After publishing my first book of flash fiction, I fell into a pretty deep writing slump.
I should have grabbed hold of the momentum from my publishing win, but I didn’t. And I paid the price.
I decided I would get another volume out and set a pretty aggressive, but not impossible, date in my head. I cranked out a few stories early in January, and then, nothing. I would try to edit some stories I wanted in the collection, nothing. I would sit down to write, nothing.
This feeling is nothing new for me or for, I imagine, every other writer out there. But it’s still the worst.
In the past when this has happened, I’ve turned to the internet. When I am in a slump, I hunt for inspiration through other writers. Blogs, newsletters, webinars, courses, etc. I figure the more I see about writing in my inbox on a daily basis the more inspired I will be to write, right? Wrong.
At least it was the wrong approach this time.
Suddenly, all those emails telling me how I should write or outlining the successes of other writers, and giving tips on how to up your game or get published, were suffocating.
Every time I saw an email telling me how many words I should be writing in a day, I went numb. Every time I saw, ‘you should be doing this or you should be doing that or if you want to be a writer, don’t’ do these three things or DO these three things, or all you have to do to be a writer is write…’ I just got overwhelmed. I wondered if I was or wasn’t doing the right things and if I wasn’t, should I start? I would start thinking, ‘ok, I need to do this to get back on track and then that, and once I do that I can do this. This article says this but this article says that and…’ *breathes heavily* it was exhausting.
The writing advice I’d hoped would inspire me to write was only making me sink deeper into my slump.
And then, of course, were the plethora of courses and webinars meant to improve my writing…for only $99! Or the webinars meant to help me grow my email list, for $199! Because if I want to be a successful writer, not only do I have to write (and do all the things to write the right way) I also need to know how to market myself and manage my social media and build my email list and have a great website and build a following…
And THEN, you need to know where to publish and how to publish and if you need an agent or that you should use Amazon or that you SHOULDN’T use Amazon and you should use an editor and how you should get a cover design and always, always, always do this but never, never, never do that.
Are you overwhelmed yet? I was.
Every day when I opened my inbox, there were another bunch of emails telling me exactly what I needed to do to be a writer, but I still had no idea how to be a writer (or that’s how I felt).
My brain couldn’t handle the overload of information plus the guilt of not writing and the even more profound guilt of not really wanting to write. It wasn’t that I wanted to write but couldn’t come up with ideas, I just didn’t want to write. And all the “inspiration” was not helping.
So, I decided to give myself a break.
I know, writers are supposed to write through the bad times. You’re not always going to feel like writing, but you should write anyway. But it was worrying about all the things I should be doing that was making me not want to write. So, instead of giving myself permission to write, I gave myself permission not to write. I gave myself permission to pursue other interests, like Yoga.
And, I unsubscribed from almost all of those writing newsletters.
While I kept a few of my faves (Chuck Wendig was one, and I really love Austin Kleon), I desperately needed to silence the noise coming at me from all directions telling me how to write, how not to write, how to get famous, and how to make money.
Don’t get me wrong, much of the advice is spot on. You should know how to market yourself and build a mailing list and a decent website. There’s a lot more to writing than writing and if you want to be successful, advice from those that have already done it is invaluable. And I understand the desire to want to help other writers. I love that about the writing community. We want to help others avoid the mistakes we made along the way.
Which is what I’m doing now.
If you’re overwhelmed by all the advice out there, take a step back. Being a writer is about being the kind of writer you want to be. If you try to be someone else’s version of a writer, you won’t be successful. If you try to follow someone else’s path, you will get lost.
I tried to follow too many paths and started to pull myself apart at the seams. Since shutting off the noise, I’ve felt more clear-headed about the direction I want to take as a writer. I’ve not yet pulled myself all the way out of my slump, but I’m getting there. I can feel that twinge, that urge to write, that need to create, slowly inching its way to the surface. Now that the noise from the outside world has diminished, I can once again hear my own voice.
And, because my email wasn’t overflowing with webinars and courses, I actually noticed an interesting one when it came through. I attended and found it extremely valuable and it was one more step up on my way out of my slump.
I feel more focused. I feel excited about writing again. I don’t feel bombarded by advice or lost, or unsure of which advice to follow. Because while there is a ton of great writing advice out there, there are only a few guidelines I need to remember for myself, and you can use them if they fit your vision of the writer you want to be:
Be the writer you want to be.
Follow your own path.
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