Overcoming a Bad Writing Session

I had a lousy writing session the other day.  I roused myself early and got right to the computer (well, after my first-thing-in-the-morning glass of water with apple cider vinegar and Stevia and then, of course, coffee).  But nothing happened.  I just couldn't seem to connect with my WIP.

Usually this would be cause for beating myself up.  And it was, at first.  I told myself I was stupid, lazy, a dumb jerk for reading trivial internet stories rather than writing. But then I realized something–this attitude wasn't helping.

I know, duh.

But when you're in it–when you are deeply ensconced in a beating-yourself-up session, it can be difficult to pull yourself out of it.   And furthermore, one bad writing session can derail you for days, weeks even. So I decided I better try to nip it in the bud.  And instead of continuing the beating session, I tried to figure out why the writing didn't go well.

Here's what I came up with:

1.  I was distracted.  I know, distraction is pretty much a state of being in our constantly-connected, social media world.  But yesterday it was even worse than usual.  I'd spent the weekend updating my Mac's operating system, and for reasons unclear to me was not able to update Firefox as well.  So I downloaded Chrome (which I now love) and that created all kinds of changes and the necessity for more updating, including locating passwords, which I continued to uncover as I opened pages and signed in.  

2.  I didn't know where I was going.  I'd finished one chapter, and was starting on the next.  But, it's early on in this project, and because I'm excited about it, I've not yet taken the time to do the prep work I usually do–create character dossiers, write about settings, figure out a loose outline for the plot.  I thought the momentum of finishing chapter one would carry me through, but because I didn't know what happened next, I got stalled.

3.  I wasn't fully committed.  I wrote recently about being torn between two loves.  I decided to allow myself to write the first chapter of this new project–it was begging to come out–and then see how I felt.  I felt good about it, really good, excited in a way I haven't been with my other novel.  But I also felt guilty about abandoning it.  (Although, as we know, nothing is ever wasted in writing.  It will be waiting for me when I finish this one, or it will be incorporated into something else.) So I was still waffling about whether to move forward with it–not conducive to writing.

I felt much better after analyzing what happened, because I could see that it wasn't because I was a lazy, distractable person, but that there were real reasons for my bad writing session.  And because there were real reasons, I could change them in the future.

Which I did.  This morning.  And got right back to it.  

What stops you from a good writing session?

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17 Responses to Overcoming a Bad Writing Session

  1. Ledger D'Main 10/08/2013 at 14:11 #

    Are you open to answering a few questions about sentence structure/punctuation, I’m toooooo lazy to plow thru the 40 thousand ‘Writing advice’ sites….soooo are you?
    I promise to keep my intrusive questions to a minimum, I have to since I have no idea what a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, clause, sub-clause, participial, dangling participial, past tense, pre-tense, allegory, first person, second person, third person, who’s on first, or bump in the night are (is?). But I have an excuse, you see during my formative school years I always stayed up late to watch ‘I Love Lucy’ and English glass was the first one of the day, so you can understand why I slept thru most of them.—How are the sales of Emma, the Danish tart, going? Have you sold the movie rights to Spielberg yet?…

  2. Charlotte Dixon 10/08/2013 at 14:25 #

    Hey Ledger, I bet you know more about grammar than you let on, but sure throw a few questions at me.  Don't tell anyone, but grammar is not my strong suit.  However, I'll do my best.

    That Danish tart is plugging right along, thank you!  No movie rights yet, do you know anybody who might be interested?

  3. Ledger D'Main 10/08/2013 at 15:47 #

    Charlotte, thanks for letting me intrude, I know that you make moola-boola mentoring such Dan Hacks as myself so I give a big thanks, who knows I might learn something and maybe you’ll have a couple of ‘laughing gawfal what an idiot’ moments. I’ll try my best not to cause you to have coffee squirt from your nose during such moments…
    I recently finish my 12th editing session on a novel I wrote, before placing it on Kindle, and something has been nagging at me like a mother-in-law with her curlers wound too tight, so before I submit my next attempt into Shakespearian immortality I’d at least like to know which is right in the following example—-

    “blaa, blaa, blaa, blaa?” asked Joe Somebody.
    “blaa, blaa, blaa, blaa?” Asked Joe Somebody.

