13 Ways to Get OUT of Your Writerly Funk

FUNKSometimes we have a retreat, and we want to write ALLLLLLL the words ALLLLL day, but we get there, and… our brains don’t cooperate.

Sometimes we’re trying to finish a project over several months time, and it’s just not…happening.

 

Here are few tips to help you reset and start writing again:

1. Take a break. I know there are a TON of writers who say you have to write every day. You do not have to write every day. And most importantly, you need to not feel guilty about taking breaks. (If you’re at a retreat, don’t be afraid to step away from the computer for a while).

2. Remember that publishing is not personal. Sometimes passes (the nice way to say rejections) can get you down, but you HAVE to keep in mind that it’s the RIGHT project, in front of the RIGHT person, at the RIGHT time. That’s a lot of things that have to fall into place for a YES. Move forward. Prove them wrong.

3. Sometimes we have this precious chunk of time – a couple hours with a babysitter, or away from work, or at a writing retreat, and the words just aren’t coming. Remember there are a TON of non-writing things you can do to move your MS forward. Character sketches, character and setting pictures, storyboards, use a pacing or plotting tool to set up where your story is going next… Just because you’re not putting WORDS into your story, doesn’t mean you’re not putting WORK into your story.

4. Pick ONE thing you know is coming up in your story, and write that – even if it doesn’t come next, which brings me to…

5. Don’t be afraid to write out of order. Now, if you write the ending early on, chances are you’ll have to redo it when you get there, but it gives you SOMETHING to write. Sometimes writing ANYTHING will lubricate that sticky brain.

6. THEATER EXERCISES! Look up breathing, and characterization exercises. Getting into your character’s head can be a brilliant way to unlock those words, which leads me to…

7. Write something unrelated from your MC’s point of view. Maybe an essay on their thoughts after the end of the novel. Maybe an essay or their thoughts on one of the things you’ve put in your story to torture them.

8. Ask yourself, Did I make this big enough? The plot, the plot points, my main character – will be people be rooting for this to work out? Is there something else I can do?

9. Set the mood: Gum, snacks, drinks, music, smells… Maybe go a step further and pick stuff your MC would like.

10. Prep before your writing time. Try to think ahead…

11. Set a timer – YOU HAVE TO WRITE ANYTHING FOR XX MINUTES, and then you can break.

12. MOVE YOUR BODY. I promise that moving your body, lubricates your mind. Yoga, walking, stretching, running, swimming, biking… Bonus if it’s something your MC would like too 😉

13. DON’T PANIC. Finding yourself in a funk happens to everyone 🙂

HAPPY WRITING!!

~ Jolene

17361785_1313033622107898_5983686946276267719_nJolene Perry writes YA fiction for AW Teen and Simon Pulse. She writes about writing on BEEN WRITING? And you can stalk her on her website HERE. She’s also the vice-chair for the LDStorymakers Conference. YOU SHOULD COME…. Join the Tribe…

 

 

Crush Your New Year’s Writing Goals

Every year, I make a list of New Year’s Goals. Yes, Goals. I don’t call them resolutions, because that just seems too concrete and causes too much pressure, setting me up for failure from the very start. Still, even then, some of my goals pan out . . . aaand some of them don’t. But I’ve started to notice a pattern throughout these successes and failures, and I thought I’d share some tips with you that I will be trying this year in the hopes of producing a higher success rate, especially when it comes to writing goals.

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1) Focus on small habits, not the ultimate result.

I think the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to NOT make your resolution the same as your end-game, like “write a novel,” for instance. A goal like that is too daunting, too big. It’s also too vague. There are so many steps involved in writing a novel, and so many life “things” that can get in the way. Instead, a better goal would be to “write every day.” Don’t set a word count. Don’t say you’re going to write 1000 words every day. That’s also setting yourself up for failure. There will be days where you are definitely NOT going to make your word count goal, and you need to make room for that.

In fact, even better, don’t even set your goal to write every day. Make it something more tangible. Just say you’ll work on your novel every day. That can include anything: research, pre-writing, outlining, revising. . . .  And that’s GOOD, because all of those steps are going to get you closer to achieving that end goal that I told you to ignore: to write a full-blown novel. In order to reach that end goal, you need a game plan, so it’s that game plan you need to focus on the most. If your main goal focuses on the process of achieving that end result, you will be much more likely to reach it.

 

2) Failure isn’t an excuse for giving up

No matter what you do, there are probably going to be days, weeks, even months, where you are unable to work on your goals. Everyone goes through periods when they find it difficult to write. You might call that failure. “My goal was to write every day, but I haven’t written for weeks, therefore I’ve failed, therefore I might as well quit.” No! No no no no no. Don’t quit. Just start a-new. Start where you left off. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it. If you quit, then you’ve failed. But if you can accept that you’ve had a set-back and then pick yourself up and get back to work, you’ll know you have what it takes to succeed.

 

3) Flexibility is Key

Remember that a year is a long time. Things change. You change. The goals that you set in January may no longer apply in July. And that’s okay! I like to reassess my goals every few months to see what’s working, what’s not, and to think about what I need to do differently. It’s not failing or giving up if you decide that you need to take a different path. The point of a New Year’s goal is to improve yourself. Or to change yourself. Or to finally get the thing done that you’ve been wanting to get done. And in order to do any of those things without going crazy, you need to embrace flexibility. Go with the flow. If you don’t take a rigid stance, you’ll be more likely to succeed. At least, that’s my experience. Maybe it’s just because I tend to rebel against rules and rigidity. You may be different. But either way, you need to be willing to reassess and change if need be.

 

I hope these tips have helped. I will fully admit that I haven’t had a great track record for meeting the goals I’ve set each year, but a lot of that is because I haven’t followed my own advice. This year, I plan to. And I hope it helps you as well as me. Happy New Year, and good luck!

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When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.

How to Write When You Just Don’t Wanna

Can we all just agree that the last two weeks have been the worst? I mean it. No matter what side of the political debate you fall on, the aftermath of this election has taken a toll on all of us.

I’m not here to get political, but I do want to address this toll and the effect it has had on our writing. Many—MANY—of my friends and colleagues have expressed how hard it has been for them to write lately. Many haven’t been able to write at all. I’ve seen several posts over social media bemoaning the looming end of NaNoWriMo and how behind everyone is because the election stress threw such a wrench in their ability to focus.

I’m one of them. At 22,000 words, I’m over 10k behind where I should be right now. I have massive amounts of writing to do if I’m going to hit 50k by the end of the month. I could just give up. I mean, it’s just an arbitrary contest. It’s not like my career is hinging on whether I can write 50k in 30 days. And everything else going on in the world right now feels much more important to me than finishing my draft.

Besides, I’ve failed NaNo before. Several times before. It’s not a big deal. But here’s the thing: at the beginning of this month, I made a promise to myself that I was going to REALLY DO THIS this time. I was going to finish this novel this month, come Hell or high water. Well . . . some might argue that Hell and high water are here, and now I’m struggling to keep my promise. I do still want to reach my goal, but when it comes to actually sitting down to write? I . . . don’t wanna.

I. Just. Don’t. Wanna. I mean, I do, logically. But I don’t have the mental energy for it. I’d rather take a nap, thank you very much, and hopefully not wake up until the year 2020 has come around.

Despite this, however, I’ve been managing to push myself through this writing slump, and so I thought I’d share some tips for how to get words down, even when you just don’t wanna.

donwannawrite

1) Allow yourself a few day’s break

This seems counter-intuitive. “Wait, so in order to get yourself to write, you . . . didn’t write?” Yup, I didn’t write. I gave my brain and emotions some time to try and work themselves out, with the promise that after a certain amount of time, even if I still didn’t feel like I was in a place where I could write, I would try to write anyway. That day came, and I turned off all social media, and told myself I couldn’t get back on until I’d written 4k. And amazingly, I wrote 4k. I’m still not sure how, but I did. And you probably can too if you really set your mind to it. But first allow yourself that break.

2) Break it down into small chunks of time

Not words. Time. You’ll probably surprise yourself by how much you’ll get written in that small amount of time. One thing I’ve done on days when I’m especially having trouble focusing, is I’ve set my alarm to go off once every hour. When it goes off, I drop whatever I’m doing (or not doing, as the case has been lately) and write for five minutes. If I hit flow, I’ll keep going. Sometimes that’s all it takes. It’s like a little shove on the back of the sled to get you to the start of the slope. Once you’re there, your sled will tip, and gravity will carry you the rest of the way down.

3) Multitask

I’ve become quite the fan of writing via dictation, and the bulk of my NaNo draft has actually been written via this method while I’m doing other boring tasks, such as folding laundry, picking up clutter, and waiting in the carpool lane to pick up the kids from school. Somehow, for me, I’ve been finding it easier to break through the I-don’t-wannas this way. It’s not for everyone, but if you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend you do.

4) Find a second creative outlet

Set aside some time every day to work on something else creative and/or relaxing that has nothing to do with your draft. Adult coloring books are great for this. Also crafts, such as knitting, crochet, or other needlework—basically anything that relaxes you but also stimulates the creative side of your brain. Sometimes when I do this, I’ll find my mind wandering off to work on my story without me, solving plot problems, coming up with new characters, all while in a nice, relaxed, state of mind rather than while stressing out over a blank page.

5) Don’t panic

If none of this works for you, and you just can’t do it, don’t beat yourself up about it. Stress is a nasty beast that sometimes takes longer to defeat than we would like. Allow yourself the extra time you need. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, go to bed at a decent hour, and take lots of bubble baths. Your ability to write has not left you forever. It will come back when it’s ready.

I do hope these strategies help you as much as they’ve been helping me. I will point out that they don’t work one-hundred percent of the time. Some days I just have to throw in the towel and admit that writing isn’t going to happen. But even if it works only a third of the time, that’s better than not at all. Also, if you have any tips of your own, please do share them in the comments. I’d love to give them a try.

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When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.

Forge Your Own Path

My husband calls me an idealist. He says I get these romanticized pictures in my head of how things are supposed to be.

He’s not wrong. Especially when it comes to writing.

When I finished my first novel, I pictured selling it to the first publisher who laid eyes on it.

When I got an agent with my third novel, I pictured that book selling at auction for a six-figure deal.

When I sold my first novel to a publisher (my fourth completed novel), I pictured it being showered with adoration and an unlimited marketing budget.

Once my kids were all in school, I pictured long, productive days in front of the computer, pounding out three or four novels per year, which of course my publisher would offer contracts for, sight unseen.

I still imagine leisurely vacations at the lakeshore where I rent a cottage and soak up endless inspiration.

I let myself dream of waking up in the middle night with a fully formed novel in my head, then typing it all out in one day as the words flow like water.

It’s not wrong to dream big. But writing requires a healthy dose of resilience and flexibility. And what works for one person is not guaranteed to work for you. Say it with me:

There is no one proper way to be a writer, and no one path to publication. 

It’s so tempting to always be peering over the proverbial fence, deciding that what someone else has is the ultimate key to success. If only I had a better laptop. If only I could get out of bed earlier or stay up later. If only I had the perfect writing space, or a full-time nanny, or a famous mentor.

Last year, for no apparent reason, I broke out in hives. For six solid months. I was on so many meds, trying to keep it under control, that I would fall asleep in front of my computer in the middle of the day. I had these beautiful, enticing chunks of alone time when I planned to be so productive, and they would be utterly wasted because I had to go and take a nap or else I simply couldn’t function. I wasted even more time grousing about it, instead of just showing some flexibility and working around it.

I finally realized that instead of fighting it, I should just take a nap, and then wake up and work. Arrrgh. Why do we waste so much time raging against unexpected obstacles? I’m slowly learning, after many, many years, to pick myself up after setbacks and just get back to work.
Another case in point:

Some people long for the chance to be at home and write full-time. They may tell themselves that when it finally happens, they’ll be prolific, find an agent, write a bestseller.

But I had that chance, and it did not work for me. I had too much time to obsess about writing and little else, and it paralyzed me.  I poured all of my mental energy and emotion into it, but it didn’t make me write more often. If anything, I would sit down at the keyboard and freeze up.

I discovered I’m the type of person who needs a secondary area of focus (besides parenting) in order to be productive. Ideas come more freely to me when I’m doing something not related to writing.

So I started looking for part-time jobs. And as of last week, I was officially hired to work at my alma mater in the music department. I’m nervous and thrilled at the same time, but I already know it’s going to be a great fit.

I truly believe that there is no secret formula, no one road to success. Through trial and error you will develop and discover your own tailor-made path that will help you be the most productive—and find the most joy.

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Growing up, Christine Hayes loved reading stories about creatures that curl your toes and legends that send a shiver down your spine. Now she loves writing about them, too. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released in June 2015 through Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Christine seeks inspiration by haunting flea markets and estate sales, searching for cool vintage finds with a story to tell. While earning her degree in music she visited Asia for the first time, and later moved there with her family for several years. She has been addicted to travel ever since. Christine and her clan now live in northern Utah. Find her online at www.christinehayesbooks.com.

Does your writing always comes after?

I’m a mom of six energetic kids ages 4-14. While they’re at school, I write 2-3 articles per week for my part-part-time job. I also run our household (dishes, laundry, paying bills, making kids do chores, planning and preparing meals, repeat, repeat, repeat) shuttle kids to and from places, help with homework, and juggle anything else life throws at me. My life is anything but the schedule I envision on a day-to-day basis.

Can you relate?

Somewhere in the midst of all that, I have several manuscripts at various points the writing process. I want to be further along. But, this writing (which for now, though I’m serious about it, has no actual deadlines) always seems to come after everything else. You know…If there’s time left…which there usually isn’t leftover time.

Maybe you’re like me, or maybe (hopefully) you’ve got this “my writing is a huge priority” thing down and you’re off and running.

For those who are struggling, do you recognize any of these phrases?

I’ll write…
     …after I get the kids to school.
     …after I finish the dishes.
     …after I scroll Facebook/Twitter/Instagram for a while.
     …after I reply to these important emails.
     …after I’m done with work.
     …after dinner.
     …after the kids are in bed.
     …after I’m done reading this book.
     …after the house is clean (does anyone really ever have a clean house anyway? Seriously. It’s                    overrated).
     …after I exercise and shower.
     …after __________ (fill in the blank with your excuse).

When I realized what I was doing to my writing, I thought about it. Is there some underlying reason why I am putting everything else ahead of my writing? I think there’s a few reasons–I don’t take myself seriously enough as an author, I’m completely afraid of all the “what-ifs,” and so, I procrastinate.

Obviously, some of the things I have to do first have to be done before I delve into my writing world, but for the most part, I have started trying to put my writing before.

How to put your writing before:

1. Whatever it is, you can delay it for 10 minutes or an hour. 

Sit down in a chair with your computer or laptop regardless of needing to clean the entire house. Set a timer for 10 minutes (or 20, 40, or 60 minutes). Now, write. Just write. Whether the words are crappy, genius, or somewhere in between, take time to write, jot down scene notes or outline. As you learn to put your writing before, increase your time or do it more regularly.

2. Are you procrastinating? 

Stop it. Just don’t do that anymore. If you have to set deadlines for yourself, do it. Write down how many words or pages are due by a certain date on your calendar and get it done. Reward yourself when you meet or exceed your goal.

3. Take yourself seriously. 

You and your writing deserve it. You are a writer, an author. Take it seriously and put in the time required. Just because writing doesn’t necessarily require specific hours like a structured job, doesn’t mean you don’t have to actually show up. Give yourself and your skills credit.

4. Punch your fear in the face. 

I would rather do something I’m afraid of and get through it, than not do it at all and completely regret it. Yes, you might fail a thousand times, but perceived failures are great learning tools and success is around the corner! Don’t succumb to fear or give up. You never truly fail unless you stop trying.

What are you going to do to put your writing before instead of after?

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Wendy Jessen is the author of more than 300 articles—book reviews as well as family-oriented articles on familyshare.com . She somehow manages to do that with 6 spirited children ranging in age from 4 to 13 under toe. In the throes of writing her first book, she finds ways to procrastinate which usually involves scrolling through social media. Wendy often stays up way past her bedtime reading YA or other fiction. She loves kid-free date night with her husband, family vacations, and kids’ bedtime, aka, the human version of whack-a-mole.

10 Things to Do During that Horrible Space Between Finishing Your Book and Publication

There’s this awful period of time between finally having your book finished (YAY!) and waiting to get it published (AAAHHHH!!)…

…Querying…being on submission…waiting to hear back from agents, editors, or a publishing company about your “baby” that you have written, edited, and revised for months or years of your life…

For writers, the anticipation, dread, fear of the unknown, anxiety, and excitement is unmatched. It can consume your thoughts and make you seem like a crazy, insane person regardless of how you try to act like you are calm, cool, and collected.

The waiting can last between a few months to a year (or more) which is agonizing. How can you wait it out without chewing off all your nails, pulling out your hair strand by strand, wearing a rut in your carpet from pacing, or eating yourself into a chocolate coma? (Wait, no…maybe a chocolate coma is just fine. Carry on.)

