Sometimes you have a flat tire, real or symbolic, and a planned writing session doesn’t happen. Sometimes you are“stuck” and have to think awhile on a solution for the corner you’ve written yourself into. Life gets busy and other responsibilities take precedence. Or a host of other daily intrusions muscle into your schedule.
This is not what I’m talking about today.
When you are slammed with a major life-changing event, death or loss, it can take months (or even years) for your heart to have healed enough to have your writing spirit back onboard. Without a heart that is open to feelings, it’s hard to write, let alone write anything compelling.
I know this place well.
After my father died suddenly, I thought that writing a new book about a girl's love for her father would be cathartic. It was, to a point. But I was unwilling to lay my feelings out on the page, so the book wasn’t all it could be and the process didn’t help as much as I’d hoped.
I’m still recovering from a death early this year. For six months I was the primary caregiver for the after-care of two surgeries and a battle against two kinds of cancer (others, not myself). I am finally able to sit at the computer and write again. Until recently, I didn’t have the heart to write.
But here is a list of what I was able to do.
1. Use a post-it pad to jot down snippets of dialogue or a word, like desolation.
You know how forgetful you can be when you’re severely stressed. I now keep a pad of paper in my car. Seeing just one word on a page has helped me address that feeling - and remember the love.
While life is slows in your grief, notice everything - the colors of the sky at dawn, the sounds of traffic, the smells in a bouquet of flowers. A bunny scurrying across the trail, or a mother duck shepherding her ducklings down a creek can make me smile at the worst of times.
3. Listen to music.
Music can put you in touch with feelings at light speed. That’s why a producer spends big bucks for the right composer for a film. Initially, I listened to a lot of what I call “Angry Young Man” music (AKA alternative rock). My choice in music softened as my heart healed.
Give your brain a break. It doesn’t do any good to beat yourself up about things you could have done better. A new life means a new outlook. Who doesn’t get energized thinking about new characters.
5. Think about characters that are going through the same thing as you.
When you’re ready, let your fictional characters walk your path. Perhaps through their eyes and hearts, you will see and feel things you’ve overlooked.
6. Critique other’s work.
This kept me in the writing game. I could engage in a writing activity by editing my critique partners’ pages, with a mind detached from my own problems. It also reminded me that I had stories to tell and made me sit at the computer to try to tell them. Even though I did a lot of “trying to proceed,” the act of critiquing kept my writer’s muscles from atrophying.
7. Build a movie in your head of a brand new project.
This is another “get out of your world” technique. Of course, as a science fiction writer, I have to admit I use this one often, even when I’m not stressed. I worked on my “movie” and now that I’m writing again, the words are flowing.
8. Record new story ideas, new characters, new settings that intrigue you.
I’ve found memory and stress to be mutually exclusive, so if I come up with what I think is a great idea, I write it down and save it for later. Even if it seems pretty stupid. Heck, I’m a writer. I can use pieces of everything.
9. Research something totally new, unrelated to any current project.
You may find something to help you out of your writer slump and life funk.
10. Write short paragraphs about how you feel.
Save these pages! You will be able to use them in your books. Maybe not your current project, but your raw emotions will propel your work to places it hasn’t reached before. The more we share our life journey, whatever the masquerade of genre and characters, the more our readers can relate. After all, don’t we all read to feel?
Reading will not only take you away from your misery for a time, it helps to open your heart. And an open heart not only lets us take in, but allows us to release doubt, pain, anger and so much more. Reading also will remind you that you are a writer. And eventually you will start telling your stories again.
The curse of life is that nothing is permanent.
The beauty of life is that nothing is permanent.
What have you done to help you “soldier on” during a life crisis? How have you been able to come back to your writing?
* * * * * *
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong. She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.
A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now enjoys sharing her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told. Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard.