Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When Creativity Stops Flowing... Part One: Top Six Reasons Stories Hit the Brakes

A good author friend of mine recently posted that she'd given up on finishing a book she'd planned to have in by the beginning of the month. She had done everything right: brainstormed ideas, given herself plenty of time to write. When she hit a snag, she reasoned through the problem and changed the setting to better fit her premise. And yet, she just wasn't able to get to the end and finally (wisely) conceded.

This happens more often than I ever would have thought before becoming an author. And now that I'm editing as well, I have a behind-the-scenes insight into the trials and unsuccessful attempts by my authors to finish works they've planned and promised. Creativity is an interesting and nebulous thing, and there are no hard and fast answers to why this happens, even to seasoned and prolific writers. There are as many reasons for muse-on-strike as there are authors. But to sum them up, here are the top six general categories I see plaguing frustrated writers:

LIFE HAPPENS: You get sick. Your family gets sick. Your computer dies. Vacation comes and goes, and despite your best hopes, you're too busy and get nothing written. Edits or rewrites come back on another manuscript. You get squirrels in your attic (literally, not figuratively...but then again, it'd work against you either way). You get busy shopping for a new house/car/washer and dryer. Point is, you have a life outside of writing, and many things in that life are out of your control. It's easy to think you can allow for or work around these things, and much more difficult to actually do so. Many muses have a very low tolerance for outside competition, including thoughts taken up by the old to-do-list, so they just shut down production until things calm down.

THE EDJ: Most writers I know have 'em, and bemoan the time they take away from their one true wuv...their stories. Whether it's office politics following you home, extra work or projects needing your creative time and attention, or even business travel, "real world" work can massacre your schedule and pull your mind off its game.

YOUR PARTNER: I absolutely love reading the grateful dedications from authors to their life partners and spouses. The love and support these lucky writers are given facilitate their ability to turn out great stories. However, not all partners are as understanding. Negative vibes or belittling comments or outright disapproval can all pull a writer out of the zone and there goes the word count. Even the oblivious partner can have an effect, planning things to do or demanding time when all you want to do is put your head down and bang out some K's.

THE BLOGOSPHERE & REVIEWS: Yes, we know we should take the bad reviews or comments with a grain of salt. Yes, we should stay out of and not dwell on blogland conflicts. But with some writers' personality types, once it's in our head, it's hard to let go of. And emotional responses can be hard to avoid. Even if the writer is smart enough to not get involved online, it can still wreck havoc in your mind.

STORY DEVELOPMENT THAT...DOESN'T: I see this a lot with authors writing series or for a collection. They have either a set of characters or a germ of an idea to start with and go ahead and commit to a story. Then the story just...doesn't happen. Maybe the characters go in a random direction. Maybe the story morphs so it doesn't work anymore. And sometimes you're just not inspired. So you stall...and wait...and try, but can't get it moving along. Very frustrating.

CHEATING: Authors who have more than one work in progress (and who doesn't?) are at great risk of having a story other than the one they should be working on spark their desire and get their creative juices flowing. That can either be a huge distraction or, if you succumb, a complete c***block for the story you've committed to.

These have been some of the greatest dangers lurking out there for writers on a deadline. Next week I'll have part two for you, where I'll talk about some suggestions to get over the hump. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear your thoughts on my breakdown of the breakdown. What have you had to fight as a writer?


  1. Not enough time in the day and too many idears when there's nothing to jot them on.

  2. You know me well enough to know I was nodding along while reading this. Great post, chicky. :)

  3. I fight them all, even #3 - hubby's wonderfully supportive but he's super chatty and refuses to remember the muse likes silence. Love him bunches, but if I tell him I don't want to talk about whatever random thing he wants to chat about, then he gets that hurt puppy dog look and then I feel guilty, so I usually end up getting yanked out of a WIP to chat about random stuff multiple times a night. Ah guilt. Lovely thing, isn't it? ;)

  4. Completely see myself in all of these, especially the last two.

  5. Which ones have I dealt with? All of the above! At some point I just have to step away. Sometimes for a few hours. Sometimes a few years...


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