Monday, August 17, 2009


My life as a writer seems to be 'on the down low' at the moment. Hence a really long blog post filled with my ramblings :c)

I don't have Writers' Block', as I can (and do) sit down with my current WIP with no issue at all and while doing so, I still have lots of ideas and make changes and add twists, etc without too much thought. The creative juices are still there. I'm just not doing it as often. My nightly slog of three or more hours at the keyboard has reduced to a couple of sessions a week. Maybe winter has just worn me down and I'm fed up waiting for the warmer weather...or I could just be being slack.

I've not looked at writing any new short stories for a while now - hence the final product of not having written a new one for some time - but I'm working on the YA book so that's kind of okay as well. Ideas pop into my head, but I tend to let them pass through (lots of space in there). Nothing is demanding to be written other than scenarios for the WIP which are more than happy to keep me awake at nights.

I'm not really enjoying my reading at the moment either. I think the addition of the Dexter Omnibus has thrown me off kilter. I'd planned to read six books in two months and than had the Omnibus added to my list, which increased my required reading from 6 to 9 novels in eight weeks. Burn out was inevitable. I have two books left out of those nine and I'm struggling to find the enthusiasm to get to them. The deadline passed last week. I've negotiated an extension till the end of this month but even that will be hard to meet.

Slush reading has commenced once more so I have four stories I need to get to (hopefully tonight). This gives me yet another excuse for not writing.

I'm also suffering from a weekend with not enough sleep (on top of my constantly seeming to be tired anyway) so sudden bursts of energy are fleeting and infrequent. Reading of epic fantasy sagas are more likely to put me into an unsatisfying doze, and leave a negative impression - not really fair on the author so it gives me another reason to abstain (like I needed another one).

Add all this up, and I'm not full of the joys of writing or anything related to it at the moment, which naturally leads to a drop off in output. Discipline is required to get back into a routine where work will be produced, but a level of enthusiasm is required to put that discipline in place and I just don't have that currently.

I have a case of the blahs.

This is dangerous as I have been known in the past to throw my hands up and say things like 'why bother?", and drop whatever it is I was doing and move on. I can't see myself dropping writing as I enjoy it so much, but I need to get things sorted into some sort of order.

If simmering is where my writing has to currently be, then so be it, but I need to own that situation, not just allow it to be and shrug my shoulders, or I could be in danger of that slipping further, and writing once or twice a month would just be depressing and would lead ever closer to me saying 'why bother'.

Writing is full of ups and downs and as a writer, we need to deal with them. Personally I need to take ownership of the situation and admit my failings, expose the whys and wherefores into the harsh light of day, and then implement a solution, otherwise things drift and usually become worse.

We've talked in the past about where you find inspiration, but what do you do when you're off finding inspiration, aka living life, and not writing? What do you do when that situation becomes all the time?

Most of us would say something like 'make myself sit down in the chair and just write', JA Konrath would remind us to 'treat it like a job - be disciplined', which is all well and good, but other writing advice to: not coop yourself up, get out into the world and experience it, watch movies, read books, do courses, but don't neglect your day job as writing is highly unlikely to replace it as the major source of income - leaves very little time left to devote to writing. Oh, and don't forget squeezing in a normal family life with all that.

I guess, in the end, we need to decide, with the input of our significant others, exactly how much time we can put into writing. Influencing this is the perceived correct amount a writer, particularly the new (unpublished - as in no book deal) writer, should be allocating.

I've heard these mantras a lot:
You must write every day.
You must try to write at least 'x' amount of words every day/week
If you have really tried to make a go of your writing, you should have at least one agent interested in your work within five years!

And lots of other extraneous types of things littered about the place in the guise of solid gold writing advice and thank you very much for praying at my alter of wisdom.

Lots of writing advice out there is good, but many people are repeating the same stuff over and over again (I unashamedly put my hand up in this category) - worse, some people are charging people for the privilege of hearing it! Two things to remember here: (1) Money should always flow towards the writer (so check the Internet, and/or ask your online writing friends before paying for anything) and (2) there is nothing new in writing. Getting over that second little gem is a big step to moving forward.

So let's blow the myths out of the water. Don't be shy. If you write 10 words, or 10,000 words a day. Whether you write once a month, crafting a paragraph at a time with an intended first draft completion date of your 75th birthday in 2050 (as long as December 2012 passes in much the same manner as the Y2K bug did), tell me.

What are your writing habits and how strict are you in keeping to them. How is your significant other about this writing time? What do you do when life starts to get in the way?

