Ask Inkitt: Is it Writer’s Block or Winter Blues?

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Many Inkitt writers find themselves struggling with writer’s block during the winter months. It’s a busy time of year, and many activities and responsibilities are competing for our time. We may be finishing a semester at school, or preparing for the holidays, or completing a year end project at work. Or maybe all of the above! The chaos of the season can sometimes make it difficult to distinguish whether or not we are experiencing a true block, or just don’t have the mental energy to stay focused at this time of year.

Before we throw our hands up in despair, convinced we are in the midst of an existential writer’s crisis, I think it’s worth breaking down just what the issue might be. The tricks I use personally, and the tips I’ll offer here, depend on what’s really going on at the time.

Is this writer’s block, or are things are crazy in my life right now?

This is totally legit during the holiday season. When I know this is the case, I give myself a temporary break. Get the shopping out of the way, finish your exams, complete your work project. Take the pressure to write off yourself for a little while. I am also believe that we have natural rhythms to our creative work life, and if we honor these daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms, over time we will be more productive. Here’s an article that explores this idea in detail: Work With Your Writing Rhythm.

Remind yourself why you love writing. Writing can be the catharsis you need during a rough patch. Worry less about hitting a word count and remember why you started writing in the first place. Maybe you can use your writing time to journal, or maybe you just want to escape into the world you’ve created for a little while. This may not be the time for aggressive deadlines or new projects.

Lower your expectations. If you can do a little work each day on your project, you’ll still make forward progress, even if it is slower than you’d like. Maybe just opening the document, reading through a chapter, and writing a few notes is all you can manage. That’s okay. Life hits everyone hard at some point, and sometimes all we can do is get to the other side.

Also, remember during these times, self-care should come first. You may not feel motivated to do kind things for yourself, or feel like you have the time, but this is when you need to the most. Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean heading to the spa for a week, although that’s certainly nice! It may mean a fifteen minute daily walk with your dog, or a quiet cup of tea in the early morning. Whatever you need to do to keep your head above water, do it guilt-free.

Is this writer’s block or just a bad day?

Maybe the so-called writer’s block isn’t really as bad as you think. You’ve just had a few days where the words wouldn’t flow. Here are some tips to help shake off a bad day.

Work somewhere else. Mixing up locations might be the jolt your mind needs to kick back into gear. If I’m particularly distracted by the stack of bills that need attention, or the pile laundry growing exponentially in the bathroom, I’ll take myself off to the coffee shop for a couple of distraction free hours of work. 

Take a walk to clear your head. A little breathing space might be just what you need. Give your brain time to relax or switch focus, even if it’s only for thirty minutes. When you return to your work, it will be with a fresh perspective.

Participate in a writing sprint. Don’t worry about writing perfect words, just write. Forcing yourself to write when you aren’t feeling particularly creative may sound counter-intuitive, but it also might break the log-jam. Even if you can’t keep all your messy prose, there may be something worth salvaging.  

I’m definitely struggling with this particular project.

Okay, it’s entirely possible that this particular project has hit a snag, and you really are stuck. I have a few things that work really well for me when this happens.

First, try talking it out. If I’m struggling with a plot tangle, or I haven’t worked out certain big issues with my story, I’ll schedule a time to meet my good friend and fellow writer for a drink after work (or via Zoom as the case may be). She’ll ask the right questions or give me a new perspective on my project, and we’ll laugh and commiserate together.

Write out of order. Usually, I have a few pivotal scenes from my story that anchor things. They’re mostly high-intensity moments or big reveals and I’m always excited when I get to write one of them. If I’m really struggling with my manuscript, I might give myself permission to write a juicy scene, even if I haven’t reached that moment in the plot yet. If nothing else, I have a bit of fun, and often, this is enough to get the words flowing again.

Go back to your outline. I’m a loose outliner, meaning before I sit down to write a new story, I have a good bit of it planned, but still have plenty of space for the creative energy to flow. If I’ve hit a snag, I may need to pull out my notebooks and work through some plot scenarios until I am back on track. If you’re thinking about your story, this counts as working on it!

Still need more help getting your manuscript back on track? Here are a few articles you might find useful: Stuck in the Middle, and Have You Lost the Plot?

Whether the winter season is particularly difficult for you to navigate, or you’re just having a bad day, you can still make realistic forward progress on your project if you have a few tried and true tools in your shed when you need them.

Want to know more about the Inkitt platform? We invite you to ‘ask Inkitt’ via email: [email protected]. We’ll post answers to the most frequently asked questions every Thursday right here on the Inkitt Writer’s Blog.  

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About Author

Tabitha Lord is the award-winning author of the HORIZON series. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband, four kids, two spoiled cats, and lovable black lab.

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