When the Thrill is Gone

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats Writer's Block II by Drew Coffmanupon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”Ray Bradbury

In recent weeks, I have had conversations with a genuinely startling number of writers who confess that they have lost their hunger to write. One says he is weary of the struggle to publish; another says she’s lost her motivation; another just shrugs. “It’s hard.”

Some wonder if they ever had any talent to begin with, or maybe they did and it has dried up like last year’s clover. Some have lost hope of ever landing that longed-for contract or agent to help with the overwhelming business of publishing. Others have dived into indie publishing with great hope only to discover it’s a lot of work for little return.

The thrill is gone. Maybe it’s time to throw in the towel, get a divorce from this ridiculous passion, call it quits on a marriage no one but you ever thought was going to amount to anything.

What help is there for the weary writer? What words of wisdom might help you hold on a little longer?

Here is the truth: it isn’t the writing.  Whatever else it might be, it isn’t the work. Over and over I have said to you that writing requires such a weird combination of gifts and faults that anyone who has written a novel hasn’t done it by accident. The work called you, made you insane for it, and you followed.  The world might not understand that, but I do. So does everyone else here. You might not be a brilliant writer, but you are a writer, and so you must write.

What is the problem then? What causes a writer to lose heart?            

Exhaustion
Our society is always pushing harder, asking more and more and more of us. This can be especially true in a high pressure marketplace like commercial fiction.

But it’s no easy thing to come up with a whole new world, complete with communities, landscapes, clothing, foods, etc. when you can’t even keep your eyes open.  If you’re balancing a family, an outside job, a sick parent, and all those other things that make our lives rich and round, you might experience the life-weariness probably get tired sometimes.

Exhaustion also occurs from writing too much without enough time to refill the well. If you push the muses too hard, eventually they fall to their knees like a weary horse, and will not rise no matter what you don.

Too much of the same kind of work can also lead to exhaustion.  Maybe you have developed a long series and have written three or six or ten parts.  Maybe you write only long novels about space or terrorists and they’ve suddenly started to sound exactly the same.

Internal and External Pressure
Sometimes writers set themselves up for failure—if I cannot write x number of pages in x amount of time, if I can’t sell a book by x date, if I don’t make the New York Times or the top 100 on Amazon, I am a failure.  Professional jealousy and professional longing (that wish to have your books show well) both fall in this category.  I want….unfulfilled…followed by “I am a failure and must give up” is in this category. Anger, bitterness, despair—all of those emotions are part of the internal category. So is fear of any kind. Anything that rouses emotions about your gifts or abilities.

Sometimes, however, the pressure comes from without.  A publisher or agent wants a particular thing you can’t deliver, or a book that is expected to do well does not. Or a book has done well and the next one doesn’t.  Perhaps the readership you have established only wants a particular book from you and is not interested in the other thing you might write.

For aspiring writers, the expectations might come from a teacher or a critique group or even a writing organization. Maybe you started in the Romance Writers of America and now all of your writing friends are romance writers, but you’ve discovered you really want to write high fantasy. How can you be true to yourself and to your friends?

I bet you can find yourself in one or more of those scenarios. How, then, do you get your mojo back?

1. Be honest with yourself
Are you trying to write more than is comfortable? Are you sick of that series? Do you want to write something else, try a new genre, act out of character?  Are you trying to juggle too much in an already overcrowded life?

Come to terms with whatever your tee answers are. Most of the time, a good answer is to simplify—pull the weeds in your life and toss them in the compost heap. Whatever you discover, even if it is uncomfortable, will lead you to more joy in the work.

2. Fill the well
It is quite possible you are only very tired or have used up all the material your subconscious and heart have stored.  Go out and get some more. Wander motorcycle shops or craft stores; go to festivals around your town; go for a road trip (it doesn’t have to be long to be helpful).  Take some time to indulge your other hobbies, photography or bird watching or hiking, even if that means you are not writing for awhile.

3. Read
We all arrived at the longing to write by reading. Go back to the source and drink deeply. Become your twelve-year-old self gulping down everything you can get your hands on, discarding anything that isn’t interesting, anything that starts to bore you. Don’t read what you think you should or what your friend wrote or to catch up in your genre. Read whatever looks really great and then read something else that looks great, and so on and so on and so on. Often this single step will heal a broken writing heart all by itself.

