Hello Lovelies and welcome back to the blog.
I recently pulled myself out of a writing slump. This week, I’m going to be talking about my writing projects, my mental health, and give you an update on what’s happening. This is going to be a long, chatty blog post, so if you’re not into that, no worries, feel free to skip this week’s blog.
You may have noticed in both my last quarterly update and my last goals post that I haven’t really had many goals to speak of. This is very typical of my productivity patterns over the last several years as I’ve passively observed myself over projects, months, and years. My productivity is extremely seasonal. I am highly productive at the beginning and end of a set period of time, and have huge slumps in the middle of the time period.
In terms of productivity trend lines, I am usually at my lowest state during midsummer, and this varies for a number of reasons.
- My day job, which is actually paying my bills and keeping a roof over my head, gets very busy and my energy levels for other things, even things that I love and enjoy, tend to dip.
- Burnout. Can I just call myself out and say that I am so highly motivated at the beginning of anything that I work my tail off and burn myself out easily because I can’t seem to understand pacing myself through anything at all? That plate of chips and salsa that the restaurant gave me looks awesome when I first sit down and order my meal, but somehow I always end up finishing it before they even get my meal out, and just who allowed me to eat all that salt and those carbs!?
- It’s just who I am. It’s how I’m built. My productivity goes in waves, as I suspect all of us have seasons where we are more or less productive. My seasons I can pretty well count on with a fair amount of predictability though. I love the fall and winter months. Things slow down at my day job. I start to see the weather that I love come back. I am generally less stressed, and am able to take more breaks for myself and spend more time with family and friends. And that matters, right? That matters so much.
I was having a good year. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a great year, but in terms of word counts, I am on track to meet or exceed my word counts from last year. I am doing a better job at tracking my word counts more regularly instead of going back a few times a year and trying to figure out how much I was writing and when based on what my NaNoWriMo website words and blog post dates said.
I had a project that I completed and was querying, and I started on another project that I had been diligently trying to complete when my productivity came to a screeching halt in the middle of the summer.
There were other things that came into play that ground my productivity to a halt, and I’ll talk about the larger scope of that here.
- I went to a conference that changed everything. I talked about this in a previous post, but I went to a conference this year and got the chance to pitch my angels and demons novel, Utopian Melody, to a number of people including agents and a publisher.
I also got the chance to workshop the first chapter with people writing in my genre. Unlike my small town back home, these people knew the genre conventions and were invaluable to the way I was seeing the first chapter.
The publisher specifically gave me incredibly useful feedback and showed me how, as it was, the book I had been querying and sending out was basically unpublishable, but with a few relatively minor tweaks, it could be made much more approachable for a larger audience.
- Coming home from the conference I was lost. The publisher’s feedback was 100% on point. The changes he suggested were, for the most part, easy to make.
But after talking with the writing group, and just experiencing a convention that was made for writers, I came home bursting with new ideas and possibilities. I was able to better clarify something that I had always been playing around with in my own headcanon but which I had never shaped until I had to express to so many people in such a short time just what I was writing about. I had multiple stories that all fell under a post-apocalyptic Urban Fantasy umbrella and which, in my mind, pretty well existed in the same world.
It makes sense. They all come from my head so they all sort of exist in the same world in that case. But in a more practical manner, the Faeries were living peacefully with the Shifters (Werewolves, etc) that lived in America until the Vampires came and then the Vampire King did something super not cool to the Queen of one of the Faerie realms and she’s been trying to get back at him ever since. That was something that had always existed on the back end of my mind. And there were already Fae and Weres in my Vamp novels from the very first draft so they were already all connected, even if I hadn’t made a point to connect them.
Then the final straw came when I realized that my angels and demons novels could also fall under this worldbuilding umbrella too. This realization during the conference completely broke my brain. It was so huge that I felt like I couldn’t look directly at it. I couldn’t hold it all in my mind at the same time.
Of course I could make the minor changes and work on all the things that were suggested, and send it back out for queries. But if I wanted this to be part of the worldbuilding umbrella books–and to me, once I saw that it was I could no longer unsee it or back out of the idea–I couldn’t just make the minor changes and move on.
- The thing I was working on at the time when my brain broke was the first Vampire book in the Written in Blood series. I had been planning three books which I’d loosely outlined, but because they were under this worldbuilding umbrella with at least eight other planned or possibly drafted books, I couldn’t write them. I had so much on the back end that I no longer confidently knew. I had to figure out the back end before I could even write any of these novels or do rewrites and send Utopian Melody back out with changes.
Needless to say, I was stuck. And not just stuck. Lovelies, I was super stuck. For months. I tried so hard to figure it out because this is the thing that I want to do. I have a ton of Urban Fantasy novels that I want to eventually write. Just thinking about this whole worldbuilding thing has even sparked new ideas for novels that might never have been realized if I hadn’t linked them all in my mind.
I am very A-type. I like making checklists and… checking things off of them. This is one of the main reasons I make quarterly goals and check in with them quarterly instead of just making yearly goals. I like to know and see that I am actually accomplishing things in my life. While I show you an author-specific Trello board every quarter, my main Trello board that I work off of is massive and you might die if you saw all the tasks on it. Fair warning, but I’m displaying it below with some sensitive tasks blurred out:
[INSERT Main Trello Board with some tasks blurred out]
Here’s what I’ve been doing to get myself unstuck.
- Collecting all my worldbuilding projects and looking at each node separately in small chunks. Trying to figure out what is and what isn’t part of this worldbuilding project, and trying to establish both timelines and how all the races are connected on the back end, one by one, starting with the angels and demons project which I know the most about and have been working the longest with.
- Making a decision. Do I put the worldbuilding on the back burner and work on it as much as I can, or do I try to grind through it? Sometimes the barrier that people believe exists isn’t really there. Is this the case or is it an actual barrier (like I’m actually not capable of writing at this level yet)?
Once I made a decision, I tried not to evaluate whether the decision was right or wrong. Making a decision keeps me moving forward. Not making a decision keeps me stuck. If at some point I think it was the wrong choice, the other option is still there to go back to. They are all my writing projects.
- My ultimate decision was to work on a fringe project. This is a project that could be a worldbuilding project if I don’t step on my established headcanon but wasn’t originally intended to be part of the project. It doesn’t feel like I’m giving up on the worldbuilding project entirely. It’s only one book (okay I’ve said that before, I know, but this time for sure)!
But I’m hoping that by working on this fringe project. some of the worldbuilding will clarify in my mind. This should happen either way, regardless of if this project I’m working on eventually becomes a worldbuilding project or if this thing breaks off definitively and becomes its own thing. I should have a better working knowledge no matter the outcome.
Now that I’m unstuck, I can hopefully end this year a lot stronger than it began. Even if that doesn’t happen, I won’t let my inner dialogue convince me that getting stuck for so long is an incredible failure and I should give up on my dreams. My dreams are worth trying for. And Lovelies, yours are too.
- What are your burnout warning signs?
- What gets you out of burnout if it occurs?
- What can you do to keep yourself from reaching burnout if you see the warning signs early enough?
- What does your inner dialogue sound like when you face failure, and how can you reframe it in a more positive tone?
- What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?