Story Slump: Losing Your Creative Muscle

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve mentioned in a handful of other blog posts that 2013 was a slow writing year for me. That I struggled to get words down on paper or come up with coherent story ideas or stay passionate about anything I was working on. What I haven’t discussed here are the possible reasons for that blocked period that consumed eight months of my year.

I can probably think of half a dozen offhand. Job hunting cut into my writing time more than I anticipated, especially because it took me so long to find full time work. Work itself was a time suck, and the stress of bouncing between a couple different jobs probably didn’t help. Moving twice–once across state lines and once within the town where I ended up–was a huge trial. Exhaustion stemming from health reasons was another factor, and the medication used to treat said health issue sapped what remained of my energy and motivation.

At the time I didn’t care what the reason was. All that mattered was that I wasn’t WRITING. And the worst part was that I had no idea why.

I’d written almost every day through a high school schedule packed with extra curricular activities and high level classes, work and college applications. I’d written multiple times a week most every week of college, when I was bogged down by hours of homework and a job , a new relationship and friends I wanted to spend time with, and the demands of being on my own for the first time. When I moved home after school I’d written compulsively–a couple hours a night when I wasn’t working or volunteering.

But even after I became a full-time employee for a local business, with regular hours and a sleep schedule I’d figured out and a five minute commute, I still wasn’t writing. I had more free-time overall than I’d ever had as an adult, and I still couldn’t pull my act together and put words on the page.

My presumed solution to this issue comes with a massive dose of ‘hindsight is 20/20.’ Just so you’re forewarned.

I’d forgotten how. Not how to string sentences together or how to create characters or build plots. How to get lost in the story. How to delve deeply enough into a character’s head that I didn’t notice hours passing. How to make time for creating. How to turn off the inner editor in my brain long enough that creating was even possible.

That inner editor issue was a huge one for me–still is, if I’m being honest with myself. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been working on writing. I’d been editing a new MS–both on my own and with my new critique group. I’d also been editing work through said critique group. But editing a story isn’t the same as writing one, and I should’ve remembered that. In the past, it hadn’t taken me much time to switch from editing one MS to diving headfirst into a new one. I’m a multi-tasker by nature and that means I’m almost always doing more than one thing at a time. It was combining all that editing with my drafting block that got me into trouble.

Someone far smarter and more experienced than me said this first, but I’m repeating it for the sake of this post. Creativity is its own muscle. And if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it a little at a time. Everything that cut into my writing time or writing head space stripped more and more strength from that muscle. Which is why, two months into 2014, I’m basically learning how to draft all over again.

And here in the next week or so, I’ll suggest possible strategies for toning that creative muscle and discuss how my personal progress is coming along.

Have you ever gone through a creative slump? Were there specific reasons for it? Let me know.


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