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In a Writing Slump? Five Ways to Re-Energize
by Barbara D. Diggs
Several months ago, I went through a period where as far as my writing was concerned, I could do no wrong. Queries were being accepted within hours after I hit send. When I sat down at my laptop, my fingers fluttered across the keyboard like Nijinsky performing Swan Lake. And ideas were popping into my head so plentifully I could barely get them down on paper.
And then it all came to a halt.
Suddenly, my once bustling email inbox was dead silent. My idea well went dry and the “brilliant” ideas that I had raced to scribble down earlier now seemed uninteresting and trite. Depressed, I continued to drag myself to the computer every day, but instead of writing, spent most of my time hitting ‘check mail’ on my email account, and wondering why I had ever thought that I could become a successful freelance writer. For weeks, I brooded. What happened? Had my writing somehow changed? Obviously, I wasn’t meant to be a writer.
Eventually, it occurred to me that it wasn’t my writing that changed, but my attitude in the face of an ordinary writing slump. When things were going well, I was surfing on my good fortune, propelled by the energy generated by the acceptances to my queries. But when times got bumpy, I had no external source to boost my confidence, and I allowed negative thinking to paralyze me. What I needed, I realized, was to produce my own source of positive energy.
As writers, we’re bound to face slumps in our careers. And during those gloomy periods when we’re receiving rejection after rejection, or are yawning at our own ideas, we need to know how to create within ourselves the excitement and sense of possibility that an acceptance letter brings. When you find yourself being unproductive and feeling negative about your writing, try these five techniques to get positive energy flowing again.
1. Write Positive. Go beyond thinking positive – before you settle into your usual writing session, take five minutes to whip up some positive energy by writing affirmations. For example, if you feel your writing has gotten lackluster, you might write: “I always write with passion, creativity and joy” over and over until the message starts to sink into your subconscious. Or if, you’ve lost confidence in your abilities, try writing, “I am an amazingly talented writer with unique ideas.” Play with the words until you find something that works for you. But be sure that you don’t just scribble down (or type) your affirmation by rote: concentrate on what you’re writing, and believe it to be true.
2. De-Clutter. According to the ancient Chinese principles of Feng Shui – the practice of living in harmony with the natural world – positive energy cannot flow where there is clutter. Think about it: isn’t it harder to concentrate when your desk is littered with coffee-stained drafts of old articles, crumpled candy wrappers, and pens that don’t work? Get rid of them! You might be surprised at how reinvigorated and inspired you feel when sitting down to work in a clean, organized environment.
3. Gag Your Inner Critic. You know who I’m talking about…the nagging, little voice that gets particularly loud when times are tough – telling you that you’ll never be a successful writer; that you’re a fraud; that, of course, your idea, story, novel was rejected, it was stupid to begin with, etc. Slap a muzzle on the critic by firmly and immediately contradicting it with a positive statement, every single time it pipes up. For example, if it says about a work-in-progress, “This piece is crap; it’s going nowhere.” You might respond, sneeringly: “This is a draft. Working out the kinks what drafts are for.” Or maybe: “You’re crazy. This is great!” In time, gagging your inner critic will get to be automatic. These days, I can usually silence my inner critic with a cheerful: “Oh, shut up!” and keep on writing.
4. Try Something New. An excellent way of recharging your batteries is by doing something you’ve always wanted to do but never did – especially if that activity has nothing to do with writing. Always wanted to learn to shoot pool or knit? Sign up for lessons. Have dreams of running a marathon? Start training now. Embarking on a new project can give your confidence the boost it needs, and getting your mind off of writing for awhile can be a welcome relief. And, of course, in learning something new, you’ll have a fresh topic to write about!
5. Have A One-Minute Dance Party. On the sitcom “30 Rock,” the boss of writers for a fictional television show suggested, after an exhausting day of writing, having a one-minute dance party to get the group pumped up again. I thought this was a fabulous idea and tried it during a writing session when I was blocked – and it worked! Just put on a favorite tune, crank it up, and go wild for one minute (or the length of the song). Chances are, you’ll sit back down at your desk with your blood pumping, and a smile on your face, ready to keep going.
If you practice these five energy-boosting techniques on a regular basis, you’ll soon be a more confident, productive writer… and the acceptances you receive will be – energy-wise – the icing on the cake!
© Copyright 2009, Barbara D. Diggs
Barbara Diggs is a freelance writer based in Paris, France. Her work has been featured in publications such as Renaissance Magazine, Learning Through History Magazine, and The Southwester newspaper. When not writing, she is trying to encourage her little boy to love books and reading as much as she does.
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