    My question is–which is correct? Note the capitalization and non- capitalization of the letter ‘A’ in asked…I’m thinking that the ‘A’ in asked should be capitalized because the question mark has a period, thus completing a sentence, but I’m not sure, maybe the sentence goes all the way to the end of ‘Somebody’. Hopefully the same rule that applies to a statement with a question mark also applies to a statement with an exclamation point, and to any words other than ‘Asked’, such as “Queried’ etc…

    As far as my knowledge of proper sentence structure/grammar, I just keep editing a sentence until it ‘sounds’ right.

    Have you contacted Miley Cyrus? She’s full of bad behavior and a tart…lol…

  4. Charlotte Dixon 10/08/2013 at 16:43 #

    Me and Miley are as close as close can be!

    The correct usage is a with no caps, don't ask me why but that's how I've done it and my editor didn't change it.

    Congrats on getting your Kindle book up! Give us a link!

    Sent from my iPad

  5. Ledger D'Main 10/08/2013 at 17:46 #

    Crap, not the answer I wanted, I spent a lot of time going thru my works replacing every ? mark and ! mark with caps, now I can do nothing about it except slit my wrists and bid a fond fare thee well, what a world, what a world…

    Kindle is a great place for hacks and wanttabe hacks, they’ll accept almost anyone’s writing, I myself serve as an excellent example, having placed two volumes up on Kindle…no money yet but after I’m dead for 300 years I’m sure that historians and literary scholars will be using my prose as examples of what should be or what should not be…mostly not…alas poor Yorick he never knew me…

    I fear that in giving you the names of my tomes will only, in a moment of wine induced weakness, cause you to read one of them, and your ending up at Bellevue screaming “why me, why me” is not something I want on my conscious…you’ll have to sign a waiver…

    Would you be keen for another Q & A session on the morrow?…

  6. Charlotte Dixon 10/08/2013 at 20:05 #

    Sorry I didn't have the answer you wanted, but what can I say?  You wouldn't want me to lie, would you?  I think its wonderful that you are putting your work up on Kindle, and if its a simple question, ask away.

  7. Jessica Baverstock 10/09/2013 at 00:56 #

    What stops me from a good writing session? My health.

    My energy levels are up and down like a yo-yo on steroids (why a yo-yo should take steroids in the first place is beyond me, I just feel the effects) so there are days when my writing goes really well and days when it really doesn’t.

    Just like you, I find understanding the reasons why the session hasn’t gone well helps to stop the depressive slide into self-pity. I know I probably won’t write my best when I feel ill, so I don’t expect myself to. I find other things to do with my time until the yo-yo takes an upturn.

    In case you’re wondering, we’re on particularly nasty downer at the moment, but it should be temporary. 😉

    Hope your latest writing session turned out well.

  8. Ledger D'Main 10/09/2013 at 05:56 #

    Nag, no more questions, I’m already feeling guilty, besides it will just set a bad precedent among your followers.
    Actuality for me, I found that the more rules of writing/grammar/sentence structure I know, the less I get done. I prefer to merrily tippy tap on my keyboard oblivious to the rigid rubrics of elitist NY lit agents…only on my 12th re-editing will I suspend Captain Morgan’s influence over me and take a hard look at where that comma or this comma should be, or whether uncle, north, or southwest should be capitalized…writing should be fun and not done in an atmosphere of dread worrying about Ms. Grundy wrapping ones knuckles with a ruler because you don’t know the difference between an adverb and a pronoun…and don’t we all have too much trouble already two finger pecking on chicklet sized keyboards, the spelling gymnastics of the English language, keeping our fictional character’s characteristics straight, reaching our plot points, creating something from nothing that is readable, enjoyable, page turning and on some level at least plausible…
    Thanks again, but guilt is a red stain that is hard to wash away—lol…

  9. Charlotte Dixon 10/09/2013 at 07:24 #

    Hey Ledge, actually you are doing things exactly the way I do them.  I write with abandon for the first few drafts, worrying more about story and character and setting than grammar and all that not-so-fun stuff.  Then on the final draft, I go through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. 

