Most of us here know each other - even if we are just ships that pass through blogosphere - and most of us are aspiring to be authors (or may even be authors already). So, having established that I'm amongst if not friends, then at least like-minded individuals, then I am fairly comfortable with admitting that some days (er, probably most days actually), I don't have a clue what I am doing. Being me, that's not really a surprise, and not even an insurmountable problem. But there is a problem nonetheless. What do you do when aside from the normal I-Don't-Know-What-The-Heck-I'm-Going-To-Do-So-I'll-Just-Wing-It approach, you also have a great big neon sign flashing in your brain that says STUMPED?
Depending what you are working on, this state of inactivity can cause anything between mild irritation and sheer panic. Unfortunately, I get this a lot, and because it is in my nature to panic, I end up getting really stressed. I've always been an 'up and down' person, but because I've been that way for as far back as I can remember, I never really thought about why I was this way. My recent diagnosis of episodic depression at least explains the why of it, but it doesn't really help me to get anything done.
Obviously not everyone will suffer the same problems that I do, but I'm betting that every single writer out there has periods of inactivity, or 'dry spells' as it were. So how do we counteract this? I know a few people who have strategies to cope, but they don't really work for me because a lot of the time it is lethargy that keeps me from writing. Add to that a predisposition to make things up as I go along, anything that sounds remotely like a plan is liable to send me running in the opposite direction anyway.
Take today's blog post. You may notice that it's just over four hours late going up (which I apologise for, by the way). It's not that I forgot about it; in fact, I was panicking about this week's 'Writing Wednesday' post about three seconds after I posted last week's 'Reading Monday' post (which I also panicked about for about a week prior to writing it, by the way). And the more I stress out and procrastinate, the less inclined I am to do anything about it.
It's hard, really hard. I honestly love writing, I really do, but some days it can feel like a chore, and when you are working on something that you probably won't get paid for (for those of us yet to be published, that is), the last thing you want is to feel that way. When you write, you should enjoy it, not least because you are likely to produce drivel if you don't have any enthusiasm.
I get stumped on just about everything. In fact, my dry spells are at least three times as long as my 'flowing' spells. *rolls eyes at self* With my blog posts, I usually manage to come up with something - even though they tend to be rambles - and I think the only reason I am able to scrape a few paragraphs together is because I am scheduled for them. There is a deadline (even if I am a few hours late *shifty*). So coming from a writer who is regularly stumped, and dithers far too much for her own good, I have one very big piece of writing advice. You'll have heard it before, and you'll most likely hear it again, but that doesn't matter because it is such a strong piece of advice that it bears repeating.
Give Yourself A Deadline!!!
Yup, that's my advice. It really works. I've been dithering over editing last year's NaNo novel for, well, a year, and although I've given myself deadlines, they've always been the Finish Editing By Blah Blah If I Can, But Don't Worry If I Don't kind of deadlines. Even as I was saying the words (or typing them), a little gremlin in the back of my mind was tittering and rolling their eyes.
However, my blog posts for BB&B are scheduled, and if I miss them I let the whole group down. That's not an option. I can post a little late, or in sheer panic ask to swap a day, or maybe beg a few ideas, but I can't miss. I haven't blogged for a month on my own blog, yet I managed to blog every day of October for it. The reason? I had requests for each and every blog post for that particular month, and people were expecting to read my rambles on the topics they'd given me. Yup, accountability really shifts your butt. Not writing my own stuff, or not editing a half-decent novel, only lets me down, so I can procrastinate as much as I can. Can't really feel guilty when the only person my dithering affects is me, after all. But letting other people down is another thing altogether. So along with deadlines, I'd also suggest promising a few nearest and dearest that you'll finish whatever it is you are working on.
Deadlines and guilt trips. Works for me. (Erm, sometimes *shifty*).
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