4. Write in secret, only for yourself
If it is the business that’s broken you, on whatever level that might have happened, go back to writing for yourself.  Give yourself permission to write whatever is exciting and interesting. Write in secret—don’t tell your critique partners or your agent or anyone else who might want to give you an opinion. This is only for you.  (I have done this three times in my career and the resulting books have been some of my best.)  Write a whole book without showing it to anyone. Trust yourself to get it right all by yourself, or at least get it on the page by yourself.  You might be astonished at the result.  And if you are not, at least you have a whole book to work with and rewrite and revise.

5. Go mad with writing
Nearly everyone who has lost the thrill is in some way suffering the cruelty of a world that values something other than the zest of writing with a full heart.  I leave you with another quote, the closing bookend of a master:

If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or,”I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.” Ray Bradbury

Have you ever recovered from a broken writing heart? What did you do to get the magic back?  What tips have I missed? 

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About Barbara O'Neal

Barbara O'Neal has written a number of highly acclaimed novels, including 2012 RITA winner, How To Bake A Perfect Life, which landed her in the Hall of Fame. Her latest novel, The All You Can Dream Buffet has just been released by Bantam Books in March. A complete backlist is available here.

Comments

  1. says

    Barbara,
    Your passion for the work shines through in every word. I related to the exhaustion part. Life has gotten full and round the last few years. I’ve learned to re-fill the well, because writing isn’t an option. I resented the fullness for a while because I felt it took time away from me. But I’ve come to see that without all that messiness, I’d have less to write about. Mr. Bradbury said it all. “Build your wings on the way down.” Uncommon good advice

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    • says

      As I am juggling some big family issues right now, I can so relate to the “fullness” aspect, Susan. Love the way you turned it around: I’ve come to see that without all that messiness, I’d have less to write about.

      So true, so true.

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  2. says

    I absolutely love this and am seriously thinking about printing it out and wallpapering my office with it. :) The only thing you missed, perhaps, under Internal Pressures is that writing can be HARD. In fact, it’s supposed to be. (As I tell my students, if it’s hard, you’re doing something right.) And my self-critic gets up every morning and likes to sit next to me while I write and tell me that I should be doing anything else, but. It’s important to ignore the critic and the doubts. And keep going.

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  3. says

    Oh this is so wonderful. You touch the very heart of the matter. The passion of writing and the book that calls to me every day to be written can slowly sink under the radar of ‘ordinary’ life. I sometimes forget my great love for writing and did indeed put my 2nd book aside for 12 years! as I was too busy being a therapist. I started again recently and love how the book writes itself.
    The key is to remember, as you say, the thrill and the passion and flow of writing and not allowing anything to stop us. Writing is about the writing.
    Dr. Arnold Mindell, who is the founder of Process Oriented Psychology and my great mentor and has written at least 25 books said to me this week. “Sherry, if people read my book, fantastic. If they don’t, that is the Tao”. That put it all back in perspective for me.
    Thank you

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  4. says

    I have found that reading a good book cleanses my soul (cheesy I know, but its true!).

    And reading a really good book, inspires me to get writing again (whenever I hit that old writers block).

    The hard part is finding the time to read more (audio-books help with this though, allowing me to multi-task).

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  5. says

    Hi, Barbara. Thank you for #3: Read. Making time to read anything that I feel like reading is one of the tricks that keeps me writing. I get inspired by a turn of phrase, a metaphor, a setting–when other people write well, I want to join in the conversation.

    Not reading, on the other hand, is dire. No matter why I stop reading for a bit–lack of time because of work, coming down with a cold that depresses everything, dealing with family and friend situations–I have to circle back and choose a book at random. It always tops off my writing cup and sends me back to the page.

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  6. says

    I have to admit that one of my downers is that friends and acquaintances won’t read my novel or review it as it’s ‘not their thing’. You would think it was some weird, way-out book, which it isn’t. Many of their books weren’t ‘my thing’ yet I read and reviewed and voted for them when asked to do so to help friends. Hmm! Perhaps other aspiring writers are a writer’s worst enemies! Thank goodness for husbands.

    Jaded? Not totally. I’m doing as you suggest and pushing on with my next book, hoping to publish it in the next month. I’m not holding my breath for my fellow writers’ approval.

