Kat: Writing Fatigue

???????????I never thought it would happen to me. I read Elizabeth’s post back in March on it, and every single lady has complained about it at one point or another. Still, it had never happened to me. Even when my writing wasn’t going well, it was going…somewhere. I stayed on schedule. I hit the chair every day. And I put words on the page. I’d never suffered from writer’s block or writer’s fatigue or whatever you want to call it. Hell, I wasn’t sure it even existed, and I couldn’t really identify with those who did (sorry ladies but apparently it’s one of those things that must be experienced).

I found out no one is immune to this scourge the week after I returned from Desert Dreams. At first everything was fine. I was on the keyboard and I actually made some progress on Act I. I was excited about everything I’d learn during my trip, but I never really felt the sense of renewal and inspiration that I’d hoped the trip would provide. At first I figured it was the cold virus I brought home with me. That’s what was making me butt-dragging tired and a little down, but when that cleared up and the writing blues didn’t, I chalked them up to dreary old man winter who would not let go of Ohio, as well as the normal let down after a long anticipated event is over (Think January doldrums after the holidays). I was still hitting the chair and getting some new words down so everything was all right.

Then the unfocused, distracted, crazy mind churning began. I’d sit in my chair rereading old scenes trying to get things organized in my head if nowhere else  and suddenly the book felt overwhelming. How would I ever pull this mess into something coherent? Did I even want to anymore? Maybe I should start something new. Maybe I should reorganize my office. Maybe I should outline my whole book. Maybe brainstorm ideas on my whiteboard.

I didn’t do any of that. I simply spent unproductive hour after hour sitting in front of the computer letting my butt go as numb as my creative spirit. Finally, I couldn’t face my office anymore. I closed the door, but I was on the wrong side of it.

During this time, I was still writing my 8L posts and even making a fair attempt at being upbeat in them, but the whole time that naysaying bitch of a voice I thought I’d buried long ago, (you all know the one that tells you you’re not a “real” writer or that you’re not good enough or that everyone around you is doing so much better than you) was taunting me until even writing an 8L post was becoming torture. Who was I to share my writing experiences? I couldn’t seem to get motivated to write anything and I didn’t want to “wing it” for Eight Ladies by re-running old posts, but I had nothing new to offer. Reminding myself that every single writer has her own version of that voice was little consolation.

After weeks of trying to buck up, push through it, and fix this on my own, I finally did what I should have done from the start. I turned to the team (to paraphrase Michille). I told the 8 Lady community that I was having some difficulty getting words down and asked for advice. As usual the group pulled together with their support and advice and ideas. In the spirit of “Write what you know” most of them advised admitting to the problem in a quickie post with maybe a link to something on writer’s block—that was my intention when I began writing this…and look where it’s led me.

Yes, I’ve got a whole page of new words here (and they’re rather self-centered I’m sorry to say) which is more than I had yesterday, but I’m not naïve enough to think my problem is solved. I need strategies for fixing this long-term. Getting refocused on my WIP will take more than a blog post.

Right now my idea is to write a draft of my “rescue” scene that wraps up Act III. It’s a necessary scene (Cheyenne battles a dust storm as she tries to locate the missing River McConnell) and I think it will be fun to write despite my lack of experience with dust storms. Plus it’s a chance to wing it and do something a little wild and adventurous. Not to mention, what better metaphor for what I’m experiencing right now than to have Cheyenne stumble around blindly as she struggles to relocate something she loves desperately. I may not use it, but even if I don’t it’s time well spent on so many levels.

I found a couple of good web sources on conquering writer’s block (google writer’s block and you’ll see a crapload of sites). I was going to include them here, but honestly, doing so felt BS’y. The advice is fairly stock (create a schedule for example) and while fine, I personally didn’t see a lot of value in most of it for my problem.  If there’s one thing I know for certain, the cure is a very individual thing and will probably depend on the cause. Sometimes it’s a matter of not giving up and giving yourself time.

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what was your “cure”?

22 thoughts on “Kat: Writing Fatigue

  1. Whether we’re in the same place as you right now or not, we either will be, or we have been. And I’m sure it’ll repeat like the seasons. Thanks for being so candid.

    I’ve been a bit dogged by my WIP (and writing in general), too, so I’ve started outlining and researching my next book, just to give me something different to do. I’m not spending a lot of time on it, but when I’m feeling pretty shitty, it’s a nice way to break things up.

    Hang in there, Kat. We’re all rootin’ for ya!

    • Thanks, Justine.

      Funny you should mention the next book. I did a brief synopsis for my next book. I have the hero and heroine’s name, the location and the basic premise. So at least there’s that.