Here’s how to take the edge off the waiting game’s anxiety/nervousness/dread/excitement:

  1. Eat chocolate. More than is healthy. It’s like getting hugs on the inside and we all need lots of hugs, right? 
  2. Stockpile your favorite go-to comfort foods. Chocolate, homemade bread, ice cream, cookies, Dr. Pepper, brownies, etc. It’s going to be a long wait; might as well be prepared.
  3. Clean your house. Maybe. I mean, only if you get really desperate or masochistic. But, that kind of torture could distract you pretty well. 
  4. Start a new writing project…because you’re a writer! Writers are never done–even if you just finished a book.
  5. Tackle that “to-be-read” pile. The pile seems to multiply like rabbits, so there’s always plenty of new books to read. 
  6. Stalk whomever you submitted to via Twitter or any other social media platform…wait, no…I didn’t say that. Huh…my delete key seems to be broken…
  7. Watch some good movies with good friends. Or bad ones. No one’s judging here.  
  8. Take a vacation. Mentally or physically. Or both. If you go somewhere physically, do some writing or research for writing and use it as a tax write-off (you can do that, right?).
  9. Cheer on your fellow writer friends. Because writers are cool and we celebrate and help each other. Seriously.
  10. Laugh or do yoga to relieve stress. Or if you’re me, yoga naturally leads to laughing…because, you know, I’m not super coordinated. (If that’s the case, maybe just do it at home with a DVD and friends so you don’t disturb coordinated people with your laughter.)

Waiting to hear back about your book is super HARD.  The fear of rejection and what others think about your work is tough. Writing is such a personal feat, and rejections can feel so personal. But remember, what is accepted or rejected is often subjective. It is not a manifestation of your ability as a writer, though we all have room for improvement.

Regardless of whether you get rejected or accepted, keep writing. So many successful authors have been rejected hundreds of times. Don’t give up no matter how many “no” responses you get.

Persistence leads to success.
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Wendy Jessen is the author of more than 300 articles—book reviews as well as family-oriented articles on familyshare.com . She somehow manages to do that with 6 spirited children ranging in age from 4 to 13 under toe. In the throes of writing her first book, she finds ways to procrastinate which usually involves scrolling through social media. Wendy often stays up way past her bedtime reading YA or other fiction. She loves kid-free date night with her husband, family vacations, and kids’ bedtime, aka, the human version of whack-a-mole.

A December Pep Talk

November knocked my socks off.

I had every intention of participating in NaNoWriMo. I had a manuscript outlined. I even had the daily hours I would write scheduled.

But then the month began. And wow.  Between sickness and sudden school responsibilities, kids’ early-home days, hosting birthday parties, doctor (and hospital) visits, and church activities I was in charge of, November may have been busier than the rest of the year put together.

A week into the month, I realized NaNoWriMo wasn’t going to happen for me this year. By mid-November, my writer-self felt extremely discouraged. And then I did something you should never do in such a state of mind: I looked at other people’s blogs, stumbling upon others’ success stories, which made me feel even more discouraged with a side-order of passive-aggressive Ugh, why can’t I get things done like other people? frustration.

So I stepped back and reminded myself of a few things I’ve learned and relearned about writing [incidentally these are also things I’ve learned about life]:

1. I need to enjoy the writing process.  Sometimes I’m so anxious for the end result of my work, I forget that the journey and discovery is fun.

2. I need to get rid of distractions. I have to get off the internet when I’m writing. I’ve noticed I am sometimes more productive with a pen and notepad (!) even though I type much faster than I write.  Truly, my email does not need to be checked every ten minutes.

3. I am not in competition with anyone else. One of the things I love about the writing community is that it’s so supportive. We want each other to succeed [ex: look at us giving each other free advice!]. The more someone reads, the more they want to read. If my son loves Harry Potter and finishes the series, he’s eager to have something else to fill the void (next up: Gregor the Overlander and The False Prince). The more books he loves, the more he wants to read, and the more I scramble to find him books that are worth his time. I want my children to be exposed to a plethora of good books of all different genres. More people writing and publishing means more good stories to choose from, so we can keep enjoying and learning.

There you have it, a December pep talk to myself (and to you. Happy Christmas ☺). I still have my NaNoWriMo outline.

Who says I can’t be a month late?

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Emily Manwaring spent her childhood in Wales, her adolescence in Utah and the time since in England and New Hampshire respectively. She has a degree in English Literature from BYU and currently lives in Northern Utah with her husband and children.  She likes to sleep [mostly she just misses it], read, and write [this makes her sound very lazy].  She is currently working on a picture book series.