Thursday, May 15, 2014


Caitlin here. So, even the most happy-go-lucky writer would have to concede that sometimes, well, this is hard….

Sometimes you stare at the screen and wonder if you have any juice left in your brain. Sometimes you are very close to deciding that spending all this time hanging out with fictional characters isn’t worth it. Sometimes you scold yourself for being so presumptuous that you think you have something valuable to share with the world. Sometimes you do the math, crunching sales and royalties and even big advances and realize the likelihood of making any sort of living as a writer is damn near nonexistent.

Fortunately, I have a few go-to quotes that keep me sane when the writing, creative, and/or publishing process has got me down.

  • “Make the thrill of creation its own reward.” – Alan Watt
  • “Write for yourself, your deepest, darkest, truest self.” –Matthea Harvey (at a keynote at Conversations and Connections.)
  • “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” - Graham Greene
  •  “You think of the book you'd most like to be reading, and then you sit down and shamelessly write it.” – Salinger
  • (This quote needs some context. It’s a response to someone on Tumblr asking if Improvisational Theater is a road to nowhere for comedians because Neil Casey spent several years in improv before getting a job with Saturday Night Live (but not directly through his improv stuff). I encourage you to read the whole response if you have time.) When [Casey] was 20, . . . SNL was not on his mind. . . . If he never got a job, and now I can speak from experience, then he’d only have a life spent being happy behind him. . . . Spend your days in love with what you’re doing as much as fucking possible, and thank the stars for your chances to do that. Be nice and honest and brave and hopeful, and then let it go.”

When I’m in a funk, I read these and then I ask myself, “Would you rather be doing this or not be doing this?” If the answer is ever the latter, I’ll stop (or at least take a break). But so far, despite all the head-banging frustrations and dark doubts, I always answer that I’d rather be doing it. I’d rather be writing.  

What do you do when you hit a writing/publishing funk?

Karlie: I run into funks more often than I'd like to acknowledge. Keeping more than one project going at once usually helps with this - I can switch them out until I finally get excited about something again. But there are lots of days I just stare at the computer screen, wondering what the heck possessed me to think I could ever do this.

What really frustrates me is that I want to write, I want to get this story done, but the words refuse to come. I hate everything I churn out, or I simply have no clue what to do next, and my characters are starting to get on my nerves.

When this happens, my iPod and a very long walk usually helps. If I just forget about the paper for a little while, and mentally immerse myself into a scene, it will break the word block. Other times, watching a really great movie/ reading a brilliant book will get the creative juices flowing. And sometimes, I just have to start writing and ignore the crap flooding from my fingertips. Eventually I'll find my niche again.

Lisa: Great question! I have different levels and different versions of funk. Sometimes I have too many thoughts about my scenes or characters. Imagine a kid in a toy store with $500 in her hand. That's me. The possibilities overwhelm me sometimes. It's a happy "Oh my God, Oh my God" but it's not a very productive one. I have to step outside and let fresh air, the sight of my oak trees, the waving grass... work their magic. Calm stuff calms me down. Other times I simply don't want to write my story. I want it written still; I just don't want to write it. Those times I step away, watch a movie, treat myself to a new book. Those times don't happen very often but when they do, I start planning a weekend out of town. These times help me decompress. Thankfully we have one of those handy-dandy campers in Florida. :)

Dan: This is a great topic, because I don't know of any writers who haven't faced this problem. I'm dealing with a bit of a funk right now, actually, on a short story where I can't seem to make the middle meet the ending. Usually, I tackle it in one of three ways. The first way is to let it sit, and use the down time that modern society provides (driving, waiting in line, etc.) to sort of mull it over, until I figure out what I need to do next. I like this method because it lets the work percolate a little bit in the subconscious, and usually it delivers the best solution. In the meantime I can spend active writing time on a different project.

But life is short, and sometimes we don't have the luxury of letting projects sit forever. When I have to get it done, I shut off my internal editor and drop into NaNoWriMo mode. That means butt in chair, fingers on the keyboard, and start typing. It may be utter drivel, but sometimes you have to move on with the comfort that you can always go back later to improve things (or if a better idea strikes). Crappy words are better than no words. 

The third way to get out of a funk is to find motivation again. Inspirational quotes aren't much use for me; tapping into my competitive nature tends to work better. I think about some of those books or stories that I couldn't even finish, but managed to make it to publication in a big market. I tell myself that I can do better than that. And I go for it.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! I have two different kind of "funks" and very different ways of dealing with them.

    Like Karlie, I tend to deal with writing block funks with music and a long walk. Another tool that helps me is writing a letter from my MC - one that he or she would never send - or writing random scenes I don't plan to use. Or re-writing existing scenes from another POV (like the antagonist - so fun!).

    The other funk - the my-writing-will-never-amount-to-anything one is something that goes away by itself if I give it a little time. I'm not writing on a deadline yet, so I have the luxury to take off a week, use the time to read, CP, etc. At the most, I make it three weeks before feeling so itchy that I NEED to write. And then I feel so much better. :)