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    • says

      Dorothy, I do understand the desire to be read and seen by our close others. Maybe it will help to realize that reading is a highly intimate act and also highly variable–sometimes I’m in the mood for one thing, sometimes for another. It’s no reflection on your work or their feelings about you.

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      • says

        I have decided they are the ones losing out. If they only read the kind of books they write e.g. romance or historic fiction, then I think they are losing out. To read a book that wouldn’t necessarily be ‘your thing’ can be an exhilarating experience.

        Recently I’ve been reading Scandinavian noir and Tartan noir, not the sort of books I would previously have read and enjoyed, but I have enjoyed them and feel I have learnt much from them e.g. in terms of pace and snappy dialogue, that has helped my own writing. If you enter a blank patch in your own work reading out of your normal comfort zone can be a stimulating experience that can kick-start your imagination.

        If you want to be a writer, then curiosity and an open mind are essential. Rejection in one form or another is unfortunately part of the process too, and thankfully there are sites like this with understanding people to help us through negativity.

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    • Tina Goodman says

      Dorothy Bruce: Lots of people do not read the books written by their own siblings! What can we learn from that?
      People are strange, complex creatures. Try not to let it bother you if your friends do not read your books. If you ask them to explain their behavior they, themselves, may not know the true reason, but whatever it is, it is probably not what you think it is.

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  7. Deb says

    Love this Bradbury quote: “You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.” Maybe I’m an adrenaline junkie, or addicted to the escapism of the process, but the more complicated real life gets, the more I depend on the world of my writing to stay positive and refreshed.

    And I love your quote: “The work called you, made you insane for it, and you followed.”

    And I’ll keep on following until this one’s finally finished. And then on to the next . . .

    Thanks, Barbara, for such a lovely, compassionate post!

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  8. says

    A lovely post that reminds us that writing is a way of life, which includes sometimes *not* writing. #2: Filling the well is particularly important to me. Reading, exploring, letting things simmer in the background seem to be the yang to the yin of writing. The secret love affair with writing, writing for oneself, is a wonderful strategy. Isn’t that part of #1, being honest?

    And as others, LOVE the Bradbury quote about building one’s wings on the way down!

    Thanks, Barbara!

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  9. says

    Barbara, thank you for this lovely reminder to take care. I wish you were close enough to pop over for a cup of hot tea with muffins rolled in butter, cinnamon and sugar (thanks to my 12-yr old girl). I have at times been exhausted, uninspired, stuck in a rut, and always, always I find that taking the time to just be, sit and enjoy the squirrels chasing each other in the backyard, write for myself (in secret! Yes!), and soak up books, is the recipe for fanning those embers that eventually become a roaring fire.

    This year began on a busy note, followed by illness, and dashed hopes. Instead of trying to push myself, I wrote to my editor and let her know I needed to rest and recover. I am gearing up to speak at a conference this weekend and feel so much more relaxed. I’ll be with my tribe this weekend, then home to sing for High Mass Laetare Sunday. I’d say April is already looking UP!

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    • says

      I wish I were close enough to pop over for those cinnamon muffins too, Vijaya! I can practically smell them now.

      It sounds as if you’ve found the path toward healing. Spring is coming….

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  10. says

    What a fabulous post, Barbara. My favorite fixes for exhaustion are to read good books and to, as you say, fill the well. DO something. I’d even venture to say, Do something adventurous, or at least something you’ve never tried before. And we do have to acknowledge that sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes you have to put the work aside and deal with a family crisis, as I’ve been doing for the last few months. It’s OK. We’re not ballet dancers; we have our whole lives to write. Thank God.

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  11. says

    Bless you a thousand times, Barbara. I needed to hear many of these things today — my field is fallow, the girls in the basement are silent, I am recovering from wallowing in disappointment. However I might put it, I’m not writing. It definitely feels like a stage. I’m not frightened that it will be forever. But this reminds me to be active in this fallow time, to seek to refill my well. Thank you.

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    • says

      Do everything that delights the girls in the basement and trust that they will wake up and bring you the gifts of their dreamtime when they are ready.

      Hugs.

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  12. says

    What a great post – thanks so much. Exhaustion is a fact of life for me for many of the reasons that you list (family, home, running a business, etc.) and I have just had to accept that sometimes I need to stop writing altogether, rather than waste time staring at a computer screen in a state of mild desperation.
    I also find that even taking a short break (like a 15 minute walk) or a simple change in scenery (moving from my office to the library) can really help me deal with short-term loss of enthusiasm/motivation/direction.

