Writing When Things Go Wrong

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It’s been a bad week in my part of the world. Maybe it’s been bad in yours, too. A friend died, and my usual support structures crumbled in its wake. I had to ask why I bother writing at all, what I should do now, and how to find words when they stuck in the back of my skull like plaque. Here are the results.

Ask for Help

There’s nothing wrong with admitting you’re having trouble. That trouble may be emotional, financial, or the dreaded writer’s block. Outside help can help all three. This is the time to check out online therapy if you need it, message old friends to reconnect, or look for new acquaintances through the magic of social media.

Unfortunately, a lot of people, particularly artistic folks, have skinny wallets right now. Reserves are running low, but there are still tricks to help ends meet. IndieApril has been a blast on Twitter, and lots of readers are calling for links to indie and self-published works. There are also grants and loans available for small businesses and artists.

A for writer’s block, well, the community has many ways to slay that tricky beast.

Take a Break

If you can’t write, that is perfectly fine. Strong emotion prompts some writers to fill page after page, but it stymies others. We’ve all taken a turn in the anxiety whirlpool, and it’s very hard to write when you feel like you’re drowning every day. Even if you have a blog or other regular publication, you may find yourself needing to take a step back – whether or not you want to.

Think of it as taking a few minutes to sit in the shade instead of hopping on the next ride at a theme park. You haven’t quit. You haven’t gone home. You just need a breather so you don’t decorate the seat in front of you as you speed down the next hill.

Take Time to Read

There has never been a better time to read. Not only does it offer an escape, it also hones your writing mind (even if you can’t compose just now). If you collect books that you’ve promised you’ll read for the past decade or so – this is the moment.

Although libraries are closed, you can still get books through online lending services, and you can always take a deep dive into the indie book market. Indie writers excel at posting eBooks, and even if you read three a day, you’ll never catch up with the market. It’s both a blessing and curse. So, go read, find some new authors, and connect with them on Twitter.

Reinvent Yourself

Even if you can’t write or read the things you usually prefer, you don’t have to sit on your hands. Try reinventing yourself for a week. Shake off all the habits and assumptions you bring to the table as a writer and experiment with something new. Try flash fiction, a horror story, a love story, or even poetry. Write from a different POV. Switch out your preferred verb tense. I wrote a short in first person present tense this week. I’d never done that before, and it was surprisingly fun, even though I’ve been struggling. If you can’t deal with yourself right now, be someone else for a few pages.

Tragedies happen. They suck. We don’t have to pretend everything is alright, and we don’t have to keep calm and carry on. We still have to do something, though, even if that’s just making a cup of tea and flipping through a book. The words will be there when you’re ready to let them back in. Try knocking on a different door, or just contemplate why you chose the doors you did. Whether you’re sitting, standing, or strolling along, you’re still on a path.

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