Rage Quit

Open the document. Close the document. Open the document. Close the document. Rinse and repeat and you've encapsulated my last couple of months of writing. I kept opening Scrivener, thinking about all the work my manuscript needed, and rage quitting out to go lie catatonic on the floor.

Okay, a mild exaggeration. I was lying catatonic on the couch. 

In the past few years, I've heard so much advice to "write every day" and "make it a daily routine". But what happens when you lose your spark? What happens when eking out a couple hundred words requires bashing your figurative head against a figurative (but annoying) wall?

You stop writing. You no longer even open the document. You walk away.

But sometimes, you walk back.

I'm walking back. It's hard. I feel like my well of inspiration is dried up and I'm poking the silty bottom with a stick. But I'm opening the laptop again, and now when I open Scrivener, it stays open. I won't say I'm out of my rut just yet, but I have some thoughts on how I've gotten this far, and how to keep going.

Life uh...finds a way?

How did we get here? Let me count the ways!

Since March and Futurescapes, I moved, resumed work travel, continued adjusting to life post eye surgery, and got Covid. Along with the day-to-day nonsense that will get you down. I won't even get started on how opening Instagram or reading the news feels like a daily roulette of "How screwed is the world today?" This is probably the Covid still talking, but I'm tired. I've BEEN tired. And it's hard to feel inspired when you're tired.

In a perfect world, I would write every morning like clockwork. Maybe I'm just not disciplined enough. But I also think that, as writers, we can be hard on ourselves. Sometimes taking a break from working on a manuscript feels like grad school all over again when I would take a break from my thesis. There I would be, trying to relax and reset, all with the ghost of my unfinished document hovering over my shoulder.

But the thing is, I NEEDED a break. When you sit by your inbox checking for query responses every day, it wears on you. When you get a critique on something you didn't think you needed to fix in your manuscript, you question yourself and your intsincts as a writer. LIFE WEARS ON YOU. The whole thing is a never-ending mental rollercoaster, that I'm honestly not even sure I meet the height restrictions for.

So if you need to hear it (because I needed to hear it), it's okay to take a break. It's okay to be human. It's okay not to be _Insert Famous Writer With An Ideal Writing Routine Here_.

Unburying Yourself

So great, we've established breaks are a good thing and it's okay that we're human beings trying to just exist and write stories we love. Now what?

In retrospect, taking a few months off from writing isn't that long in the grand scheme of the writing career I want to build, but it still feels like a long time. But in that time I tried to be kind to myself. To look at what was happening around me and realize that it made complete sense that I wasn't feeling inspired to write. And now that I want to kickstart the engine, I'm finding what makes me feel creative again.

What's helped me, may not help another writer. But beyond everything else, I've been walking and working out. I walk through my neighborhood, through the park, around the city. I love my neighborhood so much. For being in a city, it's so GREEN! So I walk, and I pick up heavy things and put them back down. And most importantly, I do it without headphones.

Yep, I'm that monster that works out without headphones (most days). Because if I'm listening to something, my brain can't wander. It can't ask those "what if" questions that spark a good story. I walk, and then I get bored, and then I start daydreaming about sirens and dragons and all manner of fantastical things. And that's how I find my stories.

I'm not saying you have to go to the gym without your headphones all the time, or walk without an audiobook all the time. But for me, unplugging myself from constant stimulation is what makes me think of new ideas.

Consuming New Things

The other thing that helped was switching up my reading list COMPLETELY. I'm too tuned into publishing industry news and writing tips to fully enjoy a fantasy novel the way I used to. I'm always analyzing the story structure, the marketability, trying to pick apart what landed a certain book on the shelf. And I kept finding myself comparing my own writing to whatever it was I was reading, despite how unhelpful that was.

So I switched to nonfiction. Not completely, I just re-read a romance novel last night. But last year I read one nonfiction book the whole year. This year, I've already read five and am partway through another. I've also started reading the occasional horror novel, which is WAY outside my usual book list. Reading something completely outside of the genre I write in has become so freeing. I get to enjoy reading without comparing myself, and I'm constantly learning new things that spark ideas for shorts and novels.

Crawling Out of the Rut

I won't lie, I don't think I'm quite out of my rut yet. Sometimes, I still open my bakery witch manuscript, give it a poke, and close out again without changing a word (even though it needs WORK). But I'm not alone. My writing community has been so supportive as I flail through the dark, trying to find a shiny spark of inspiration. And I've gotten new words on paper. Just yesterday I started a new short story and plotted the whole thing out on one of my walks. That's a huge step forward right now. I'm trying to be kind to myself, because I know the words will come. They always do. Sometimes they just need to breathe.

Chihiro's Cat Corner

Despite being completely traumatized by the move, Chihiro is settling into her new mansion quite well. Her favorite activities so far have included napping behind the monstera and watching the doves going in and out of their nest in our backyard. She now has more windows than she knows what to do with.