  10. Charlotte Dixon 10/09/2013 at 07:28 #

    Oh Jessica, sending you love and good healthy thoughts for this downturn!  So sorry to hear it.  And, you are one of the most prolific writers I know, despite having to deal with health issues on a consistent basis.  You are very wise to turn your attention to other things that you know you can manage while not feeling up to par.

  11. Sandy 10/09/2013 at 07:40 #

    All three of your reasons have stopped me in my tracks on occasion. On top of that I have an 11 year-old and an 8 year-old that do their very best to distract me when I should be writing (part of the reason bedtime is my favorite time of the day).
    Usually went I get into one of those ruts I try to disappear somewhere by myself and do some brainstorming and outlining. No spouse, no kids, no internet. No distractions!
    One of the downsides of the onset of autumn is it’s becoming too damp and cool for me to take my manuscript(s) and disappear outside (particularly on Saturday mornings).
    A couple other small things (that can turn into big things) that derail me sometimes is insufficient research and burnout. Having to stop and fact-check tends to kill momentum and sometimes I have to smack myself up side the head and force myself to take a break, but I’m a writing junkie and it’s hard to stop. :)

  12. Charlotte Dixon 10/09/2013 at 07:56 #

    Sandy, I'm in that mode with my new novel where its hard to stop because my fingers just keep going.  It is a wonderful problem to have.  And research also can stop me because it sends me to the internet, where I get distracted.  Sounds like you get a lot of writing done despite those pesky (and I'm sure, wonderful) kids!

  13. J.D. 10/09/2013 at 20:19 #

    Hope you feel better soon, Jessica. Your sense of humor is intact. Not sure it takes time off.

  14. J.D. 10/09/2013 at 20:25 #

    Hands down the biggest stopper for me is not knowing where it’s going. I’m not good at taking the forked keyboard and wandering around until I find the golden well. I know that sometimes things work out if you just start.

    On another subject, the notes you made on the pages I sent you are exactly what I needed. Pointing out the things I needed to make clearer has really helped. Sending that to you has gotten me back into this book like nothing else I could have done. Thanks!

  15. Charlotte Dixon 10/09/2013 at 20:39 #

    I love my community so much!  Thank you for supporting each other!

  16. Kayla Dawn Thomas 10/14/2013 at 21:13 #

    I’ve been working through the process of allowing my writing to be a priority. I’m getting better about it. I’m a stay at home mom, and always felt to prove my worth I had to keep the house sparkling and all the clothes folded. When that status was obtained, I could write. With that attitude, I was constantly distracted and had bad sessions all the time. So frustrating. Over the months, I have trained myself to let writing be my main job, and I have many more successful sessions.

    When I do have a bad session, it often helps to open my journal, grab a pen, and let her rip. I rant until I figure out what the blockage is, then I can go back to my WIP, or take a break and deal with the issue. It’s not a 100% method, but it helps a lot of the time.

  17. Charlotte Dixon 10/14/2013 at 21:24 #

    I SO understand where you are coming from–I struggled with that as a stay-at-home Mom for years, and in some ways that attitude is still ingrained in me.  It comes out when I put all the work for my clients first, for instance.  I find, over and over again, that if I put my own writing first, everything else falls into place.  But I need to remind myself of that–and do the work–every single day.  I love that you take to your journal and write until you figure out the blockage.  You're making it happen!

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