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    • says

      Rob, thanks for the mention of walking. It really clears my head on a busy day and helps me reset the creative clock, too. I’ve also discovered recently that if I just take a quick spin around the park or the block at the end of my writing time, I burn off any work-related tension and feel a lot better when it’s time to go to sleep. Which of course means more productivity.

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  13. says

    I do so love those Bradbury quotes. You make some wonderful points, Barbara. For me, I guess it’s really about trusting the process of writing, good times and bad. Sometimes feeling discouraged, or even hitting bottom, can be a place to spring up from and go, go, go!

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  14. says

    First off, I LOVED the All You Can Eat Dream Buffet, which spoke eloquently to the passion one feels for doing something and the life that gets in the way. I recommended it to all my chef/foodie/food blogger friends.

    One of the issues that make writing hard is finding a good critique group or writing partner. At first, it seems like an abundance of riches because you can’t walk down the street without tripping over a dozen groups. Yet, finding a true fit is hard. Too many times the group becomes book by committee, or (as someone mentioned) they express a lack of interest in what you’re writing.

    The whole media/social networking/platform thing can also be very tiring. I work in an industry where wikis,blogs, tweeting, facebook, linkedIn, websites, etc, search engine optimization are every day tasks, but I’ve been to enough workshops to know there are plenty of people who struggle with just mastering the technology. Then, you still have to figure out how to make the use of it relevant to you. It quickly becomes another ten things to add to your already burgeoning to-do list.

    Finally, as an avid reader, I sometimes feel buried by the sheer volume of bad writing that’s out there. You know, the writing that makes you wish you’d never clicked on Amazon’s “look inside” feature, because your eyes start bleeding. I tell myself a million times that good writing, like cream, rises to the top. As someone who reads a lot and who goes out looking for good reads, I’m here to say it’s not always that easy to find. Then, I start questioning why I want to dip my toe in that pool. Insidious downward spiral occurs.

    A long way of saying, I understand the fatigue that wears down the passion.

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    • says

      Thank you so much, Michalea. That’s one of the things I hoped readers would see in All You Can Dream….second chances, right work.

      You are absolutely right about all the social media juggling writers have to do now. It’s huge and wearing for many of us, and adding it to the towering stack of tasks is sometimes daunting.

      As for the bad books–they have always been there. They will always be there. Think of them as the creative children of people who like to dabble and don’t let them interfere with your vision of good work. There are SO many great books, too. Find some sources you trust and follow their recommendations (bloggers, reviewers, friends who read a ton, review sites…). I also like to follow the “people who bought…” links on Amazon to see what readers with my taste also like.

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  15. says

    This is a timely post for me, and not in the way I expected. For the past few weeks I have been moping around about my writing, afraid that I had lost heart.

    However, after reading your wonderful words I realized I want to write as much as I ever have before. I am simply discouraged by the lack of time to write. It is because I am not writing as much as I need or would like, that I am feeling crummy.

    I am happier knowing it is a matter of restructuring my schedule, although it won’t be easy as I am a working mom. But, this realization is gentler on the creative soul.

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  16. says

    “Over and over I have said to you that writing requires such a weird combination of gifts and faults that anyone who has written a novel hasn’t done it by accident.” Thank you for this wisdom (and your persistence).

    “The work called you, made you insane for it, and you followed.” So true. I have to remember this. I followed. I’m already gone.

    “The world might not understand that, but I do. So does everyone else here.” I am so grateful for this!

    When I’ve tiptoed near to losing heart, it’s usually been a lack of faith. The empathy and belief of my family, friends, and community provide great sustenance.

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  17. says

    After working for twelve years on novels, I gave up writing about six years ago after I wrote a thriller under the tutelage of John Grisham, a neighbor and friend. When I couldn’t sell it, I closed down the studio and quit. A couple years later, I got the idea of writing a book about writing with Grisham. My agent sold it and the thriller and they were published in February. So I found my paydirt writing non-fiction and that broke open the fiction genre for me. So changing paths worked for me and taught me that writers should never give up despite the failures, frustrations and dead-ends that are endemic to writing.

