What to Do When You’re In a Writing Slump (‘Cause It’s Real & It Sucks)

It happens to everyone. For a few weeks, you’re merrily jotting your outline or writing your chapter, giddy and excited about the fresh amount of torture challenges you’re about to unleash on your characters. But then encounter a bump on the road. You take it slow. You go on reverse. You try to think of a way to get around this huge-ass fallen tree. This hell of a hole in the ground. You scratch your head and think, Nah, I’ll get back to this tomorrow.

But tomorrow never comes.

Because you stall. You do something else. You watch Teen Wolf. You read One Punch Man. You listen to Fall Out Boy and watch every fudgedamn fanmade music video of your favorite OTP. But you don’t write. And this keeps happening for days. Then you realize too late that you’re in a writing slump.

So what do you do?

Trust me when I say it’s difficult to get out of a writing slump. It’s a battle of wills, you see. In short, it’s a test to see which one of you is more stubborn – your lazy ass or your desire to finish your story.

There’s no other way out of a writing slump than forcing yourself to write.

Unfortunately, we have self-destructive tendencies and sometimes we can’t seem to threaten ourselves into submission of our craft. What you do – and what I did – to get out of a writing slump involves a casualty of some brain cells and epic mind-battles with the Self.

Listen to instrumental or inspiring music.

This is a common suggestion, which means that yes, it’s largely effective for many people. Personally, I listen to instrumental songs by Two Steps From Hell. Why? Because they’re badass. And because their music is relevant to my work.

What does that even mean? I write fantasy/supernatural stuff with people fighting bad guys using weapons like swords/guns/magical powerballs or whatever. Point is, listening to Two Steps From Hell music gets me hyped. Because it relates to the mood of my story or how I feel about my story, it helps me get pumped up, and my brain starts to work again.

If you’re working on a romance comedy, then listen to fun songs like It’s Not Just Make Believe (I love this one because it just celebrates how giddy and sweet and fun love can be). Or if you’re writing something sad, don’t be ashamed to pick something melancholy to get you in the mood.

(Re)Watch an episode of a TV show that’s similar to your story.

You can also watch a film or read a book, but I suggest just an episode. Every story is inspired partially or fully by another story. This means that there must be a show you’ve seen before that has similar elements to your story. If you’re writing a medical thriller, no doubt you’ve seen a medical thriller yourself. Was it a movie? A TV show? Well, re-watch it. The important thing is you get that feeling back.

Be excited for your story, because if you’re bored writing it, then your readers will get bored reading it, too. Your personality, your “you-ness” will seep into your work, and it will show.

Exercise

It’s common sense that sitting on your butt all day makes Jane a dull writer. And an unhealthy one, too. I work online, and I spend 70% of my time in a day sitting on a plastic chair. It is not fun. And that’s why your brain’s fried to crisps. Even if you’re not writing and just watching Tom Hiddleston on The Night Manager, you are endangering your health.

Exercise and get some oxygen in your body, in your brain before your brain cells shrivel up and die (much like your writing passion). You don’t have to do a full cardio. Walk around. Do some basic warm-ups. Move!

Use the 25-5 Pomodoro Technique

There’s this pomodoro technique which basically says “Work for 25 minutes, then give yourself a break for 5.” I use this one so that I don’t go crazy when I write. Accordingly, when you take a break, you must stay away from your computer. Do something else. Get a snack. Play with your dog. Doodle or write on your notebook instead. Just stay away from the computer for 5 minutes. For me, though, I was never satisfied with the 5 minutes. I still got burnt out, so I used 15 minutes. Saved my sanity, it did.

Remind yourself what you bleed for

My friends and I asked ourselves once what we wanted to do in life, and we got to talking about questions, careers, and dreams, and came up with one question we knew we had to ask – to answer:

What will you bleed for?

You can look for a dream. You can choose a dream. But will you still strive for your dream when it’s not as easy as you thought it would be? When you realize you have to suffer for it?

It’s not enough for you to want something badly. What you need to ask yourself is whether you’re willing to go through the pain to achieve it.

Why do you want to write? Why do you do what you do?

Answer those questions, then look at your outline or your unfinished draft. If you’re willing to bleed for the answer to the questions above, then get yourself out of your slump. Do all or any of the following suggestions. But for fudgesake, do something.

These tips won’t work for everybody, but they sure worked for me when I really didn’t want to write. I was in a slump for days. I just read fanfiction, watched TV shows and movies, and ate whatever was in the fridge. But I had no direction.

Until I listened to music related to my story and felt a sense of nostalgic energy. I felt, slowly, the same excitement I had when I first started writing my story. I knew I had to maintain that same excitement and interest.

It’s not easy to force yourself to do something you really, really don’t want to do. You’re fighting with yourself, and it’s exhausting.

But remember that you’re the only one who can finish that story. It’s yours. Own it. Fight for it. Even if it’s against yourself.

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