The number one way readers judge characters is by how much they change. Do they change, or are they static? Most characters must change, especially the main character, but what about others characters in a story? Do they all change? No matter how slight of a shift, all characters should change. If they don’t, they risk not being in the story.
Static characters got me thinking about writing and writing habits. Has your writing changed over these last few years? Have your habits remained static? Is the thought of writing word after word too heavy? If so, how do we push or pull ourselves out of this rut?
We must start by being honest. Ask yourself these questions and take time to ponder them:
- Have you weighed yourself down with studying the craft of writing to the point of never putting it into practice? Learning the art of writing is essential. It must never stop, but it must not prevent you from starting or restarting your writing. I tell my students that we can study all week long, but we have to put what we are learning into practice at some point. It’s the only way to evolve.
- Who is sitting at your table? In other words, who surrounds you? Are you feeding those around you more than you are feeding yourself? Are others starving you? Are the people you spend time with and energy on a time suck? It’s a tricky question to answer, and it can be painful. Too often, we find it easy to put others and their needs before our own. If you find yourself in one of these roles, it becomes even more tricky: a parent, a spouse, a caretaker, a teacher, a mentor, or a coach. These roles make it hard for us to find and take care of ourselves or our writing careers. We feel guilting saying ‘no’ to others to the point of sacrificing our dreams and energy. Writing requires creating boundaries. If you continue offering your time [and energy] helping others achieve their dreams, that book or blog may never come to reality. Note: I am not saying don’t take care of your children or elderly parents or a loved one that needs your help, but you should find carve out some time for yourself and writing – trust me, it’ll be hard at first, but rewarding in the end.
- Are you consistent and disciplined? Discipline and consistency – two keys to a fulfilled writing life. You must be intentional with your writing and your time. Show up to the page no matter what! If you have the best ideas and your energy is high early in the morning before the world around awakes, set the alarm, get up, splash some water on your face, drink some water or coffee or tea and sit down to write. Even if it’s too early for the screen, show up for the page. I love writing with a good ol’ BiC ballpoint pen or pencil on paper. It’s less strain on my eyes. Once you begin to show up, be disciplined and consistent, I guarantee you’ll feel a shift. Tip: plan out the night before what you want to write. It’s takes away the distraction or the temptation to procrastinate.
- What frightens you? For years I was afraid. I was fearful of what others thought about my writing. In the last few years, I’ve matured enough to know that I wasted too much time worrying about letting others down that I can confidently say I’ve let my characters down. I’ve let my ideas down. I let myself down. It has nothing to do with other people; it has everything to do with yourself. I know this sounds selfish, but after all, you are writing a story because something happened to you or you have something to say. Get it on paper. Find some trustworthy sets of eyes to read what you write. Now you may be thinking I’m too afraid to share what I write because ‘what if someone steals my ideas or my words?’ Most writers I know, I trust. I have a small circle of writer friends that I send work to because we’ve built trust. How? We’ve met at several writing retreats, we write in different genres (same age group), and we encourage each other through the hard times. I’ve removed the fear of someone stealing my story or ideas. Yes, this is a valid concern! However, it shouldn’t stop you from sharing your work when you need professional and honest feedback (this comes back to point #2, you may need to find a new table). So again, assess what is scaring you from getting your work out in the real world. I won’t go into the traditional v self-publishing debate but work on conquering your fears so your stories can find a home in someone else’s hands.
- Do you start and stop? I am a chronic starter. I am an ideas person. I tried to blame it on my Gemini nature, but one day I laid out all the manuscripts I have started on my bed. These stacks of unfinished works took up a queen-size bed. The number of unfinished manuscripts was staggering! Talk about a slap-in-the-face dose of reality. I sat in that mess. I owned that mess. Once the self-berating emotions stopped, I made a pivot. I took sticky notes and began to write the good qualities of each manuscript, along with being honest about why I stopped. Some didn’t work. Others, I lost interest in the storyline. Some got stuck with too many plot holes, and I couldn’t find a way to fix them. In the end, there were less than four that I put aside. These are the ones I genuinely want to see published. Sometimes, we have to face the mess and begin to clean it up. If you are a chronic starter, it’s time to get honest with yourself. Ask yourself, why do I start and not finish? Am I a perfectionist, which is nothing more than fear in disguise? Do I have a genuine interest in writing? Do I have depression or ADD, something that is physically stopping me from producing a project? These are all valid reasons why people quit. You first need to face it head-on and ask for guidance or help.
Every little change will evolve you from being a static writer to a productive writer. Most importantly, I want you to be gentle with yourself. We all make mistakes. We all trip and stumble and fall. Don’t quit on your writing! Don’t quit on your writing dreams!
Which one will you focus on to help you get out of a writing rut? If you have other helpful hints to move out of a slump, please share! After all, writing is a journey meant to be shared.
Be sure to check out my Writers on Task journal. This simple, easy-to-follow journal can keep you moving towards your writing goals.