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  18. says

    After I finished the sequel to my first novel, I was
    exhausted and drained. It had four story threads and weaving them
    in and out of one another had been exhausting and HARD. I didn’t
    want to go back to working on the final book in the trilogy, so I
    started a new project. Well, that was a bit of a fail too, as that
    forced me to write in first person present for the first time. It
    was HARD because third just comes so much more naturally. Finally,
    I went back to something a little more simple, my YA fantasy (third
    person). After months of on again off again writing, I found my
    stride. It also allowed me to dip back into the other stories on
    occasion and crank out one-off chapters. Sometimes you have to step
    away from HARD writing and get yourself into a place where the
    writing comes easy.

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  19. says

    Thanks you so much for this post! It’s so nice to know
    you’re not alone. Before I became an actual “paid” writer, I was up
    at 4am, coffee on, and pounding away at the keyboard. Now if I wake
    up at 4, I roll over and go back to sleep. I do miss that
    passion.

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  20. says

    Thank you so much for this, Barbara. It’s funny because, being a writer, surrounded by writers, I’ve become jaded in the sense that I think of what I do as “no big deal”. Every post I read and every online group of which I am a part is filled to the brim with writers. So when I think, “So I’ve written five books. Big freaking deal,” the writing becomes less than it truly is. I feel the pressure you speak of with regard to pumping out book after book because that’s what “they” want these days, both agents and publishers and readers. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is to write a good book and let go of the rest.

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  21. says

    This is one of the best things I have read in a long time. I will print it out and take it with me to a writing workshop I’m leading this weekend. I’m going to read it aloud to everyone. So much wisdom here. And when I get home after the workshop, I am starting with #3!!!

    Thank you for this very wise and compassionate article.

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  22. says

    I’d just written a post on FB saying that I felt like I
    didn’t know what I was doing anymore, which is deadly when I have
    contracted books still to write under deadline (which is another
    thing that’s not helping the creativity.) Thank you for letting me
    know I’m not alone in feeling dried up…and offering advice of
    what to do to combat it.

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  23. says

    Thanks for the encouragement! A lot of my writing friends
    (and me) are all in various stages of dealing with this. Another
    aspect that a friend brought up recently is how de-personalized
    writing has become (in spite of all the social networking). I
    understand what she’s saying. I’ve been in the game long enough to
    remember when agents/editors sent rejection letter to queries along
    with a word or two of advice and encouragement. Nowadays, agents
    don’t always respond, even to requested manuscripts–it’s hard not
    to get discouraged or demoralized.

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  24. Lisa Gilbert says

    Thanks for this post. I have been feeling this way about writing for too long. It was a relief to discover that other writers go through this as well. I needed to read this post.

    Thanks so much.

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  25. says

    Barbara, I’ve never experienced this type of exhaustion (chemo fog, yes, but that’s another story). But this year marks a change in my writing/publishing life that will place greater demands on me. Thanks for reminding me that I need to be tending to these issues along the way, as preventive maintenance.

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  26. Melissa Lewicki says

    Thank you. I needed this. I had pretty much decided yesterday that all those people over the years who had told me I had talent were morons. And that it was time to give up the pretense that I am a writer.
    After reading your post, I’ve decided I won’t write today. I am going to get out Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing and reread it.

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  27. says

    Number 3, reading, has saved me so many times. I get discouraged usually because I expect a certain level of technical perfection in my writing, and I can never quite achieve it. It helps to look at some of my favorite books and see that, despite a little imperfection here and there, those stories still cast their magical spell upon their readers.

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  28. says

    Gena Rowlands and John Cassavettes once remarked in an interview, discussing marriage, words to the effect: Young people have to realize that, yes, the love goes away. But it comes back.

    As with marriage, so with writing.

    Thanks for the wonderful post, Barbara, the great advice, and the marvelous Bradbury quotes.

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  29. says

    A broken writer’s heart. That’s a great term to describe the weariness that comes along with (for me) unmet expectations. I recently wrote a blog post (that’s not out yet) about figuring it all out and overcoming the writing crisis I’d been in for a good six months.

    It took me a significant amount of time to sort it all, but over the course of time I recognized the expectations I’d placed on myself were eating me alive and then I had to learn to let those expectations (and what those expectations meant for me as a writer – because there is a judgment attached to each expectation) go and fill their space with something a little more functional. I also started writing every day again, but it didn’t matter if it was two words or 500. The goal was just to be in front of my manuscript again.

