Subjective Recommendations: Overcoming Writing Slumps

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” —Maya Angelou

Everyone can write. However, not everyone can write consistently. Although I’ve been writing stories, essays, and journal entries since childhood, I officially became a writer/blogger in 2016. Gleaning from experience, the idea of writing is tantalizing, especially if your word count exceeds 100 words. It’s simply gratifying to see your words on a page, be it online or offline. For me, writing down words is a way of bringing my thoughts and emotions to life. And although the process is enjoyable (and cathartic), it is not always easy.

Just look at me. I’ve been yearning to publish a novel since forever, but I’ve trashed so many half-hearted attempts. My current manuscript hasn’t even reached 5,000 words. I’ve already decided the names of my protagonists and somehow outlined their character arcs. Also, I already know how the story should end. As I try to examine myself, I realize that my interest in writing fiction is seasonal. Sometimes, the same applies to my book-blogging routine. When things like sheer idleness and other distractions get in the way, writing a single paragraph can become such a struggle. September and October were terrible months for me. I took a break from reading and therefore lacked the inspiration to write book reviews. In other words, I was in a writing slump because of my reading slump. Now that’s what you call “double whammy.”

Fortunately, writing slumps are not unbeatable. Just don’t let them evolve into actual droughtsJust like musical gifts, your writing skills/muscles can become rusty. To illustrate my point, I started taking violin lessons when I was 18. Soon, my fingers became callused, enabling me to play the instrument with little to no pain. After two years of not practicing, my fingers are now back to normal. So if I want to play the violin comfortably, I need to undergo the painful process of developing calluses once again. With that in mind, if you take indefinite breaks from writing, don’t be surprised when you find yourself at a loss for words. Before that happens, you should do something to rekindle your passion for writing. After overcoming a 2-month writing slump, I’ve come up with the following solutions:

Expose Yourself to Narratives

Since I specialize in book reviews, I make an effort to surround myself with stories. Although they aren’t necessarily literary, Korean dramas and Japanese role-playing games rely on narratives. They depend on things like character development, plot twists, and more. Sometimes, people themselves are narratives. My grandparents delineate this fact. Every time I see them, they have loads of stories to tell, and most of them are based on historical events. By basking in actual and figurative literature, I become motivated to read and then write about what I have read. For instance, my fondness for K dramas inspired me to expand my blog’s content. My website used to be 100% bookish. Now, it has a relatively new section for drama reviews.

Listen to Stimulating Music

K-pop music has been making me productive at work since September 2017. The cadence of the syllables, the subtle beats, and the lively melodies never fail to make me happy. Moreover, the lyrics often have vivid and profound metaphors. I also love classical music, so I strike a balance by listening to Gfriend’s string-based music. It might sound weird, but violin and cello riffs always do something pleasant to my spine or stomach. Essentially, K-pop makes me have happy thoughts, which are conducive to writing positive content. Thus, if your writing slump is a result of laziness, listen to a genre of music that will stimulate your brain.

Prioritize Quantity Over Quality

I’m generally obsessed with the quality of my content. However, when I’m in a writing slump, I push myself to write in my journal. My topic? Anything under the sun. I count my blessings, rant about annoying people, and list my prayer concerns. If I gave you access to my journal, you would notice its very random quality. This is because it’s a platform where I can say whatever that comes to my mind. It doesn’t matter if my writing seems chaotic as long as I’m writing something. However, my writing ethic returns to normal once I get over my slump and resume publishing stuff on my blog.

Find an Accountability Partner

Interacting with fellow writers can be very beneficial. You can fanboy/fangirl about your favorite books, movies, and more. You can also proofread each other’s work before publishing it online. Writing usually requires the concentration that solitude provides, but having someone to keep you accountable can effectively shorten your writing slump. For example, Kuya Maui occasionally asks me “Nagsusulat ka ba (Are you writing)?” when he sees me using his laptop. Little does he know that I’m only watching cat videos. LOL. Kidding aside, his innocent questions tickle my writer’s conscience, helping me get back in business. Usually, publishers also hold me accountable; they do not send me new titles until I publish honest reviews of the ones they have recently sent me. Required reading and writing might be stressful, but I cannot deny that the incentive of new books helps.

Stay Away from Social Media

I love spending time in my bedroom because it’s the only place where I can read peacefully. However, everything changes when I log on to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Ironically, even reader-friendly sites like Goodreads are also very distracting. Indeed, social media can connect you to people from across the globe. But it can also disconnect you from your writing. Imagine how many hours you could have spent blogging instead of scrolling through your crush’s cluttered newsfeed. In a way, posting brief updates on these platforms counts as “writing.” You can even be inspired by what you see on these sites. Still, using social media can’t elicit the same satisfaction that you get from publishing relevant content on WordPress or your very own website. If you notice that your Facebook or Instagram account is stealing so much of your precious writing time, it won’t hurt to take a Sabbath.

Ultimately, there’s no surefire way to get out of a writing slump. All people are unique, so what works for me might not work for you. However, just like most setbacks in life, writing slumps can be defeated by optimism and perseverance. If you are suffering from a serious case of writer’s block, don’t feel guilty about taking a break. After all, the human brain has limits. Just don’t let your slump stifle your passion altogether.

*The featured image was taken from Forbes