So you’re writing your book and everything’s just humming along. Life is great! Your book is going to be publishing ready before the year’s out! You’ve been getting great feedback from beta readers! You’re going to be a best selling author in no time!
Suddenly, though, things start grinding to a halt. Your word count goal is wheezing at a staggeringly low number. You can’t solve that plothole no matter how hard you try. It’s been a long time since you’ve seen your page count go up. It seems that no matter what you do, or how badly you want to, you can’t get a moment to sit down and open your laptop. It’s starting to feel like the world is out to get you and your book and you’re just sort of along for the ride.
You’ve completely lost your momentum.
In my mind, losing your momentum as a writer is actually completely different from writer’s block. If anything writer’s block is a symptom of this much bigger problem, a participant in a larger issue at stake. If writer’s block is a cold, then losing your writer momentum is getting the stomach flu. It’s unpleasant, absolutely no fun, and it’s going to happen to you. Chances are it will happen more than a few times.
So what does losing your momentum as a writer look like? Well, it actually looks like me right now. It just happens that life for the last couple of months has been absolutely crazy. Lots of stuff outside of my control that’s demanded my attention. It’s not horrible, just time-consuming. Not long ago I wrote about protecting your writing time, but this has been one of those seasons that’s overpowered even that. I’ve had very little time to write, and when I do I feel so off my rhythm that it takes a lot of my precious writing time just to get started.
I don’t say that to have a pity party, but more to be honest with a more unpleasant part of the writing process. Sometimes it’s not just writer’s block, it’s full-blown, call in sick, don’t get out of bed writer flu. When we have writer’s block, we can’t motivate ourselves to sit down at our laptops and produce words. With writer’s flu, you are constantly blocked from getting to write by circumstances and when you do get to write you still can’t get anything to happen. Fun stuff, right?
So how do you beat this? What’s the doctor’s orders for writer flu? As it turns out, it’s a simple little prescription called endurance. It’s as easy and as complicated as that. Just endure it. Practically, though, what does endurance look like for a writer? In my experience, there are a few things I need to be to get myself through the writer’s flu.
1. Be Sticky
I genuinely tried to think of a better word to describe this first step but this one stuck (hahaha). Obviously, I don’t mean go full Winnie-the-Pooh and get your head stuck in a honeypot. Being a sticky writer means holding on a little tighter to the book you’re writing while you have writer’s flu.
Even if life doesn’t give you enough time to sit down and have dedicated writing time, there are still plenty of other things you can be doing to improve your writing skills and push you one step closer to being the author you’ve always wanted to be.
You can download a word processing app on your phone and write in the five-minute spaces of time you find instead of trying to find a moment when you can sit down at your desk and crack open your laptop. You can reread the books that got you into writing in the first place and analyze the technique of the author. You can pick up a book on an area you need some more research on and get studying. Trust me, there are lots of little options here that add up to big writer success.
One of my favorite ways to be sticky during the writer flu is editing. Editing for grammar and clarity is a straightforward task that doesn’t require me to get in my creative headspace. I can do it during those days when I only have a few minutes to spare for my writing life but want to keep moving forward. By editing the work I have so far, I still find ways to move forward as a writer and stay engaged with my career.
Like anyone sick in bed with the flu, you have to have the patience to know this will get better and you’ll be back at it in due time. If you rush the recovery process, you’re just going to make yourself worse. That’s not going to get you back to your usual writer self any quicker. So be patient. Wait it out. Don’t let the writer flu get you so down that you can’t find any joy in your craft.
And I know, I get it. It’s really hard to be out of commission, but there is still good that can come out of this time. After all, everyone needs a break every now and then. This might just be the circumstances in your life demanding you get that break you’re in need of. You’d be surprised what a fresh perspective you might have on your book when you come back to it when you’re all healed up from your flu. Be patient. This is not the end of you as a writer.
While you’re laid up in your cozy little writer bed, watching Netflix and blowing your nose, remember all the things you love about writing your book and let that make you hungry to get back into it.
Reread the books that got you into writing in the first place and lean into how hard you’re going to work when you’re back in the saddle. Daydream new subplots, twists, or even a new ending. Listen to music and brainstorm for as long as you can until reality demands you pay attention to it. Shore up your book in your imagination until it’s just as eager to go as you are. That way, the moment you’re cleared to write again, you can come back to it with a vengeance and start making up for the lost time.
The most important thing to remember in all of this is getting the writer flu doesn’t say something terrible about you as a creative mind.
A set back in writing your book does not mean you are a failure.
If anything, getting the writer flu is a good sign! It means you’re working and trying something big enough that life can bump into it. So many people don’t rock the boat they never have to worry about their life getting derailed. But not you! You’re trying something and going big. That’s fantastic! So get your rest, listen to your doctor, and come back to your craft stronger than ever. I promise your book will still be there waiting for you.
Let’s find some joy,