    I’m doing better and am trying to keep those judgments at bay by focusing on writing and enjoying the process instead of working for the outcome. Thanks for the wonderful blog post. :)

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  30. says

    Yes. Thank you. Exhaustion comes from the aspiring side too–especially with the constant barrage of contests (did anyone see PitMad on Twitter yesterday?). I’m also finding exhaustion in demands from writers’ organizations–especially the “meetings” about “how we do what we do,” which I get a barrage of in my day job too.

    And self-judgment. What a show-stopper. Especially when it feels like all I’m seeing is tons of people doing what I want to do in a seemingly better way. Comparisons are never healthy.

    So thank you. This is yet another blog post I can tack to my wall to remind me that I’m doing the best I can, and that’s okay.

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  31. says

    Although I’d like to make a good living as a writer, I’ve never been able to push myself that hard. My first two novels took around four years each to get finished. I’ve since started two others that are progressing slowly. Marketing gets in the way as well as other aspects of my life. At least I don’t suffer from writing burnout.

    One thing I’ve learned as an author is to not let people sway my writing. I didn’t let anyone read either of my two books until they were almost finished. I just don’t see the point of letting others tell me what or how to write. Since everyone seems to see something different, I imagine the result could be me being pulled in many different directions. The reviews of both books have been mostly positive and there’s been no consistent criticism, so it seems that’s a good call on my part.

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  32. says

    God, I loved this post. You cut to the heart of it, Barbara. We must refill and replenish the vessel if we are to keep pouring onto the page.

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  33. says

    You think I’d know this by now, Barbara, but medicine talks about respecting one’s limits and one’s body, then asks its providers to forget about sleep, nutrition and rest in the course of providing care. In other words, thank you. I need frequent reminders and permission to stop pushing on a rope.

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  34. says

    Yeah, pretty much nailed how I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve been working on a trilogy for about four years now. Long fantasy type novels. I’m feeling the exhaustion. Still love the world, though, and hope others will some day too. But I definitely need to go refill the well before finishing the final novel.

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  35. Marcy McKay says

    I think TIME is the #1 healer to a writer’s broken heart. Sometimes, often, in fact, it takes more than a weekend, or even a week to fall back into literary love. Just giving myself time to grieve whatever hurt there is (my agent leaving the biz, etc.) and doing some creative things to refill the well. Lovely, lovely post, Barbara. Thanks.

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  36. says

    Thanks so much for this inspiration, Barbara.

    I’ve been struggling with this myself, and the idea of writing just for me is what I’m going to move forward with. I don’t have to show it to anyone unless I want to in the end.

    I put so much pressure on myself to produce and be perfect, there is no room to just have fun. Time to have fun.

    And I love love love that Ray Bradbury quote. I used to have a blog called “Building Wings.” Wonderful. :)

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  37. says

    Thank you, Barbara for “calling it out,” the pain that under-slithers the artist’s life, when we work with the muse but dream of success and other slippery slopes. I do best when I lean into finding a good sentence everyday and trusting that results (manuscripts and awards) will come if they come.

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  38. Cindy says

    Thank you Barbara – this was great to hear. In addition to reading and filling the well, I also do the following:
    – keep a journal of my writing projects (this seems to spark ideas)
    – daydream about my projects (sometimes random character traits or a lines of dialogue will just drift to the surface)
    – refer to my vision PowerPoint of the type of writer I want to be, including how I plan to make a difference in the life of my readers (this is a riff on the vision board idea – I like the ppt because you can add a lot more to it and there are so many great pictures on the internet)

    These are just a few ideas – I try to apply as much imagination to my own life as I do in my stories.

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  39. says

    Wow, love it that you do a PowerPoint collage of your vision for the future! I’ve never learned the program, but I’m dazzled by the possibilities.

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  40. says

    I do feel exhausted just trying and hoping for publication, for legitimacy. But I can’t not write, so maybe I just need to change my expectations… but of course, there’s that old insecurity, If I can’t get published, is it worth all the time I’m spending? The short answer is yes. The long answer actually is still yes. So I guess I keep on trucking, and try not to drive off the road. :)

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  41. says

    Great time to read this wonderful post. I’m smack dab in the middle of writing my second novel and it’s moving slow as molasses. Barbara, I loved your suggestions, especially to read. There’s always something in a favorite author’s work that inspires and helps me with mine.