Or am I asking these questions because I'm not a real, dyed-in-the-wool, can't breathe without it, writer?


  1. I'd say you're asking these questions because you are a dyed in the wool writer. The thing is that it's a lonely pursuit. Lonely enough to make you feel crazy sometimes.

    Okay, in the case of writers, we probably are, but it leads to the blahs big time. I'm having a weird case of them myself, in spite of pretty good productivity (possibly even because of it). I find that talking to others about this kind of stuff helps me a lot.

    As for my habits, I'm usually really strict about making progress every day, but only because it's all I do; therefore I need to take advantage of this surplus of awesome time. I get annoyed when I'm forced to focus on reality, but when I don't, I get completely funky and brain-clogged. The middle path is what works for me. (I'm kinda like Buddha. Er...)

    I have my husband to thank for my middle path, as he is the one who reminds me I need to eat, and my incentive for leaving the computer when 7pm hits, no matter what. Bless that guy, what a saint! (Don't tell him, though-- his head won't fit through the damn door anymore.)

  2. 'make myself sit down in the chair and just write'.

    If only it was that easy... I think all we can do is take this journey the way that we need to and not put too much pressure on ourselves (because, I'd never do that - gulp).

    I start every day with the intention of hitting 1,000 words. Some days the internet ensnares me, others I reach above my target. It's a matter of willpower for me, and right now, it's sadly lacking.

  3. I write a couple days a week (four to five, including editing). Forcing myself on "blah" days doesn't help, as it results in crap. Better I find a way to perk the muse up than stress about not having written anything.

    I'm pretty lenient regarding word count per session. Different stories have different rhythms, and I've mentioned the force = crap issue. That said, I don't like to take more than two days to write a story. Then Ying edits and I decide what needs tweaking. In the end, each story gets about a week of my time. I don't work weekends, unless I'm crunched for time. Also it would really piss Ying off, he works hard all week and looks forward to spending time together. And let's face it, I find him pretty adorable ; )

  4. If I write a thousand words in a week I consider it a good week. But I have a long work week, am religious about my exercise, and try to get an hours reading done every day. And I spend most of the weekend drunk (actually finished a story on Saturday, which is almost unheard of for me. The subsequent comments thread, however, was largely fueled by red wine.)

    Why's your review schedule so hectic? Is that paid, or voluntary? If it was me, I'd ditch it in favour of something I enjoy more, if you're finding it a chore. I review for the Amazon Vine programme, but it's exclusively at my own pace.

    Has stopping the writing course made things easier, or harder?

    This is dangerous as I have been known in the past to throw my hands up and say things like 'why bother?", and drop whatever it is I was doing and move on.

    I know that feeling. I sometimes wonder how her and the kids are getting on, but it passes.

  5. With your F/T job and family commitments it's amazing that you accomplish as much as you do. You still manage to read a lot of books, review them, do AHWA stuff, work on short stories and a novel and are probably reviewing stories back and forth with online friends. I guess at some point, the feeling of "being spread too thin" was inevitabl. And natural. At least you reconginze it before getting to the point of "throwing hands up in the air".

    This will pass, BT, because your commitment to writing rings through with every one on your blog entries.

  6. I write, on average, around 500 words a week. Some weeks it's a LOT more - some weeks it's nothing or 50 words.

    Maybe your questions are a matter of personality and individual drive. I'm constantly pushing myself, so I've had to learn to go easy and give myself breaks when I need them.

    *shrug* Does that help?

  7. I like how you said you need to take control of not writing, instead of just let it happen. It's like if it's in your control, it has a purpose; not writing becomes contributing to writing.

    I guess sometimes we just need to recharge, and sometimes that doesn't even mean read. It might mean doing nothing.

    If writing is going down, I usually just throw myself into politics and that usually serves as an inspiration sooner or later. For you, there's likely to be something that drives you.

  8. Katey - I worry sometimes that speaking about stuff like this, being honest in spite of myself (for the sake of letting other writers know they're not alone), comes across as very whiny. I see myself as a pretty stereotypical Aussie bloke and we don't whine.

    And I shall say nothing to St Mr Katey :c)

    Cate - amen. I think just sitting down is one of those mantras we need to get rid off. Until you are a professional with a book deal, this is not a job and just sitting down isn't going to help anyone - well, not many.

    Nat - Never upset Ying. He is one lucky guy to have you and I'm sure it's mutual - as long he doesn't have this thing for Korean boy bands as well...

