Every creative person hits that infamous wall at some point – where your brain is drained and you find that no matter how hard you try you just can’t create. Sometimes you even lose the desire to create. So what’s a writer to do then?
For me, it’s helpful to know why I’m so drained, but I don’t always pinpoint it right away because when I hit that point where I’m so drained I can’t create, it usually means that my life has been imploding for a while and I can barely think straight about anything other than day-to-day survival.
2017 hit me on all fronts. I started the year strong – I was able to visit the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow for a weekend writing retreat and that kickstarted me on finishing up The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, which turned into several months of solid work.
And then in June we lost our beloved geriatric cat, followed almost immediately by our kitchen ceiling caving in after some torrential rain (there was a roof leak). Between all of that I was still working on The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, and pretty much right when that finished up, a fellow Ferret had a health crisis like we’ve never dealt with before (but that’s not my story to tell). And THEN there was NaNoWriMo. (Dun dun dun.) And then Christmas, of course. Those last few things were pretty much all jumbled together.
So, by the end of the year… I was more than a little overextended. January arrived, I had grand plans about the writing and creative projects I wanted to accomplish… and I pretty much spent an entire month going, “Why can’t I create? Why don’t I want to create?”
I figured out in February that I was just mentally, emotionally, and creatively exhausted.
I’ll be honest – I’m still coming out of this slump. I’ve hit it a few times before, but never quite this bad. The only time that was almost this bad was back when I lost my childhood cat, Tabby . (This post is feeling very similar to the one I wrote back then, too.)
When one has the goal to be a writer, ideally a writer who makes money, it’s sometimes difficult to balance a healthy work life with the need to give your creative side a break, especially when life throws everything at you.
There’s a few steps that I take to recharge and refill, but the first one is most important.
Realize that you are tired and NEED a break.
This is usually the hardest step to take. Our world is very fast-paced now, and everyone is encouraged to always be accomplishing something, to be improving, learning, growing. None of those are bad things, but there is value in simple rest – whether physically or mentally.
Don’t force yourself to create when you are drained. If you have some lingering deadlines, you may have to create for a while, but clear your plate as soon as you can. For me, when I’m creatively drained it usually means that I’m fully drained in every other aspect of my life as well. Stepping back usually makes me look like a hermit (but I am extremely introverted, especially compared to the rest of the Ferrets). I basically disappear online, and sometimes even in real life, often without notice. I go into survival mode for a while – only day-to-day necessities are accomplished. This is also often when I catch up on the housework that has been neglected during the time I am creatively charged up!
Find what feeds your soul.
What have you put off or avoided when you are actively creating? The things you really wanted to do but just haven’t had time for, or haven’t been able to spare the energy for? The things you love. This is when you do them!
Read books – not books about your craft, but the books you just plain old want to read. Your guilty pleasures. Watch movies and TV. Do something with your hands – sewing, crochet, coloring (things that I enjoy but rarely make time for anymore.)
Remember what it is to have a life beyond creating for an audience. You’ll be a better creator for it when you pick it back up again.
When you’re ready to create again, take it slow.
Don’t force yourself to go back into full-time writing mode right away. If inspiration hits, then go as long as you want, but even just a few words a day is a step forward for a while. Try to find a balance between your creative work and the rest of your life, and what you need to do to recharge. It may take some time to figure out what works for you, and the balance may need to be flexible based on the demands of your life, but you can find one. (I think. I’ve never really found that perfect sweet spot, but I’ve come close sometimes!)