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  42. says

    Oh yes, oh yes, and yes, and yes, and yes. Barbara, reading this felt like a dear friend had gently, ever so gently but firmly, peeled open the edges of the last few years and peered inside.

    For a stretch of years that seemed like but was not forever, life was a trauma conga line, a shock and awe of caregiving, multiple illnesses and deaths in the family, with “friends” pointing out how I “used to be happy” and “used to finish manuscripts” and maybe I didn’t really want this writing thing anymore…when there was nothing I longed and ached for more.

    I can’t say when the burden started to lift, perhaps as I began to once again fill a well long gone dry (okay, your voice class and Girls in the Basement books were big helps) but one of my biggest takeaways from these last few years is: dead people (or those who have decided I am dead to them) no longer get a vote in how I live my life or what I write. Oh, and “go mad with writing” is now my desktop, against a background of cherry blossoms.

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  43. says

    This really resonated with me. I’ve been able to meet
    deadlines on the work for hire that pays the bills – educational
    books, articles, teaching – but I had to take a break from writing
    my own novels. It’s exhaustion made worse by discouragement. Why
    spend so much time writing something that hardly anybody bothers to
    read? Hitting allergy season early didn’t help either. I know I’m
    generally happier when I’m writing a novel, but for now I’m doing a
    lot of reading and trying to sleep/rest more. I’m playing with some
    different ideas. The spark will come back – I just have to be ready
    for. I’ve blogged recently a couple of “writing life” topics that
    are loosely related to this topic: How do you create a support
    system? How do you get your family and friends to take your writing
    seriously?
    http://project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogspot.com/2014/03/chris-eboch-on-surviving-writing-life.html
    Is there value in comparing your path to others? How do you keep
    from being frustrated and discouraged when others seem to be doing
    better?
    http://project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogspot.com/2014/02/chris-eboch-on-surviving-writing-life.html

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  44. says

    And today was one of those days that remind me of the reasons I wanted to write this post. Tons of family upheaval, back and forthing between two cities to tend my mother, and the lure of the writing keeps whispering, “come back!”

    Sorry I could not respond to more of your honest, beautiful responses.

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  45. says

    Barbara, thank you for this most inspiring and practical article! Internal pressure to succeed is my biggest drain and it was good to pinpoint it with your insightful comments. Taking time out to read about practical things like wardrobe planning or share trading takes me out of my rut and gets me charged up to do new things with my characters, which is always fun!

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  46. says

    Thank you for this wise and eloquent post, Barbara. For me, reading good books and doing activities out of my normal routine (lunch with friends, a trip to a museum, etc) helps re-energize and refresh my perspective.

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  47. Elizabeth Foster says

    What a wonderful post. After a tumultuous couple of years where both parents passed away – one unexpectedly within months of the other – I recently went off on my own for eight days, away from all family and obligation. I read, read, read, and walked and relaxed. I came back with such a well of goodwill and inspiration for my writing that I hope to go away again next year. Women, especially, can be subject to so many demands – for me, finding that centre again was what it took to bring the muse back and spur me on to finish my (first) novel.

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  48. says

    Almost cried upon discovering this blog among my emails.
    For the last several months I find myself meandering with the sequel to my debut book. I am deeply frustrated with my lack of motivation, but the more I try to push forward, the more stalled I get. Thanks for this insight. So needed!

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  49. says

    My broken writer’s heart came when I quit writing completely for nine years. I’d been young, and stupid, and taken in by a scam artist posing as an agent–someone the State of NY is still prosecuting. I didn’t write at all between 21 and 30.

    I got the magic back because I had to. I was floundering, psychically, psychologically, emotionally–probably in every way. I needed to be me, and something was missing that made me inherently me. So I took out some writing I did (badly) in a graduate class. I re-wrote it to try to grab myself back from whatever vortex I was sinking in. I re-wrote and re-wrote and got it published. Then, something else from the same class. Same thing. Got it published. (I should send that professor a Thank You email.) I’ve published more short stories since. I’m still working up the courage to finish a novel; after all, that’s what I’d been scammed with.

    If you write first and foremost for yourself, you can’t be scammed.

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