The book I am reading is 292 pages long. Far from the longest book I’ve ever attempted. And yet it’s taken me nearly 2 weeks to get 137 pages in. The story I’m writing has zombies in it – one of my favourite topics – and has one of the easiest characters I’ve ever dealt with in it.
So why have I lost my mojo?
Surely I should be nose-buried-ly, scribbling-frantically busy. I should barely have time to blog or talk or sleep. But instead I feel lethargic and uninspired. I stare at a blank page. I read the same piece of story over and over again until I can repeat it verbatim.
So what do you do when you reach that slump? That grey room of boredom, of lack-of-creativity – how often I end up here and how much I loathe it.
There are insane amounts of advice to get through reading slumps, writers blocks and all manner of barriers to your creative flow. Instead, I choose one or more of the following:
It’s a scientific fact that when you exercise you release endorphins (or, as I prefer to call them, dolphins) which is basically the body’s happy drug. These dolphins whizz around your bloodstream making you feel happy and free and buzzy. When I feel bogged down in the what-to-do-ness, I go for a walk (living two minutes away from a beautiful heath helps), go running, or even run up and down the stairs a few times. Stand up, stretch, and work some energy back in to your body.
Somewhat linked to point one – you need to fuel your body. You can’t survive on Ben and Jerry’s and tea alone (as lovely as that would be). Go and cook something gastronomic. I have recently discovered the satisfaction of finding new healthy recipes, and spending an hour or so creating something magical to eat is one of the most satisfying experiences ever. Even baking cakes works (I’m lucky to have an office full of willing participants to try my gluten-free baking experiments). Make yourself a big, healthy, satisfying meal, with perhaps a slice of homemade cake to finish, and you’ll come back to your computer feeling refreshed, fuelled, and ready to take on your WIP.
3. Stop and change your mind
Not enjoying that book anymore? Pick up a different one. Got stuck on your WIP? Start another story – try a short story or a poem if you don’t want to get into another novel-length project. But you can change your mind. You don’t have to plug away at the same thing with some sort of aggressive stubbornness that leaves you grumpy. Stop trying. Stop trying to force out something that you’re just going to have to rehash later. Walk away. Sit somewhere and think. Have a nap. See a friend (you probably haven’t seen them in a while, have you?) or watch TV. Anything. Just don’t read or write for a while. You could try acting. Or jump on a trampoline.
Try some weird and wonderful writing exercises, and listen to some writing podcasts and follow their writing challenges. Write down pages of random words and song lyrics. Draw a bit or sign up to for a poetry slam. Sometimes, just letting go and seeing what happens can prompt creativity again. Don’t make it a chore. Make it fun. Find a fellow writer and do word games. Get that fridge-magnet poetry and move them around every breakfast time and at the end of the week see what you’ve come up with. Close your eyes and write something without knowing what it looks like. Anything and everything – just play around.
5. Get a second opinion
With your writing, you probably don’t want to show it to anyone yet. But pick someone who you trust – not necessarily someone who will be nice to you (because that’s not always what you need) – and hand it over. It’s not complete and it’s still a first draft, but a second pair of eyes will help; they usually ask the question you need to hear to go forward.
Is my mojo back yet?
But it will. I’ll eventually finish this book and eventually realise what I need to do with this WIP and I’ll be away again – surviving on tea and ice cream and falling asleep with a notepad on my knees.