop away. At one time I was so caught up in carving realistic wildfowl that it was a factor in a marriage breaking up. When my eyesight started going bad, I lost interest. Still have unfinished pieces sitting around which I occasionally work on just to get them done.
    Or sometime you might just need to set it aside until the muse bites you again.

    david lemke

    Eventually nothing about me is sacred. So far I’ve written about a house fire, suicide attempt, skinny-dipping, and bad thoughts and death of pets. When I’m ready and when a story calls for it anything goes. I haven’t written an actual divorce situation but relationships in lots of different conditions have been done. I haven’t dealt with sex yet because I don’t do romance novels, but at some point it, that and everything else will be dealt with in some metamorphosis.

    Jennifer Pommer

    We must be traveling along the same wavelength for this one ;). List: -making travel plans and organizing the travel -actually doing the traveling -all the organization, planning, and travel might be research for something I might write about later (collecting data, I guess) -recuperating from a minor injury -reading, reading, reading as well as freecell and wordscapes -attending a meeting relating to a research topic – possibly for  something I will write about -back in the US now, I am deciding where I want to make camp for a while; this in itself has been occupying my thoughts since… Read more »

    snowglobe

    Dear David et al, I’m sorry to learn of your lull. While I’ve lost discipline by falling off the (cake) wagon and have tossed back little oval pills rather than face my insomnia, I write every day. Even if it’s junk, which is more times than I care to count, I write. On days when all that comes to mind is, “Nobody’s gonna read this stupid *&%! anyway,” I edit, even if I have to go back to page 1. Maybe this only works with teachers, but editing always leads me to fresh ideas and occasionally a new direction. Too… Read more »

    Susan

    I definitely have gone six weeks or more without writing, and then it starts pressuring me from the inside. I do find it hard to be self-disciplined. When I was in school if a paper was due then I’d have no choice but to sit down and crank it out. The discipline was imposed on me from the outside. It has been very helpful to be in the online writing group. I am more motivated to complete something and do it reasonably well because I’m sharing it with others. I also share as I write with one of my sisters,… Read more »

    Bobbie

    Just the opposite, the sentence if it sounds stupid, you have to go back and fix it to fit with the rest of what you wrote. Ya can’t quit…not in the middle if it’s a viable story. If it’s a crap story and has no where to go…it get it then.

    Susan

    I may as well give up forever because I didn’t know what apocryphal meant! (Maybe that’s why I am writing children’s lit, you say. But you just gave me a new word for my character’s vocabulary list.) If I used Hemingway’s trick, the danger for me would be I’d know what I intended to write, I’d leave it unfinished, then next day I’d have forgotten what I was going to say! BTW, David, I really like The Westing Game so far. Fun characters; a page turner,unique concept for a mystery.

    Brigitte

    I am grateful to hear about other creative people who also get bored at times and feel somewhat badly, but not that badly, that they feel they should be doing one thing but they are actually doing something else instead. It is good that you are being easy on yourself and NOT beating yourself up about the situation. Being forgiving to ourselves is a part of life that I am working on as well. I am enjoying drawing now instead of writing. I am not feeling too badly about it since I hear you are in the same boat. So,… Read more »

    Kevin Wozniak

    I actually started writing again over the summer. I made some life changes over the winter and spring and I actually started writing fiction which I had never done before. Poetry was always arising (awryzing?) and I’ve published some historical bits, but never fiction. Now I have a few short stories either drafted, volunteered for service, or commandeered (one is hiding in the cannon, with powder loaded and tamped, ready to be fired at Napoleon’s forces. Think Woody Allen in “Love and Death”). And I have joined some writer’s workshops. And I have ideas for articles. So I’m actually feeling… Read more »

    KevinW

    Cupola years…I was locked in the cupola over the garage for about 2 years….no means of communication but semaphore flags…life happened, in other words…but I raised the pirate flag and relaunched the corsair and set sail…so now trying to be creative rather than reactive…

    Did I ever tell you about my grandfather…he dreamed of owning a little piece of land…

    Hans De Leo

    The same thing has happened to me on many occasions. Sometimes I just get busy or distracted with other things, and sometimes I just don’t feel like writing anything. I think it’s normal to pause sometimes. After cranking out chapter after chapter and zipping right along, all of a sudden there’s nothing. Or is it that the step of editing becomes painful or tedious (especially when you have to use the thesaurus multiple times in a paragraph). For me, I usually need something to put my attention back on my writing. It could be meeting another author or getting a… Read more »

    MCH

    Late to the discussion but thankful to know I am not alone. I live in Montana and just need to get back on the saddle and start writing again. Found the comments inspiring. If no t for Writebynight might not be able to find a way to dust off my pencil again.
    Thank you all!




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