Updated: May 5
Writing can be tough and being an author can be stressful.
Writing involves lots of time spent alone and if you’re working to a tight deadline, it can be challenging. Meanwhile, you’re constantly seeing book deals, agent signings, and news about awards and bestsellers, being broadcast on social media. It's easy to feel isolated and left behind. On top of that, you can be writing about all sorts, from murder to heartbreak, and even though as authors we're not exactly down the mines, if you're fully invested in your scenes, writing can prove emotionally draining.
So what happens when it gets too much?
I experienced this recently. I got to the point that I couldn’t open my laptop without a sense of dread overwhelming me. I started panicking and even began wondering if I’m cut out for the writer's life, but ultimately, I found my way back to writing (as I always do!) and got my mojo back.
Here are five things that helped me.
I have a thing about being vulnerable. Sometimes it makes my anxiety worse, so I won’t share anything too ‘real’ on social media. However, one of the things that often contributes to me getting down is witnessing everyone else going from strength-to-strength while I’m feeling stuck. I’m not saying others shouldn’t celebrate their achievements – absolutely not – but I do think it would help all of us if we also aired some of the struggles too and provided a bit more balance, sharing different parts of the author experience, from the highs to the lows. It would probably make us all feel a bit less pressured and alone.
Anyway, I posted on Facebook about how I'd been feeling and so many people responded sharing their struggles, encouraging me, making suggestions and just wishing me well. It helped so much. Writing how I felt got it out of my system and the support I received helped me turn a corner. The next day, I felt motivated again and made a four-month work plan! Being vulnerable was worth it!
Find somewhere new to work
A change of scenery can be really invigorating. Recently, due to deadline pressures, I’ve been working a lot from home. I do tend to get more done from home so when I’m under pressure, it does appeal, and yet, it also gets me down. It gets samey and dull. It’s isolating. I’m now writing more in cafes and even though some of the music annoys me (currently in a café where they’re playing Green Day), having somewhere new to write can inject a bit of energy into the process.
Write in a notebook
When I was feeling uninspired, I simply couldn’t face my laptop. Every time I’d open it, I’d want to close it immediately. My mind would go blank at the sight of Word in front of me. Eventually, I got a notebook and started jotting ideas down and I felt so much more inspired and relaxed. I also found that my attention was wavering less as I wasn’t clicking onto Twitter or my emails. I’m going to start using notebooks a lot more now. I think they’re especially useful for getting into a more reflective state when plotting.
Part of the anxiety I sometimes experience around being an author relates to feeling I lack control over my future. Sometimes I feel that my life and prospects are at the mercy of publishers and agents wanting to take a punt on me and it can worry me. What if they don’t rate me and my books? What if I can’t get ahead? What if I struggle?
These concerns can be stressful. Ultimately the decisions of agents and publishers are out of our hands and I can find that daunting. However, as authors, we’re immensely privileged to be living in 2020 with self-publishing platforms like Amazon at our fingertips. A hundred years ago, writers really would have found it impossible to get their work out there if a publisher didn’t take a punt on them. I find that reminding myself that I can always self-publish really comforts me. So many authors are making a killing from self-publishing and even though it may involve a lot more marketing and effort than being traditionally published, it’s still an option and it can still lead to sales and success. Reminding myself that self-publishing is there gives me a sense of hope when things feel tough.
Have a cover designed
I’ve been working on a book recently that’s been a bit of a struggle (a thriller). I've been feeling a bit down about it and wanted to do something to reinforce my original vision for the book and get my passion for it back. I decided I’d get a cover designed, partly for back-up if I decide to self-publish, but also just to have the cover there as a resource for when my motivation or vision starts to flag. My cover is incredible and when I look at it, my dream feels alive again. It cost me £200 and that may seem like quite a lot to spend on something to boost your mood, but I have no regrets. I've set my cover as my screensaver and whenever I see it, I feel focused and determined.
What do you think of my tips? How do you get your writing mojo back?