Writing Highs and Lows

Katherine Longshore 6 Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I love our brainstorming sessions for choosing blog themes.  One, we conducted on a drive up into Rocky Mountain National Park while we were on a retreat together.  Bret sat in the back with his iPad and jotted down every single idea, worked them up into a list, and off we went.  The next one, we did sometime in January, I think, and it was all through e-mail, taking suggestions from readers, throwing out ideas we wanted to work with.  And again, Bret worked it all up into a list that relates to holidays, book launches, and personal preference.

But there was no way he could have known that this week's theme would follow a writing low for me that rivaled one I had last year, and wrote about in my post called "The Horror."

I had hoped never again to face something so traumatic.  It felt like...depression.  But one through which I managed everyday functions - getting out of bed, bathing, getting the kids to school.  I just couldn't write.

I had hoped that last year's event was a symptom of Book 2 - of the dreaded Sophomore slump.  But I'm struggling to find my way with Book 3.

So I did what I do best.  I shut down.  Stopped writing.  And cried.  I didn't even write a blog post one week, and Bret - my hero, who should really wear a cape - cobbled something together.  I couldn't even respond to comments.

For me, that is a writing low.

So what happened?  I  can hear your pulse race.  See you leaning forward, toward the screen.  What do I do if this happens to me?

Honestly?  I'm not entirely sure.  I'm not at rock bottom, but I'm still in a low.  I'm still struggling to squeeze out three hundred words in a three-hour time period.  I don't know where this book is going.  I'm barely aware of what it's about.   It's hard.

I think about what Libba Bray said in her awesome post, "The Ever-Popular I Suck Playlist" last year.  She said that when this happens to her, it means something is about to break through.  I don't think I've written enough books to believe that entirely yet, but it gives me hope.  Last year's event just went into the "I hope this never happens again" file.  Not in the "this is what I need to do when this happens" file.

I did learn one of writing's amazing lessons through this experience, though.

I can absolutely, 100% trust my friends.

They give me the hard truths, like Bret, who said, "This happened last year, too.  Maybe this is just part of your process." And this year, I will learn from that, so I'm better prepared if and when it happens again.

They give me encouragement, like V, who said, "It's a slump.  It won't last forever.  Maybe write something completely different." And Donna, who said, "Journal through it.  Do writing prompts and characters studies." So I have - and though I'm still unsure of what the quality is, at least I'm writing, and that's an amazing step forward.

They give me distraction and belief in flying high, like Donna, who went to BEA and had a week of amazingness.  Because writing highs are possible, and even if I can't see one ahead of me now, I can enjoy someone else's in the meantime.

They give me tools, like Talia, who heard about The War of Art by Steven Pressfield on the Verla Kay boards and made sure I got a copy to read.  I'm working my way through it, and learning about the blocks that I put in my own way (Procrastination, anyone?  Fear of failure?  Fear of success?) and how to tackle them.

I joke that the Muses staged an intervention for me.  It's not an entirely accurate term, but it's close.  They encouraged me not to seek help, but to help myself.  They reminded me that I have people I can count on - people who know and understand what I'm up against.  And every day, they offered the best of themselves.

That, my friends is a writing high.


Huzzah for superhero writing groups!

And huzzah for the belief that you WILL get through it. Because you will.

If you ever need a break to talk in person, you know where to find me. But only AFTER you've slogged through those 300 words. *cracks whip*

Hang in there, Katy! I'd send good writing karma your way today if I weren't kind of in the same boat. So, I guess I'm sending you-are-not-alone karma. - Stasia (aka, still trying to write synopsis)

Thank you, Beth! Does "Chapter Break" count as two words? If so, only 298 to go today....

And Stasia, it's sounding more and more like you need to write the whole book. You hang in there, too.

Katherine, seriously it wasn't an intervention...it was a SURPRISE PEP RALLY. Totally, different.

But, seriously: You. Can. Do. This.

Great post (and it has nothing to do with you calling me a hero).

What would we do without our writing friends? I believe we have at least one good one in common, Kjersten Hayes. Hang in there! BTW, I am giddy with excitement to read GILT. ^_^

You ARE my hero, Bret.

And Angelina, I didn't know you know Kjersten! She's the person who encouraged me to write GILT when my middle grade novel fell through. Best advice I ever got. So glad you're looking forward to reading it!

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