Some books flow. They’re a joy to write, the characters emerge from your mind fully-formed, the words pour from your fingertips and after an hour you look at your word count and think ‘my goodness, really, that much?’ A little smugly, perhaps.
Some books don’t. Some books I look at the word count after several hours and think, ‘Really? Only 100 words? How is that possible? I’ve been to hell and back, sweating blood over this!’ Well, maybe I only wrote 100 words because I deleted several hundred others and I also took internet and emails breaks every, oh, five minutes.
Of course, some books—most books—are in the middle. Parts flow and others don’t. You struggle but you get there in the end, and you’re pretty confident all along that you will.
And then there are the dark-night-of-the-soul books where you begin to doubt yourself, wonder how you fooled numerous editors and readers into believing you’re a real writer, and now with this awful train wreck of a book the jig is up and you’ll never put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard again.
But the question is, what to do you do when it’s not flowing? When writing feels like a chore or torture rather than a joy or even something remotely bearable? When you’d rather clean the toilet or do the ironing or even go to the dentist (my least favorite thing in the world!) than sit in front of the computer and write that story?
Well, everyone is different, and everyone will have different ideas and thoughts about how to tackle that lack of flow. After 27 books, I’ve learned what works for me—well, mostly! I still doubt and stress because I’m human, but I’m trusting my process more and more, and hopefully I will never push resolutely on to 47,000 words four days before my deadline only to have to DELETE THEM ALL.
So. What works for me? Basically, I have started to trust that if it the words aren’t flowing, there is a reason, and it usually is because I haven’t figured out the characters or the emotional conflict yet. So I’ll take a step away from the keyboard and write something on paper, usually fleshing out the characters’ backgrounds or brainstorming different ways the story could go. If that is proving too difficult, and sometimes it is, then I’ll take another step back and do something else. Fill that creative well by reading a good book, watching a movie, or taking a walk—and giving myself permission not to write for a few days.
After that, though, it’s butt-in-chair time because I have deadlines and I can’t wait for the little muse to land lightly on my shoulder. And sometimes you do need to push through that I-don’t-want-to feeling a little, and figure out your characters and conflict as you write.
Sometimes though you need to give yourself permission to just relax. I’ve been stressing about my current book, and wanting to finish it early, when I thought to myself, ‘Kate, you’re 7 months pregnant with your fifth child and your husband has been working 60 hours a week. You’re more uncomfortable and awkward-feeling than you’ve ever been before, and it hurts your back to sit in a chair for more than ten minutes. Maybe you should just CHILL.’ So I’m scrapping the daily word count quotas and trying to squeeze in an extra book before my due date. And that works, too.
So what do you do if something in your life—whether it’s writing, work, or something else—isn’t coming easily? What are your de-stress techniques and how have they evolved over the years?
Here’s to a bit of relaxation!
Happy reading (and writing),
To learn more about Kate Hewitt and her books vist her website: http://www.kate-hewitt.com/