    Anton - Reviews are hectic because I was asked to add to books I'd already put my hand up for. I enjoy the books, I learn a lot from doing it, and who has an issue with getting free books. It's just that the extra books has put a lot of pressure on my time and I'm feeling it now. Just venting a bit I guess. It to shall pass.

    Alan - Are you stalking me? You remember more about what I do than I do!

    Naomi - It helps. I think Cate got it right - each of us is on a journey in our learning of the craft and no two journeys are the same. We must move at our own pace (or words to that effect :c)).

    This is a lesson I knew. It's something I've blogged about in the past and a timely reminder for me and everyone else out there.

    Ben - or, I'm just a control freak and don't like things happening around me I can't reside over. Well, only a little bit...

  9. I write when the mood strikes. Since I'm a chronic self-editor, editing as I go, I find writing very frustrating, so I need big breaks between stories, oftentimes supplementing by writing flash.

    I used to beat myself up for not writing everyday; now I don't. Hey, I gotta follow my own path, go at my own pace, and not covet other writer's output.

    My very, very, humble advice to you is this: I find it so commendable you read so much, but I can't help but feel it's draining you. Maybe cut back.

  10. Hi Bec - I agree with your humble advice 100%. At this point in time, I've not requested any further reading from HorrorScope - not that that's helped. I have had The Unwanted, NT issue 6, Aurealis issue 42, Creating Short Fiction arrive recently and await reading. I'm also waiting on an overdue Amazon order which has three books for me and two for the wife! And I just ordered Cate's little chap book. Add all of these to my 'to-read' pile, and it wouldn't matter if I didn't order another book for two years. I'd still just about have enough to read something different every week. I'm expecting The Twelve and The Unseen to arrive unexpected at any time...

    I need to win lotto - badly.

  11. I'm in much the same place as you, so I take comfort in finding I'm not alone with these feelings.

    Perhaps cutting way back on the book reviews would keep the enthusiasm for doing them, without deleting them entirely.

    As for the depression, it seems to be the fate of most writers. Perhaps because of the voices in our head. I'm still stubbornly trying to find my own method to climb out.

    Thanks for sharing. It meant a lot to me.

  12. Laura - strangely enough, it means a lot to me that it means a lot to you. Honestly, I write about these things partly due to the cathartic value but mostly because I figure if I'm going through this then others may be as well, and it might be worthwhile to know that they're not alone. Your comment vindicates that for me. Thank you.

  13. I think the blahs are going around, and around, and around...

    For me, I've lost the ability to focus on one thing at a time, so writing keeps getting shunted to the back burner while everything else is taken care of. Right now, it's edits on what I wrote in July.

    Hopefully, we'll all sail through the blahs and past the doldrums without waking them. ;)

  14. I think that in a way having an online community of writers, even a loose one like blogs, may be putting pressure on all of us that we don't notice. I hadn't really thought about it until I read your post and the comments. I know I like being able to post my wordcounts and sales and so forth, and I don't want other writers to think I'm not writing. It's so easy to get burnt out, even if you're taking a break from writing, if writing is the main focus of your mental energies.

    I do recommend you make sure you get enough sleep. That and stress are the two big things that stop my creative process dead (although oddly enough, writing during stressful times acts as a better escape for me than reading, maybe because I'm in control when I write). Even going to bed half an hour earlier can reset your sleep rhythms and make you feel more energized.

  15. I agree with KC. I think we put a little too much pressure on ourselves sometimes to "keep up". Maybe you just need to take a step back, have a rest and slowly get back into it. And I don't think it's un-blokey of you to have a whine. Get it off your chest, I say.

  16. Jodi Lee - Nice to see you out and about ;c)

    KC - Once it was like that. I'd read other blogs and think I wasn't keeping up or putting in enough work. I'm over that. I have my own goals to reach and when that starts to drift, I'm pretty hard on myself.

    Sleep is a difficult thing though. I'm a natural night person living in a day person's world. If I could do my job after sunset, I'd be set for life. Alas this is not possible so I have a constant struggle. If I go to bed earlier, I actually lie awake longer, and yet if I try to go to sleep more than an hour or so after midnight, I'm up till 3. I have a very small window of opportunity around midnight to get some serious shut eye and yet during the day, I can nod off at anytime :c(

    Maybe I'm some sort of new wave vamp!

    D - Thanks. It's nice to know the SNAG is still a popular choice by today's women, but don't worry, I won't be making a habit of going the whine :c)