How I’m getting out of a writing slump

I’ve been in a writing slump. Today I want to share the process I’m going through to get out of it.

My days are spent helping writers and creators better share their work. That, of course, begins with the work itself: writing. So many people I speak with have difficulty finding the time and energy to create amidst important responsibilities of life. What’s more, this doesn’t always get easier with success. A writer may need to constantly recommit to — and reinvent — their creative process.

Today I want to talk about the specific actions I’m taking to get out of my writing slump, to honor my creative vision, and to ensure creativity is central in my daily life. Let’s dig in…

Use Inertia to Your Advantage

For the past 6 months or so I’ve been trying to finish writing my next book. I’ve failed at that, missing deadline after deadline.

Even as I have struggled to complete it, I have managed to consistently work on it at least on the weekends. Now, a fair amount of that effort has been pathetic, writing for 10 minutes at a time. It will take many years to finish writing a book with only 20 minutes per week of effort.

But I do want to recognize and celebrate what I have been doing. I have been showing up to this book every week for quite awhile now. I’ve kept my writing on life support even during the slump. I write in a program called Scrivener, and it actually tracks my writing history:

Many weeks I wrote very few words. Even some of the higher numbers of new words can be attributed to me copying and pasting things I wrote awhile back. But I consistently worked on the book, and that feels great.

Why does that matter? Because as I try to get out of the writing slump, inertia is helping me. It has me not trying to restart something that has failed, but optimize something that is already happening in my writing habits. Because of inertia, I’m not questioning what to work on, I’m not scared to open the manuscript, I’m not unfamiliar with the writing and editing process.

If you are in a writing slump, invest in inertia. Show up to your craft even if it is a tiny bit. This is how I fit inertia into my life when I was in a slump:

  1. I reserved the morning of the weekends for creative time. I’m an early riser, which helps, so all of this gets done before my family is even awake.
  2. I scheduled it on my calendar. I made an appointment with my book.
  3. I committed to accountability (more on that below.)
  4. I never questioned the goal, even if I struggled with the process. There was never a point where I considered giving up on the book. That’s due to consistent reflection on my creative clarity (more on that below as well.)

To get out of my writing slump, I am using inertia to my advantage by expanding how long the weekend writing sessions are. So I will have more quality time with the book. I’m considering how I can write more frequently as well. To start I may add one more day per week to the writing schedule. That alone would be a 50% increase in how I show up to my writing.

I’m also considering setting a short-term goal that could kickstart my efforts even more. For instance: could I take two days off work so that I can do a “mini writing retreat” to make bigger progress on the book. Or do a 20 day writing challenge.

Find the Space to Create

Since mid-March I have been working from my home office instead of the private studio space that I rent on the other side of town. As everyone else has been experiencing too, my entire life has been compressed into the same small space of home.

The other day, I went back to my studio for the first time in 10 weeks. It felt like an odd step into the past, but also filled me with a hopefulness for what can be created.

Staring back at me were the faces of inspiring creators I hung on the wall. They remind me that creative work requires commitment and risk.

I spent a couple hours cleaning all the dust that had accumulated, and then opened up my book. I worked on a single sentence, then closed it. Boom. A new writing habit has started. This is me back at my studio for the first time in months:

I’ve decided to use the studio as a single-use location. This will be my private place to write. I’m not bringing my big computer back there, I’m not checking email while there, and I’m going with one intention: write.

In the months I didn’t show up to the studio, I kept sending in the rent checks as a commitment to myself and my creative vision. Because I believe in what this creative space symbolizes.

While I am going back, I’m not going all the way. I’m being very cautious, which means I will only spend a a couple hours there per day. By making it a single-use space, it becomes a space dedicated to long-term creative goals.

Revisit Your Creative Clarity

To get out of a creative slump, it can be useful to go back to the well — the source of your inspiration. To revisit your creative clarity of what you create and why.

I wrote about this in-depth last week, sharing my Clarity Card process. I’ve been working on mine, this is what they look like (well, the backs of them anyway):

Clarity Cards

This helps me consider ways to invest in my writing and long-term creative goals. Clarity Cards help me find more time and energy to write.

Hold Yourself Accountable to Your Creative Vision

I believe in the power of accountability, having others know about your creative goals and hold you to them.

I’ve often mentioned that I have had a weekly mastermind call with Jennie Nash for about six years. (I talk about how amazing Jennie is, and the history of our weekly mastermind here.)

Likewise, I have a weekly call with author and illustrator Lori Richmond. (If you like illustration, cat photos, books, cat photos, running, cat photos, Brooklyn, and cat photos, you should go follow her.)

In my conversations with Jennie and Lori, we discuss creative and business goals. But for my book I wanted even more specific accountability. So I asked my friend Diane Krause if she would hold me accountable to my writing goals.

The process is simple: every weekend I have to email her an update about how the book is going. Here is a sampling of the weekly emails I have sent to Diane, giving her an update on the book. My favorite subject line: “My Book (plus: excuses!)”

When we began this accountability, my weekly goals were ambitious. Slowly I asked if we could make them less so to the point at which my writing was just a trickle each week. But, I still emailed her each week. She still showed up to support and encourage me. That has been a huge help.

Diane has helped me stay committed to my writing. If you don’t have anyone in your life holding you accountable to your creative goals, I would encourage you to find someone. The commitment they make does not have to be a big one.

For instance, I have a personal trainer who coaches me virtually. While he gives me training programs to follow and custom videos, that isn’t why justify paying him. I hire him for accountability. Because after every time I workout, I text him “Workout done.” That alone is worth all the money I pay him, and likely much more. Because I know he is expecting that text from me, it keeps me working out.

Invest in Inspiration

I find that I work better when surrounded by inspiration. That is why I have a beautiful studio space, and why I hang photos of inspiring creators on the wall.

I also find that I’m inspired by books, art supplies, and well, typewriters. It’s silly, I know. But I’m going to use what works.

So, to kick off this new writing habit, I bought a new typewriter to display in my studio, an Olivetti Valentine from around 1970:

I’m buying more typewriters, more books about creativity, and more art supplies. Because doing so encourages me to create. It reminds me that this is work that I need to show up for. I look around my studio and feel inspired.

What helps you get out of a writing slump?