I’ve just finished writing the first book of a BRAND NEW series by me and Sheena Dempsey. It feels amazing! To celebrate, I treated myself to a curry with the family, apologised for being cranky whilst I wrote and went straight to the library to pick up a book to the read that couldn’t be more different to what I’d just written.
There is no better feeling in the world, for a writer, that hitting those final two words: The End. It’s like completing your last exam or crossing the finish line of a marathon. Writing is gruelling and it can be draining and I have to admit, this one has been a struggle.
The deadline for the book was originally in September. When we found out we were moving in August, I knew there was no chance I would make that deadline, and with my tail between my legs, I asked my lovely editor for an extension. Of course, she completely understood and very graciously let me set a new deadline for the following month but that was hard for me. I pride myself on always meeting my deadlines and often getting work in ahead of deadlines. The guilt of asking for an extension weighed heavy on me and as September whizzed by, the pressure to produce perfection stalled my writing.
Soon, the blank page became my nemesis. Writing even just one sentence became my Everest. I tried all my go-to remedies to revive my muse: baths, music, sleep, rest, walks, more baths. But nothing worked. The more time passed, the more anxious I felt about not being able to deliver. Writing this new thing wasn’t at all like writing a Dave Pigeon book. Four books on, writing Dave Pigeon and his world felt like slipping on a pair of comfy slippers. The characters were old friends now. It was comfortable.
This new book was not comfortable. Though Sheena and I had talked through ideas over the last year, with all the noise of publication and book deals this year and taking Dave Pigeon (Racer!) on tour, I’d not given myself the time I needed to get to know this new world of characters. I was switching from comfy slippers to pinchy stilletos.
I had to kick-start my writing again. I hadn’t recognised that a summer of goodbyes, the move across the world and the process of finding and settling into a new routine in a new environment would take such a toll. I hadn’t prepared for it. Looking back, I should have set myself daily writing goals to keep my hand in the game. Though that’s not usually how I work, it would have helped to keep a writing constant in the upheaval of moving to New Zealand.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. In fact, I know I’m not alone. Whatever the reason, I imagine all writers go through a time when the words don’t come easily so I thought I’d jot down a few things that helped me battle the slump.
Make a list: This sounds simple but it’s so important, especially if you have more than one deadline looming. It will help you prioritise what needs to be done first, rather than leaving you free to just pick what feels easy to tackle in that moment.
Don’t wait: The time is now. No matter how painful, you can’t afford to wait for the perfect moment or the perfect mood or the perfect lighting to start.
Give yourself achievable goals: For some this might be a word count; for others this could be a time limit. Stick to the goal. Even if you feel a sudden burst of writing energy, don’t be tempted to push on. Sticking to limits will give you the down time you need to rest and recuperate.
Forget perfection: Work can be messy. It’s OK. You just need to get words on the paper; the polishing will come later.
Ask for help: Writing is emotional. You’re invested in your work and when it’s not coming together it can feel overwhelming. Reach out to your support system, your friends, your family, your agent, your editor, whoever it may be. They want you to succeed and they’ll help you a way to get through the slump.
Good luck, fellow writers. Know that there is probably a curry waiting for you on the other side.