How Do You Beat the Writer’s Blues?

Here they come again, unbidden.

The blues.

The writer's blues.

You're working on your novel and you realize what a piece of crap it is.  Unsalvageable.  Horrible.  You tried to make progress on an essay and started crying because it was just so, so bad.  You opened your email inbox and got excited to see a response from an agent–only to open it and find another rejection.

Whatever variation of the above happened, now you're stuck in the writer's blues.  And it ain't a good place to be.  Uh-uh.  Because when you're stuck in the writer's blues, it feels like you'll never get unstuck.  It feels like the end of the world.  You might even imagine that you'll never write again.  Ever.  We so closely ally ourselves with our writing, that when its not going well, the result can be shattering.

What to do?  Following are some suggestions gleaned from years of dealing with said blues.  Try one, some, or all of them until you get one that works for you.

1. Remember that its all part of the creative cycle.  What goes up, must come down, and so forth.  The blues are the opposite of the elation you'll no doubt soon feel after a great writing session.  One can't exist without the other.

2. Cry.  Yes, really.  Quit resisting the blues and go full bore into them.  Too often in this culture we try a bit too hard to make ourselves feel better.  And then we start to think that we're supposed to be happy and joyful all the time.  Not so.  It's much healthier to allow yourself to feel whatever you're feeling.

3. Call a writing friend.  Note the emphasis on the writing part.  Yeah, your spouse is supportive, your daughter a huge fan of your work.  But nobody but another writer can understand what you're feeling right now.  If you don't have any in-person writing friends, reach out on the internet.  Visit a blog and leave a comment.  Drop into a writing forum.

4.  Read.  Inhale more words.  Sometimes we get dried up, having put too many words on the page, and need a refill.  Words in, words out.  Top yourself off with some reading.  Of course, that can also have the opposite effect, and make you feel you'll never be as good as the author.  In that case, proceed to the next suggestion.

5. Drink.  Pour yourself a nice glass of red.  Nothing like the nectar of the Gods to cheer a person up.  In truth, wine has a grounding effect on us, and when we're upset, we're often out of ourselves, out of our bodies.  Or, if you're an abstainer, you might try…

6. Create a ritual.  You might want to light a candle and meditate for a bit.  Or walk a labyrinth.  Talk to God, or the goddess, or whomever.  Do something that will shift the burden from yourself.

7.  Go outside.  Ah, the healing balm of nature.  Try getting your hands in the dirt, or going for a walk or a run.  Rent a kayak, take a swim.  So often we sit at our desks in misery when what we really need to do is get out there and do something.

8.  Take a daycay.  I just made that word up.  It means a day trip.  I've done several of them this year and I never fail to come home refreshed, with a new outlook on life.  Visit a nearby town, go on a mini roadtrip, or simply park your car in a different part of town and see what you discover.

9.  Treat yourself.  I'm not much of a shopper these days, but I still love nothing better than to spend time in a bookstore.  Peruse the new titles, and check out the bestsellers.  Look at journals and read magazines.  I love me some magazines.

10.  Write.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  But more often than not, getting back on the proverbial horse is the best cure for the writer's blues.  Just convince yourself to write one word.  One teensy little word.  There, see?  Now write another.  Now write a sentence.  Oops, what's that I see?  You're writing, by God!

Those are my suggestions.  What do you do when the writer's blues hit?  How do you pull yourself out of them?

**If you've got the blues over your writing and can't seem to get over them, check out my Labor Day Coaching Sale–10% off on my coaching packages.  You can buy one or several, use it now or later, your choice.  But the discount ends on Monday, September 3rd, at midnight!

Image by kaliko.

12 Responses to How Do You Beat the Writer’s Blues?

  1. Julianne McCullagh 08/30/2012 at 08:57 #

    Thanks, Charlotte. You are always a great source of hope.

  2. Charlotte Dixon 08/30/2012 at 08:59 #

    Oh, that makes me feel so good, Julianne!  Thank you for reading, and commenting.

  3. Heather Jenkins 08/30/2012 at 09:19 #

    I just love your posts, Charlotte.

