Rust, Writer’s Block, or General Malaise?

I’ve been really struggling with writing lately, and I’m not entirely sure why. That is, it hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere, and I know a number of factors are in play, but I can’t quite pin down how to solve this.

Obviously, a global pandemic hasn’t made life any easier for me, from a creativity perspective. While Brandon might have used the at home time to write another 5 books, I’ve had to worry about any number of things that have taken a lot of my attention to get through. These range from “renovate my kitchen” to “try to make sure everyone who works for me keeps their job” to “help my kids navigate COVID school successfully,” not to mention the strain it’s all taken on me personally. There’s been a lot to handle.

Despite all off that, I was still able to plow forward and finish an entire book that will actually be published, and I’m very proud of that. I was on track for most of the pandemic, writing and revising for all I was worth. But then I finished that book, and I decided to take some time off, figuring it was well-deserved (and it was), but it took me longer to get going again than I’d anticipated. And when I did, I was back in “what should I write” mode.

Figuring that out proved more difficult than I initially assumed it would be. I was well into a revision of a steampunk book that I really enjoyed, but it felt like such a departure from the books I had that were selling, that I decided in the end to set it aside and work on something more horror-oriented. For the next while, I was fleshing out a book that I really liked the concept of. I had an outline ready to go and I was already writing prose, but it just . . . wasn’t working for me. It felt too forced, and I didn’t like it.

So I went back to the drawing board, and I came up with yet another idea. This one, right in line with the historical thrillers I’ve been writing lately. I’ve done a fair bit of research into it, and I’ve got the plot mostly worked out (at least to begin with), but now that it’s time to start diving into the writing, I’m having to really push myself to get through my 1,000 words each day. Typically I can get that done in around 45 minutes. Right now, it’s been more like twice that.

So I’m left wondering why. I don’t think it’s the topic this time, because I genuinely am interested in it. Some of it is definitely because writing the beginning of a book is hard, since I still don’t know the characters all that well, and writing the beginning of a historical novel is even harder, as there’s all sorts of research that needs to be done. Some of it has to be because I’m out of practice. It’s been so long since I’ve written first draft material, and that takes a different skill set than editing and revising. Some it is probably still from dealing with the aftermath of all this pandemic garbage, as well as the rest of everything going on in the world.

That said, even discovering why it’s happening doesn’t really do much for me in terms of fixing it. My approach for the last while has been to just keep barreling forward, hoping that once I get into a real groove, it’ll all start working well again. Something else that I’ve done the past few days is jumped ahead about 1/3 of the way into the book, to a part of the plot that I’m much more confident about. That’s helped a fair bit. It can be hard to get a really good beginning of a book. You’ve got to introduce characters, conflict, and setting, all while trying to keep things as riveting as possible. I’m hoping once I’m on firmer footing, the beginning will be a smoother process.

Anyway. It’s helped to try and think this through on paper some. When I write it down like this, it doesn’t seem nearly as dire. I’ve probably lost about two months of writing, which isn’t nothing. (We’re talking around 50,000 words, so I’d be about halfway done with the book by now.) But the book isn’t sold, so it’s not on deadline, and the good news is that I think the topic’s going to work well. There are plenty (plenty) of books I’ve written that haven’t gone anywhere, so it’s not like I’ve lost that much in the grand scheme of things.

But if you’re also going through some rough times, take this as a reminder that many of us are, and that’s okay.

Thanks for reading.

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