It’s been about a week since I resumed working on Surreality and it’s been going pretty well. Fingers crossed and I will continue to do so this week. Before this week it had been about a month since I had last worked on it. This was for a variety of reasons, holidays, getting sick, and the normal variances of life. But getting back to work got me to thinking about what it takes to get out of a slump, how to break through the excuses we make not to work, and how we make our work fun again. Here’s a little of what I’ve learned:
1) Work somewhere you enjoy – For me writing is as much about place as it is about the work itself. The days where I can keep to my little ritual of waking up early, driving to Starbucks and getting an hour and a half to write and enjoy coffee are some of my best days. Or there’s Crimson Cup and an artisan coffee I’ve never tried before. Or there’s finding a building with a particularly good view, or a comfortable chair. Whatever it is try to make it as fun and different or comfortable for yourself as possible.
2) Read what you’ve done – Reading what you’ve already accomplished can provide solid evidence that it can be done. And it can clear up any doubts you may have. Even where the draft is not perfect, it will get you thinking about things you can fix and this will get you back into the right mind set.
3) Load your sub-conscious – Along the same lines writing, especially novel writing, is not something that you can just cram, you have to really study. While you can always flip through a text, it’s helpful to have an almost unconscious knowledge of your book, what has come before and where you are going. This may involve multiple readings. For myself using the Kindle’s text-to-speech ability allows me to assess narrative flow, see mistakes, and load up my brain without taking up a lot of my time since I can do it while doing other tasks.
4) Don’t make up for lost time – Unless you have a hard release date, which for us self-publishers is a rare thing, allow yourself the month off. Don’t try to double up your work on the back end. It will negatively affect your output, and your mood, and can knock you right back off track. Number of days writing is far better than any one day’s output. Taking a month off just means you weren’t meant to write those sections at that particular moment in your life.
5) Print your book, or eBook format it – Do something to make your book look professional or physical. Feeling the weight of pages in your hand can be tactilely satisfying. For me the eBook is almost the same (and better for the trees). It helps with step 3 and helps me to have my book with me at all times.
6) Work linearly – Some people will disagree with this, but I tend to think you should write a book in order, even if you’re stuck on the particular scene you’re on. A good novel is complex enough that a lot can change between where you are and the scene you’d love to write. Inevitably you’ll have to change something. If you need a break, write something else. Finishing a tough scene is satisfying and can build your confidence more when you tackle it.
7) Use a computer – Writing by hand is special, though my handwriting is atrocious and my speed is slower. Writing on a computer gets you closer to the final product and also frees you up to make changes immediately if something is not working. Writing by hand can discourage crossing out or forgetting what needs forgotten. And it’s slower and inevitably harder on your hands for long periods. If writing by hand is special for you, then go ahead, but at least for me computers eliminate a lot of physical barriers to getting real work done.
What works for you? How do you get out of a slump?