When I’m in a Writing Slump

I’m getting to the point where I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” Some of my friends in the writing community have argued for a while that it doesn’t really exist, and I’ve come to think that it’s sort of a cliche. Or maybe a catch-all term for the various internal and external stimuli that make it really hard to write. Patrick Rothfuss has said that writing is especially tough because it relies on your mind, and if you’re stressed, or sad, or just mentally worn out from your day job, writing can be very difficult. But there isn’t some phenomenon or illness like “writer’s block.” It’s much more accurate to say, “I had a really long week, and my brain feels too tired to write.” It’s also easier to work past something tangible like that, than to just throw up your hands and say, “Gah! Writer’s block! Maybe tomorrow will be better.”

I like to think that sometimes I’m in a writing slump. Those are the days where most of what I generate is bullshit and will need heavy editing, either because I’m not in the right frame of mind or the idea I’m working with needs refinement. And when I’m in a writing slump, I tend to turn to specific things on YouTube or my computer to help my mind relax enough that I can through it and actually produce some more pages.

Music is key. I always listen to music when I write, but there are particular bands that I’ll put on to ease me into my writing when I’m not feeling it. I’m a huge classic rock fan, but lately I’ve turned to some indie bands and artists, too. Local Ottawa artist Matt Noyes. Canadian band The Strumbellas, who I saw at TD Place a couple weeks ago. And especially the epically-amazing Postmodern Jukebox, where I first listened to the talented Morgan James:

I’ll sometimes take twenty minutes to game a little bit on my computer, too. Right now Baldur’s Gate II is my game of choice, partly because of the story element and partly because it’s easy to play for twenty minutes and then walk away from.

Sometimes, though, I need a particular boost to jump start my writing. There are a few videos and clips on YouTube that I use for this. My favorite right now is the final episode of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, which aired back in December. Ferguson is probably my favorite comedian; he’s honest, straightforward and very real. His show was great because it was so casual, whereas I find a lot of other late night shows are very contrived. Something about his final show – which started with a bang, and then was filled with more honesty and hilarity – just resonates with me, and even a few minutes of it are enough to get my writing moving:

I think I get pumped up by this final episode because of the message in the opening song – “Keep banging on!” Things are going to change, either from good to bad or bad to good, and you have to be able to roll with it. Things will always be changing, but your writing needs to remain constant. Even if you’re in a slump, just keep banging on! There’s a reason for editing and rewrites 🙂




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