Bring Back that Lovin’ Feeling–What to Do When You Feel Burned Out
In the spirit of Valentines Day (which is tomorrow, btw), we are going to talk about a different sort of love…our LOVE for writing. We are already six weeks into 2012, and the New Year’s Resolutions are long forgotten, dulled by the screams of children racing through our house or the demands of a nagging day job.
Perhaps this was the year you vowed to take that novel more seriously, and you set out with bold promises of daily word count. The first week of January, you were off like a shot. The creativity was flowing, and you couldn’t remember a time you felt so alive. You might have even wondered why you put this off so long! Fingers flying across the keyboard, you laughed in the face of all your naysayers.
Now? Six weeks in?
You’ve lost that loving feeling! Whoa, that loooving feeling. Bring back that looooving feeling cuz it’s gone, gone, gone….whooooaaah.
Okay, I promise not to sing anymore.
Maybe what was so exciting and fun a month ago, now feels more like slogging through a rice paddy wearing ankle weights, snow shoes and a lead-lined Snuggie. I feel your pain. When you hit that mental wall, what can you do to push past and find that same kind of energy?
Here are some tips to help.
1. Recognize that stalling is normal.
When we start off with a new sparkly idea, it is like a first date that goes really well. We spend every spare second dreaming of our next time together, and every moment apart is torture. But, like the dating world, the one month point with our new project marks a transition in our relationship. This is the point we often ask, Can I commit for the long haul? ‘Til “published” do we part? Be encouraged. Just because we don’t get giddy every time we think of our work in progress in no way means that something is wrong. It just means we have an opportunity to dig in and go deeper. This is no longer a fling, a wild fleeting affair. It’s a commitment. That’s a good thing.
2. Revisit the plan.
There is a saying we used all the time when I was in sales. Fail to plan and plan to fail. Many writers (I’ve been guilty) just take off writing without any prior preparation. It is usually about the 30,000 word mark that this initial failure to plot starts becoming clear. We stare at our screen and realize our story is so complicated the reader is going to need a GPS and a team of sherpas to navigate our plot. Heck, WE barely even understand what’s going on, and it’s OUR story!
What went wrong?
Maybe we should have spent a tad more time plotting. We have a choice. Keep writing, or stop and make a plan. Often, if we will just go back to the original idea and construct even a basic outline, we can easily see where we got off track. Think of it like taking a wrong turn on a road trip. We can keep driving and hope to stumble across a familiar interstate, but the better idea might be to drag out that AAA map we ignored in the beginning because we wanted to be “spontaneous.”
Frequently, when we hit a mental wall in our writing, it is because our subconscious is shouting, “You took a wrong turn!” If we will listen and retrace our steps, we will be cooking down the Inspiration Interstate in no time. Even pantsers can benefit from writing down the main idea and the fundamental narrative points.
3. Revisit our goals.
At the beginning of every new year, a condition called RDD sweeps the globe, and writers are particularly vulnerable. What is RDD? Reality Deficit Disorder. I don’t know if it’s the champagne or peer pressure that makes us believe we can lose thirty pounds, build our own California Closet out of spare Popsicle sticks, and win the Pulitzer by summer.
Let’s be honest. New Year’s Day makes us stupid.
We seem to lose all grasp on reality and forget that we do have a life. We have spouses, children, pets, day jobs and needy houseplants that all need our attention, too. These things don’t just go away because we decided to write a book.
If you are starting to feel burned out, then it might be a good time to revisit your original goals and grant some grace for temporary insanity. Maybe you need longer than 8 weeks to write your magnum opus. Just because we move a personal deadline does not mean we have failed.
Sometimes our creativity will lock up simply because it is caught like a deer in the headlights. Give your muse some breathing room, and she might just spark back to life.
4. Focus on love.
One great way to rest and recharge our creativity is to read. Remind yourself why you love to write. Get away from your own work and out of your own head for awhile. Read the kind of stuff that inspired you to want to write that novel in the first place. This is a good way to recoup, but still be “working.” Often, by “plugging in” to the creativity of others, we can recharge and be ready to write in no time.
In the end, know that writing a book is more like a marathon. We have to train, prepare, and then pace ourselves, or we will end up curled in the fetal position on the side of the road waiting on the rescue van. It’s normal to make mistakes and have setbacks and feel less than thrilled about our decision to become a writer. What is important is to remember that all of the doldrums and depression is temporary, but the thrill of publication is forever.
5. Above all else, remember that Love is a noun, but first it is a VERB.
Huh? Let me explain. Yes, love is a feeling. We get all ooey gooey and can’t get enough. But feelings are fickle and excitement is fleeting. Falling out of love with your WIP (work in progress)? Then go LOVE your WIP!!! Again, huh? Love is first a VERB. It is part of the infinitive verb, “TO LOVE.”
What is love? Love is patient, kind and long-suffering. Love waits, endures and sacrifices even when everything looks dark. Love is not a fair-weather friend. Love is there even when no one else remains. When everything seems dark and bleak with your WIP? Go LOVE it. Love it enough, and the excitement will return and it better, it will remain.
If we keep chasing the noun–the feeling of love–then all we will end up with are a string of
one-night stands unfinished projects. When we get good at the VERB–TO LOVE–we become committed professionals with wonderful, finished novels to our credit.
What are some ways you use to bust past the writing doldrums? What do you think causes your creativity to “lock up?” What tactics do you use to get unstuck?
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will announce last week’s winner on Friday.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of February I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Winner from Week One is Patrick Thunstrom and Winner from Week Two is Peter Koevari! Congratulations, guys! Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com.
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.