Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Importance of Persevering When You Feel Like You’ve Lost Your Creative Spark

In September, after 13 months of on-again/off-again writing, I finally finished writing my 9th novel. There were times when I thought I’d never finish. I was distracted, unmotivated, discouraged, overwhelmed, and about a million other things. Besides dealing with outside factors beyond my control, I was also dealing with inside forces beyond my control: depression and anxiety. As of next month, it’ll be two years since I published something new. Two years. Many authors have periods when they’re not producing new work, but I never thought I'd be one of them.

The last two years have been extremely difficult. Don’t even get me started on the shit show that was 2016. Circumstances in my life prevented me from writing as much as I’d like, and once I got out of the writing groove, I found it nearly impossible to get back into it. After publishing my last novel, Something in the Air, I worked on a contemporary YA I started and abandoned in 2012 for NaNoWriMo, started a contemporary romance, plus I wrote a Christmas novella, which is currently in revisions and will be released in November. So I was still writing, I just wasn’t getting very far or sticking with anything other than my holiday story.

During this time, I watched other authors publish book after book after book. Some of them seemed to have a new book out every month or every other month while I struggled to get a few thousand words written. I’ve learned not to concern myself too much with what others are doing since everyone’s journey is different, but it was hard watching others succeed and forge ahead when I felt stuck. Every month I would tell myself ‘This is the month I’ll complete my WIP and work out a publishing schedule. This is the month I’ll get my act together and stop letting outside factors distract me from the work I love’. And yet here we are in October and I just finished the first draft of my book two weeks ago.

Throughout most of the summer, I was certain I’d have the book done in time to publish in October or November. One day, I was talking through my plans with my mum (my best friend, my sanity, my alpha reader, a goddess among mortals) and it hit me that even if I could finish writing quickly, an autumn publication wasn’t feasible. After not publishing for so long, I want to do it right: generate some buzz around the book, get pre-release reviews, and offer a freebie for newsletter subscribers. When I realized I wouldn’t have it ready by fall and probably not even in 2017, I wanted to break down and cry.

I’ve never been a ‘popular’ author with a huge fan base, but I’m sure a lot of people have forgotten me and many more don’t have a clue who I am. A lack of time to write has left even less time for promotion, and my book sales are nowhere near what they could or should be. Add to that what I said before about watching some of my indie friends publish new books at a steady rate, and I ended up having a bit of a pity party for myself.

Luckily it didn’t last long and I reminded myself this isn’t a competition or a race, and everyone works at a difference pace. I also reminded myself many of the circumstances that have prevented me from writing and slowed me down were unavoidable. The fact it took me so long to write my book doesn’t make my way wrong or ‘less than’. I won’t lie, I’m still disappointed and I hate the fact it’ll be over two years by the time I finally publish something new. But I’m also proud of myself for not letting that disappointment - or my depression and anxiety, paired with my lack of motivation - stop me from writing entirely. I’m proud of myself for working when I could, digging deep into my waning creative well, and not letting self-doubt win. I knew if I let that ugly little voice in my head win, I’d never be able to get out of bed in the morning, let alone finish another story ever again.

I wish I could say the hard part is over now, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Since it took me so long to write the book, it’s quite disjointed, the timeline is all wrong, and there are some inconsistencies throughout. Rather than going back and fixing those things as I wrote, I made notes and forged ahead, knowing I could fix those things in revisions. A lot of writers hate revisions, but I love them; for me, that’s when the story truly develops, where you can flesh out characters and scenes, cut things that aren’t necessary, and get to the real heart of the story. The revisions on this book will be time-consuming, and I’m sure there’ll be points when I’m frustrated, but I’m just grateful I finally have a story to revise, and I’m ready for the work.

Over the past two years, there have been many times I’ve struggled to stay optimistic. But here’s the thing: Sometimes life gets in the way. Depression, anxiety, and other mental and physical ailments get in the way. Sometimes your creativity is lacking. Sometimes you let self-doubt win. There are a million reasons to do or not do something, and as any creative person knows, we’re often our own worst enemies and harshest critics. So if you’re struggling with your writing (or anything else for that matter), please know you’re not alone. The key is not letting the bad days (or weeks or months or even years) win. Don’t let self-doubt win. If you’re not feeling creative, find other things to stoke your imagination. Work at your own pace and don’t worry about what other people are doing. Take every win as a victory, whether it’s 50 words, 500 words, or 5000 words. Words become sentences become paragraphs become books. Progress is progress, even when it feels like pulling teeth. As hard as it is sometimes, I promise it’s worth it.


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  1. 2016 was a horrible year for a lot of us. 2017 isn't panning out so great for me either. Thanks for your kinds words and advice. You're absolutely awesome to have managed what you did.

    1. Thank you so much, Jenny. I don't think I know a single person who had a good year in 2016, honestly. It seemed to be this weird universal thing. 2017 has only been marginally better in many ways. I hope it improves for you in these last few months of the year and that next year we can say it's finally a good year! <3

  2. Life can certainly butt in and jam a wrench in your writing plans. I've definitely had my share of downs and know how you feel about publishing. I've had the same problem where it was every 2 years I finally managed to get a book published. It wasn't always my fault and I had to accept that.

    1. It's definitely something you have to accept, especially when the delays are caused by outside factors, health issues, etc. I'm so excited you've got a new book coming soon, though!

  3. I don't have depression, but for the past three years I've been dealing with the effects of early onset osteoarthritis on my cerebral palsy and that has definitely had its moments of struggle. I finished my second draft of Sealer's Promise in what, 2012? And I still don't have anything out. Life happens. I'm finally almost done the first book in a series that I am absolutely in love with, and I'm planning to write its sequel for NaNoWriMo. With any luck, I will *finally* publish next year--though it won't be the book I thought would be first. Sealer's Promise is actually the third book in the Sealer Saga, and right now it's still lying on the operating table half revised. After my Dad's stroke last year, I'm not ready to write about the First Family of the Underworld. Yet. But I am still writing--about Nagas, Merfolk, Elves and humans right now--and that's what truly matters. :) I wish you the best of luck getting your Christmas novella ready. As always, if you need any help let me know. Have a great day!


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