We’ve all been there. Staring at the blinking cursor in Word or stress scrolling through the phone while the laptop sits off to the side. Two years ago I endured the pit of post partum depression. For almost the entirety of 2019, just the thought of creating something made me want to hurl. I can imagine that many people felt that way in 2020.
If you have grand aspirations to draft a novel, it can feel so disheartening if you’re in a space where the blues won’t let you build anything original. And you’re not alone. Here are some ways I’ve found to lessen the writing blues burden.
This is my favorite way to pass a blue spell, because it’s enjoyable, and you can treat it as furthering your craft. What did you like or dislike about the book as a writer? Any tropes or clichés well-subverted or did it fall flat? What would you have done differently? Is the book a good representation of what’s popular now? Could you use the book as a comparative title if you’re planning to query?
Also, buying books supports your fellow writers. The benefit for self-pubbed authors is fairly obvious, but purchasing a traditionally published book shows publishers that there are buyers in particular markets. This is an opportunity to support marginalized creators!
Give yourself permission to recover from what’s bothering you. If you are able to take a step back and choose to take a break from reading or writing, you’ll feel less guilty. If you read my previous post on time management, skip the shame spiral and literally schedule time to veg in front of the TV or take a nap. If it’s a conscious decision, you won’t feel like it’s procrastination.
I think self-care falls under this category too. You have to find out what it means to you; it doesn’t look the same for everybody. For me, the thought of a mani-pedi stresses me out. Your idea of self-care might not be a bubble bath with a glass of wine while reading a book. I know that I don’t enjoy feeling like I have to meet a checklist, and I’d be afraid of dropping my book in the water the whole time.
Don’t underestimate a simple walk. Sure, breaking a sweat can improve so many things health-wise, but even something as low intensity as walking can improve your cardiovascular (heart) and pulmonary (lung) fitness along with muscle tone and balance. Walking can also affect problem solving and divergent thinking. Hello, solving plot holes! Just make sure you have your phone with you so you can leave yourself a note.
Something as simple as a walk can check the boxes for exercise and Vitamin D. It’s often overlooked, but Vitamin D deficiency can cause fatigue or tiredness, generalized joint and muscle pain, low energy, bad moods, anxiety, and weaken the immune system. We obtain Vitamin D from foods and sunlight. So if your diet is not awesome (like mine; one of my main food groups may or may not be pizza), you might want to consider finding foods rich in Vitamin D or try a multivitamin if you’re not already taking one. I find that if I take a step back and look at my blue stretches, it’s usually when sunlight hasn’t graced my skin except for the brief commute to and from work.
4. Talk to Someone
Sometimes you need to unburden your thoughts on someone else. Whether that’s a trusted mentor, a close friend, or even a professional, there’s no shame in it. Something that really helps me is being clear with what (I think) I need. Sometimes, I just want to vent about work or some jerk who cut me off on the interstate. I don’t want to solve my problems; I just want to complain about them to a sympathetic listener.
Other times, I can’t see the solution to a problem, like being unable to see the forest for the trees. Outside perspective can really help.
There isn’t one right answer for getting out of a writing slump, and I’d love to hear suggestions on what you like to do!
And for anyone wondering, while 2019 was a literary bust, I drafted two novels before May 2020, one of which is in the query trenches, the other is with the first round of readers. You can bounce back too!