Thursday, December 15, 2016

Winter Weary: A Writer’s Guide to Pressing On!

While the cold can often be miserable, winter is a joyous time filled with holidays and gifts, snowy days and family togetherness. It’s also a time when people can become so overwhelmed they feel as if they are being swept away under the ice, desperate to find a break.

I’ll admit that though this season warms my soul in so many ways, it also works hard to crush my spirit. A boost of sunshine, letting the kids work out their energy outside, pounding the pavement and refreshing my creative mojo with the solitude of the open road, sweating off my stress, and feeling the warm wind on my face are things that I need for my sanity. Needs that go woefully unmet when winter traps my tribe indoors. When my spare time is re-directed with Christmas shopping, decorating and un-decorating, and finding creative ways to keep the kids from climbing the walls. Priorities are rearranged. Budgets are stretched. Time wicks away. And pants grow tight!

To top it off! My creativity gets put in the deep freeze (with my toes). My progress slows to a glacier’s pace. And all my doubts and fears have a field day, targeting that tender spot in a weak moment of weariness.

I should give up.

How many people would really care?

Maybe I don’t have the strength to endure this. Or the fortitude.

No one else seems to be struggling. All those NaNoWiMo folks just wrote a whole stinking book in four weeks and I’m still falling into bed, ignoring that blank page and that ever blinking cursor.

Doesn’t it always feel like everyone else has it together but you? Their Facebook pictures show an immaculate house. Their kids are sports stars and academics at their fancy private schools. Their hair is always perfect. Their books are flying off their shelves—real shelves that they are actually on. They just got another big contract or award. They are so inspired, the words to their next bestselling are flying from their fingers faster than they can type them. They are somehow blessed with extra hours in a day that you just can’t find. And you feel… wholly underwhelming and a wee bit bah-hum-bugin’.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some version of this same tale. How many times I’ve thrown myself a personal pity-party and just hibernated in my discontentment, enduring the dip in my spirit until spring brings that rejuvenating sunshine.

Whether you realize it or not, that slump (something akin to a writer’s seasonal affect disorder--in my opinion) is NOT uncommon. You are not alone in your struggle to regain your footing. In fact, as frustrating as it seems, sometimes the best thing you can do for your muse is give it time to rest and recharge.

So how do we weather those winter blues?

1. Embrace the pause- instead of beating yourself up for another unproductive day, choose to have peace with it. Make it intentional. Use the time to feed your muse. Read some of your favorite books or treat yourself to that one that’s been sitting on top of your TBR list. Watch a show on TV that fuels your writer’s imagination and start brainstorming new ideas. Or perhaps write something unrelated. A journal entry. A blog you’ve been neglecting. A devotion. A short story or a poem. Something fun that breaks through that paralyzing pressure.

2. Set attainable goals- Take that time off without pressure but set a new start date to kick off the next phase. And give yourself bite-sized goals to help re-build your confidence.

3. Offer up a critique- There are times when helping to shape someone else’s story will unlock the block in yours. Plus, helping others feels good. When you are feeling positive about your insights you’ll be surprised by how much of your creative force will kick back into gear.

4. Jump ahead- If you’re stuck at a particular moment in the story, who says you can’t jump ahead and start working on another scene that has already sketched out clearly in your mind? The thing we sometimes forget is that we can always delete, rearrange, or tweak. Maybe that scene won’t work out when you put the pieces of your story together, but sometimes all you need is a burst of enthusiasm to get back into the groove. A first draft is not final. Just write and know you can fix it later.

5. Breathe… It’s a story. It’s not the end of the world. Creativity comes in waves. Be patient with the process and be ready to catch the next swell. You WILL write again. A long as you refuse to give up, I promise you’ll find yourself in the sun again.

Let’s talk! Does this happen to you? What helps you when you’re stuck? Any tips to add for weathering the barren winter?

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Amy Leigh Simpson writes romantic mysteries with honesty and humor, sweetness and spice, and gritty reality covered by grace. When she’s not stealing moments at naptime to squeeze out a few more adventures in storyland, she’s chasing around two tow-headed miscreants (Ahem)—boys, playing dress up with one sweet princess baby, and being the very blessed wife to the coolest, most swoon-worthy man alive. Amy is a Midwestern-girl, a singer, blogger, runner, coffee-addict, and foodie. Her Sports Medicine degree is wasted patching up daily boo boo’s, but whatever is left usually finds its way onto the page with fluttering hearts, blood and guts, and scars that lead to happily ever after.

Check out her NEW romantic mystery novel FROM WINTER'S ASHES! Available NOW!


Krista Phillips said...

Oh it definitely does, and it doesn't help when you're on a writing deadline during these cold months!!!!!! Great tips, my friend!!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Thanks Krista! I thought we could all use a boost :)

Pepper said...

Yes! And yes! Did I say Yes?
there are so many ways to get distracted it really bites into the creativity