  2. V. inspiring! You had blog block, but you sat down to write something, and you got this. That’s great!

    I think part of it might be processing . . . maybe you got a lot of extra input that you need to put into order. Or, it might be that the conference made the book “too real” and you are backing away from it?

    LOL, I’m kind of displacing my problems onto yours. I think that’s what causes my blockage, and I haven’t found a really good cure yet except to sit down and write something. If I can give it 10 minutes, usually I can get something. (Enduring that 10 minutes is the next hurdle to overcome, though.)

    Good luck and good writing!

    • Blog block–I love that, Michaeline.

      You could be on to something with the “processing” idea. I came back from AZ with so much information that maybe my brain just shut down.

      I’m thinking about your theory on the book becoming too real, too. I have an agent’s card hanging on my board above my computer taunting me (she asked for a full). Maybe that’s it–too much pressure.

      • A former co-worker and I had a name for what happened to us after we got back from a vacation: we called it Post Vacation Stress Disorder. We’d come back from a wonderful trip, and instead of feeling rejuvenated, we’d be depressed and mopey and unable to work. I don’t know what causes that, but I think writing conferences can have the same effect—you might be challenged and exhilarated by the workshops and meetings, but you might also get depressed once the adrenaline subsides. I think you just have to hang in there, trust that the Girls won’t let you down, and be patient with yourself. This too shall pass!

  3. I’m blocked as well. I haven’t written much in a long while. I’ve tried what Justine did (outlining the next book). That has worked a little. Maybe try going back through your McD stuff to find something that motivated you then. And if you find something that works, please share, because you are so right – everyone hits that block at some point.

  4. Great post, Kat-. It’s emotionally honest–and it’s that ability to be emotionally transparent and honest that gives your fiction so much power. And when you get back to it, which you soon will because I’ve never seen you stay away from writing for long, you’ll bring this knew self-knowledge to the page in some way. And it will be great.

  5. Everything Jeanne said, Kat!

    I think sometimes our Girls need a little down time to recharge their batteries. I believe you’re right that the cure is an individual thing. Some people need to persist – Michaeline said above that she needs to write for ten minutes and then things fall back into place for her. Sometimes I just grind to a halt, and pushing on through doesn’t work for me. I think it’s because what I’m writing is boring me (so it should definitely not be inflicted on anyone else) or I’m going wrong and the Girls are hitting the brakes. Then the best thing for me to do is walk away and do something different – cooking, a puzzle, read a book – or write something else. Sometimes it happens repeatedly to me and it drives me nuts, but I’ve learned that trying to soldier on makes it worse.

    Maybe writing Cheyenne’s dust storm scene will be just what you need. If not, try something else until you find what’s right for you. In the meantime, trust in yourself and your Girls. You are an excellent writer and I hope you rediscover the joy soon.

    • Keep in mind what Elizabeth mentioned her post the other day when she was talking about Joss Whedon’s suggestions for writing — write what excites you! I’m definitely in the doldrums as far as what I’m writing (probably because I’m still at the damn musicale and I’m sick of it!), so perhaps just working on what you like, rather than what you have to, will get you over the hump.

      I have to admit I’ve already written next week’s blog post — part 2 of 5 on common writer mistakes — and it was fun! I enjoyed taking a snippet from my book and tearing it apart, so maybe switching to some revision for awhile will help, too.

  6. Thanks for sharing this, Kat! I think you and Justine are correct – most if not all writers hit that wall at some point. I like the phrase ‘writer’s fatigue’, because that’s a more accurate description of what I have had. Blocked to me means not being able to get in touch with creative ideas. What I have experienced is being able to see them, but not having the energy (sometimes physical, but typically mental) to connect with and act on the ideas.

    Good luck in breaking through that wall, and continue to let us know how it’s going. We are happy to send words of support (or chocolate or wine, whatever is needed :-)) and to help in any way we can.

    • That’s it exactly. I can see my ideas too. Heck I can envision my whole story but I can’t seem to connect when it comes to scene level writing. If a big part of issue resolution is accurately describing the problem, we’re half-way home on this one.

        • I’m right there too. I know what I should be writing, I just don’t want to. In part, I’m just tired of my story. I’ve been working on it for so long that it feels stale. As others have mentioned, I’m plotting out / working on other stories, hoping that the change will let me get back to my story with fresh eyes and renewed interest. I’ll let you know how that works out 🙂

  7. Stream of consciousness. I find it helpful to open a blank document and write whatever comes to mind. Even if it means admitting that I am struggling with a lack of words or brain power to muster enough juice for the next scene. I believe we all have days of lackluster results, but it’s the days I write enough to fill a week’s worth of wc goals that keeps me sane. I no longer worry about a block, even if it lingers on the edge of my writing each day. Great post!

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