    I beat the writer’s blues in numerous ways:

    1. I listen: to what’s bringing me down, to music, to the wind rustling through the half-baked leaves on my struggling trees. Silencing myself helps me rediscover my purpose.
    2. I tap into my inner child and bust out my HUGE box of crayons and the corniest coloring book I can find. And I go to town with the boldness of Granny Smith Apple alongside Blueberry Muffin. Staying inside the lines is NOT an option.
    3. I clean. Yeah, I typed that out loud. Cleaning provides instant gratification and quiets the pesky inner critic, because at least I’m doing something useful.
    4. I watch: a movie, my cat sleep half in shadows and half in the sun, my neighbor clip his yard with scissors, the hummingbirds sipping nectar. Opening my eyes reminds me of the beauty of simple things and rekindles my love for truth, especially in writing.

    Thanks as always, Charlotte, for inspiring me.

  4. Charlotte Dixon 08/30/2012 at 09:21 #

    Great list, Heather.  And I am buying a coloring book and crayons at the store today!  What a fabulous idea, I love it.  Your comments are always a delight, thank you!

  5. Don 08/30/2012 at 18:04 #

    Great ten points Charlotte, and I wish I could add more but I can’t think of any. I especially like the cry point, because it’s a natural way of releasing stress. Unfortunately, our society programs us that it is a sign of weakness, but personally, I find that it gives you the strength to go on with the other points, and that goes especially for the one on never quit on writing.

  6. Charlotte Dixon 08/30/2012 at 18:10 #

    I so agree, Don, about crying.  I had a chat with a friend recently who said, "enough with everyone thinking they have to take a happy pill!" and I agree.  Thanks, as always, for commenting.

  7. Sandra / Always Well Within 08/30/2012 at 20:44 #

    Fortunately, I don’t get the writer’s blues! I have my ups and downs, but I just keep going. Maybe I don’t write enough to qualify! If I did – get them – I would surely follow your excellent tips. Remembering that everything is part of a cycle, I find has a tremendous clarifying effect.

  8. Charlotte Dixon 08/31/2012 at 07:21 #

    Oh, you write enough to qualify, I'm sure, Sandra.  Just keeping going is the best thing to do if you can manage it, and it sounds like you can.  And yes, everything is part of a cycle, for sure.

  9. Fear of Writing 09/05/2012 at 12:02 #

    Wow, Charlotte. What a value-packed list. I’m adding this to my Classic Posts bookmarks folder. If there was some way to attach it to my wrist and keep it with me at all times, I would do that too.

    I do have a list of remedies but some of them are very personal. But among the ones that aren’t: have some fun (not always easy if I’m really in the blues – sometimes it has to happen by accident); hang out with someone who doesn’t write and talk about non-writing subjects; go see a funny movie; get a hot fudge sundae. . . .

    Hmm, that last one came out of the blue. I’ve never done that as medicine for the writing blues. But I think I just talked myself into it! It IS very hot here still. Like summer. I don’t have writer’s blues today, but this could be some future immunization. Or advance treatment. Something like that.

  10. Charlotte Dixon 09/05/2012 at 12:27 #

    So glad this was helpful to you.  My two favs from your list are: hang out with a non-writing friend (brilliant! get your mind onto the rest of the world!) and eat a hot fudge sundae.  It's impossible to be upset when you're eating ice cream.  I love your comments, they always add so much!

  11. Estrella Azul 09/20/2012 at 13:24 #

    Love your suggestions, Charlotte!
    I’ve used several before, and they did help a lot.

    What I discovered works best for me in general, is doing something else that’s also creative.
    For example: these past five days I’ve been crafting a lot. I made myself two pencil holders, re-potted some plants, covered plant pots in creative ways (painting, etc.), made some pretty plant stakes and decorated with decoupage technique, cut up wine corks for a project (still need more corks, so that’s not finished yet), took pictures, edited said pictures, made collages…
    AND all the while when I first sat down to write I felt like I didn’t want to, but ended up answering tons of e-mails, and writing/finishing so many blog posts. I have some unfinished as well, but I the ones I did finish are already scheduled to be published, and am well into October. :)

  12. Charlotte Dixon 09/20/2012 at 19:09 #

    I love that idea, Estrella, and I like to do that, too.  I'm spottier with it, though–sometimes I'm really good about picking up my knitting or my stitching or my paints and sometimes I'm not.  I find I'm happier when I'm good about it.  Congratulations on all you success with getting those blog posts scheduled!  Thanks for commenting.

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