How I Broke Out Of A Frustrating Six-Month Writing Slump (And You Can Too)

Jim Woods by Bruce Mars

You sit down, and the words simply don’t want to come out. 

You try and try and try but no matter what, the creativity simply isn’t flowing. 

Every word is like running in the deep mud.

Some might even call it “writer’s block.” 

Thankfully, there is some good news.

You absolutely can break out of your writing slump. 

Here’s how I did it. 

Step 1) Admit You’re Stuck. 

I’m serious, this is possibly the hardest step. If you’re at all like me, you’re a stubborn writer. You don’t want to give up. You don’t want to give fear or resistance a hint of satisfaction, so you keep grinding and pushing and trying. But the truth is, you know you’re stuck. If you’re in this place right now, take a deep breath. It’s okay. You’re gonna figure it out. 

Step 2) Take Inventory.

What do I mean by that? It’s time for a little personal inventory. That starts by taking a good hard look at your life by asking some tough questions.

  • Are your expectations not in alignment with reality? 
  • Are you trying to do something completely new (like write your first novel)?
  • Do you need to stop doing a few things or say no to a few people to give yourself more time to write? 
  • Do you have a plan or methodology that you are using or are you making it up as you go? 
  • Is fear or resistance part of the problem? (It often is and often appears in the form of procrastination.) 

Okay, did you answer the questions that applied to your situation? Good. You likely have some clarity. 

But Wait… There’s More. 

Those questions above in step 2 covered most of the mental stuff. 

There is also the physical side of writing that is really easy to overlook. 

Yeah, you heard right. This is the part where I remind you about the importance of physical health when it comes to writing. 

Let me tell you a quick story. There once was a writer named Tim. (Not Jim. Clearly, it’s not me.) 

Tim would eat junk food at night and stay up too late watching Netflix every night. 

Then Tim would not write the next day because he would feel lousy and thought he did not have enough energy to write. So he would then continue living life and then when the next evening came, Jim…err…Tim would keep watching Netflix and eating junk food. 

Eventually, Tim got more and more frustrated. And he gained weight. And he felt worse and worse and even got depressed about how everything was not going well.

Not a pretty picture, is it? So with that charming story in mind, let’s go to the next step. 

Step 3) Take Care Of Yourself.

It is important to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health. You already know this — but there is a difference between head knowledge and taking action. 

If you know you’ve got a problem — with either form of your health or even both — I recommend getting out a piece of paper and just jotting down your thoughts right now. I’m serious. Rant. Vent. Brainstorm. Whatever comes to mind. Try to figure out what is stopping you from taking action. Move that pen on the paper and just be honest with yourself. 

Step 4) Make One Good Decision.

Sounds so simple, right? Well, just because it’s simple, that doesn’t make it easy. 

For me, the one good decision was to try doing Morning Pages (which look very similar to what I had you do above in step 3). I’ve journaled before using my phone, but never really got anything out of it. It felt like a chore and I never enjoyed it. So I stopped doing it.

Did you catch that? I said, “I never got anything out of it.” This is really important. 

You’re not going to keep doing something that is not giving you any results or good feelings or rewards or anything at all.

I like the feel of writing on actual paper. Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way who popularized Morning Pages, recommends you write longhand everyday for three whole pages. So I tried it out. And immediately felt a lot better. Morning Pages is a lot like therapy. When I started doing this activity, I was full of fear and negativity and had a lot of junk in my mind. I had to get all of the negative thoughts and emotions out of my head. I had to be completely honest with myself.

I got so much out of this practice that I’ve been doing Morning Pages ever since. I use yellow legal pads and black markers. Even going to the store to purchase those items is really a way of committing to myself that I will keep writing. That I will continue to grow and keep filling up the page. Morning Pages are a way for me to be more mentally healthy. 

It’s really easy to overlook the mental side of writing because fear likes to sneak into the mind. 

Before you know it, you’re procrastinating and found ways to not create. When you’re not thinking clearly or feeling well, Netflix and infinite other distractions are only a couple of taps away. Distractions that feels good and keep us entertained. 

Over time, if you keep showing up, your good decisions will become habits — especially when you see some form of result. 

Once you are making a good choice for your mental health and for your physical health, consider tying the two events together. So maybe you’re journaling or doing Morning Pages before (or after) you work out. I decided to tie my Morning Pages to my writing. 

First, I do my Morning Pages, and then I write my novel. Step one then step two. This doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time to develop. But when you pay attention, you’ll start to see the decisions that you make that reinforce your healthy habits. 

Ever heard the expression discipline begets discipline? I can confirm it’s true. When you start to get disciplined in one area of your life, you’ll find that it is easier to disciplined in other areas. 

So the real question at this point is this: which area do you want to work on first — your mental health or your physical health? 

I recommend picking whichever area has the most amount of support in your life. If you’re already working out, then lean on that habit and consider writing at the gym.

Be honest and look at your pattern. That's where you'll be able to figure out how to solve the problem.

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Akron, OH

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