Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to write a great novel for teens. She wrote and wrote and wrote, sometimes forgetting to eat, or do the laundry, or take care of her children. Finally, once her fingers were ready to fall off, the girl finished her novel. “Next task,” she thought, “is to get it published.”
The girl googled and researched about getting books published. She learned about editing, beta readers and agents. And she discovered the art of the query letter. After four months of querying, she also discovered that she was not ready. And neither was the story. So she wrote another one. And another. And another. In the meantime, she got a few publishing credits under her belt in a different genre. She learned about pacing, character development, and plot. She went to writing conferences, joined crit groups and built her online platform. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she had something worth publishing—something she was willing to query. So she did. And she revised. Re-queried. Partials were requested. As were fulls. She got her hopes up. And then came the rejections. More revisions happened. More fulls went out. And, sadly, more rejections came in.
“Great writing, but not for me,” most of the rejections said.
The girl was sad—disheartened and discouraged. She slipped into a slump. She began to question why she was working so hard for this. Her spouse questioned it too . . . as did her children. Her slump turned into a slide, right into a huge pool of yuck! What was she to do? Quit? Regroup? Take a break?
Her new writerly friends all weighed in with their advice—great, wonderful, awesome advice. But the girl continued to struggle and slid deeper into despair.
During this same time, the girl faced many tribulation in her life. And many triumphs. And finally, after many months, an offer came her way to publish her book. And many others.
Her dreams had come true.
So why was she still sad? Why had the funk not gone away? Why? Why? Why?
The above story likely sounds familiar. Every writer I know has faced a series of angsty moments and periods of time in the writerly funk.
For me, despite the successes, I still find myself swimming through my doldrums from time to time, usually because I haven't taken time to refill my creative well. I become creatively bankrupt and although I am still writing, still publishing, it is with great cost as my creative energies drain me to my core.
So what do I do? How do I pull myself out of this type of despair and refill my well? How do I find the joy and energy I once had with writing?
I've made a list of some of the things I have had to learn to do of late in order to claw my way out of my writerly funk....again...
- Remember why I write - For me, this is an important first step, focusing on the reasons I write. Nowhere in this exploration do I ask myself if I "can" write, simply WHY I write in the first place.
- Write – I recently started writing, journally, every morning by hand. There is a magic in these pages as I spill my angst and whatevers through the pen and onto the page. Within a page or so I find myself refocused, dedicated in a way that is different. None of this morning writing is about a story I am working on - it is more a morning meditative practice that just sharpens the saw, so to speak, and focuses my mind.
- Create space for my dreams – I am busy, often so busy that every moment is filled with something "to do", some action I need to take. With a life that is filled, no PACKED, the way mine has been over the past several years, it is no wonder that I struggle with creative energy as often as I do. I have not allowed for down time; I have not given myself the space I need for creation to happen. This was a hard thing for me to change, and it is change that is coming much more slowly than I would like. But, I am in the process of clearing out the "things" and activities in my life that are not in alignment with my dreams and goals, and creating the space I need for dreams and miracles to unfold.
- Welcome inspiration - There was a time when writing was the most inspiring aspect of my day - I wrote as I dreamed, wrote throughout the day, and couldn't wait to write at night. Over the past few years, the joy from writing had faded, becoming something I "had" to do. Although still inspired by the written word, I had lost the creative mojo somehow. I forgot to take time away, to refill the well with inspiration - music, images, nature. So now I remember to take myself on dates and find the joy that I forgot.
- Focus on the positives – There are plenty of things to get frustrated with in this business. The key, I think, is to find the POSITIVE things. Like the growth you've made as a writer. Or the connections you’ve made with other writers facing the same struggles.
- Face your fears – Writing is an interesting thing. It has the power to unlock some of your deepest darkest yuck that lurks inside, or maybe that’s just me. Regardless, pursuing your dreams in this business will require you to face some of your doubts and fears sooner or later – so you might as well be prepared. I think the only way through the scary stuff is to walk through it. You have lots of supporters to help you on this path. Grab their hands, close your eyes, and move forward – no matter how hard it feels at times.
Over the past few weeks, I have made a conscious effort to recover the creative energy I lost, to refill the well and find the joy I have had in being a creative person. I am not fully free from the funk yet, but I am well on my way to establishing a life style that nurtures, rather than depletes my creative self.
But enough about me. What do you do when the writerly funk hits?
Christine Fonseca is a critically acclaimed author of edgy YA fiction, psychological thrillers and non-fiction self-help books. Her upcoming releases include DOMINUS, the final installment in the Requiem Series, and the highly anticipated GIRL GUIDE, a self-help book for teen girls. When she is not writing a book or working to develop programs for children with emotional and behavioral needs, she can be found hanging out at her favorite coffee house, drinking Skinny Vanilla Lattes.