How to Combat the Writer Blues
As much as we’d all like to deny it, writing isn’t always easy. Ideas don’t always flow. Inspiration isn’t always readily available. Suboptimal life circumstances dampen the creative flow. And none of us are strangers to the dreaded imposter syndrome, when doubts about our abilities assault us so viciously we feel like a fraud even calling ourselves a writer. We’ve all found ourselves in that negative mindspace, but you don’t have to stay there. There are a lot of ways to combat the writer blues, and here are a few options to help you lift your spirits and spark those creative juices.
Read Other Books
If you’re struggling to write, one of the best things you can do is immerse yourself in someone else’s writing, especially if it’s an author you already admire. Target books that have inspired you in the past or that have similar premises to your own. For me, doing this often stimulates new ideas or helps me solve problems I’ve been struggling with. It also reminds me why I fell in love with my own stories enough to pursue them, and I eventually find myself feeling so homesick for them that I can’t wait to dive back into those imagined worlds again.
Reread Your Old Writing
Nothing kicks the writer blues in the teeth like a reminder that you’re good at what you do, and reading over your old writing is a great way to do that. It’s a lot easier to see the merits in something you’ve already written than in something you’re working on now, and though some of it is bound to be cringe-worthy, that’s okay. It’s good to remember where we were and how far we’ve come, and reconnecting to those early scribbles can also remind us why we started writing in the first place and what drives us to keep putting words on the page. Reconnecting to our personal motivations is a huge step toward reconnecting to the motivations of our story characters.
It can also help to pause where you are in your writing and read over what you have from the beginning. But don’t focus on the things that need fixing, as hard as that might be. Put away the red pen and look instead at the things you’re doing right, the things you love, and how you’re responding as a reader. And most important, let yourself remember why you’re writing this story and what you want your readers to walk away with. Let your own words inspire you and drive away that cloud of negativity keeping you from sharing your story with the world.
Do Something Different
If words of any kind are making your writer blues worse, the best thing to do is get away from them for a while. Give yourself a break and go do something completely unrelated. Work on a different hobby. Spend time with family. Do chores. Get out of the house. Whatever it is, just give your subconscious space to do its job. I’ve personally found that stepping away heads off counterproductive frustration, and when I come back to my writing, whatever was giving me a headache doesn’t look nearly so bad anymore. So when you find yourself knotted up with anxiety or fear or writer’s block, it’s important to take time for self-care to smooth out those internal snarls and make space for passion and creativity.
Seek Out Others
It’s human nature to focus on our flaws, making it easy to get yourself stuck in a self-defeating cycle of cynicism. When this happens, it’s okay to turn to others for a clear outside perspective. Connect to people who call you out when you’re spiraling, who are attentive listeners, who are uplifting without coddling you and helpful without being critical. Family members can be great for this, but many of us have also found supportive writing groups, critique partners, and beta readers who make wonderful cheerleaders. Let them buoy you up when you’re sinking, and trust the truth of the reflection you’ll see through their eyes.
Never Give Up
When the writer blues are at their worst, the most important thing to remember is to never give up on yourself or your writing. If crafting stories brings you joy, keep doing it even if it feels like the whole world is against you. It’s not failure if you have to shelve a story for a while and work on something else. It’s not giving up if you have to take a prolonged break from writing entirely. Never forget that writing is a part of who you are, and these stories are a piece of your very soul. That will never go away no matter how much time passes before you write again.
I’ve read more than one heart-wrenching account of people permanently destroying their writing because they feel it’s not good enough or they’re not good enough to finish it. Please don’t ever do that. Even if that particular story doesn’t work out, the experience you gained in writing it was worthwhile, and there’s always something good to be found in even the roughest attempts. I’ve had many stories not work out over the years, but in most cases, I’ve ended up incorporating the best elements of those failures into much better stories I love even more than the originals. In the end, if your characters are full and lifelike, the story is compelling and cohesive, and you’ve exposed a part of your very soul in your words, then you have nothing to be ashamed of even if there are some rough edges to smooth out. Don’t you ever let those negative voices convince you otherwise.
There are a lot of reasons why writing may not be coming as easily as you’d hope, but there are also a lot of things you can do to get back into your writing groove. This list is a good place to start, though the ultimate thing to keep in mind is that everyone is different, so what works for one person won’t necessarily work for you. If reading books helps, do that. If watching movies is your thing, then indulge in a movie-watching spree until your muse returns. If going on vacation somewhere remote and typing your whole book on a typewriter is what you need, then by all means, start looking for rentals now. Just never forget that the writer blues always pass even when it seems like you’ll never want to pick up a pencil or sit in front of a keyboard again. You just have to keep trying different techniques until something works, and until then, have faith in your gift and yourself. You’ll always be a writer, and nothing can ever take that away.