View Full Version : Writing Through Fatigue, Frustration, Etc.

05-15-2009, 07:03 AM
"Occasionally a date with a face blank as a sheet of paper asks you whether writers often become discouraged. Say that sometimes they do and sometimes they do. Say it's a lot like having polio."

--Lorrie Moore, "How to Be a Writer"

My original thread title was more clever and had zombies in it. But they're gone now.

Anyway, I'm at this point where my brain is rotten but I feel this drive to keep on writing even though I know I'm not doing any good. That sounds like pure self-deprecation and ordinarily I'd say to persist and see what comes out of it, but this is fatigued, depressed rot, and my depressed internal monologue refuses to be satisfied with anything I write anyway.

There are many causes for feeling like this and one of them is that frustration I'm sure we all get periodically that all of our hard work has only gotten us wherever we are.

So, I'm in the trenches right now, but I want to keep fighting. I don't know how to write through this. I've been trying to use it and write stories whose tone is informed by my own whatever. I've been doing writerly things like retyping favorite chapters of novels by other people, rereading things I like and figuring out why I like certain parts.

But something is still holding me back, which would be ok if I knew better how to leverage that so I could write through it.

What do you do?

05-15-2009, 07:11 AM

I goof off for a few days, but I always crave something I like when I've been away from it for a while. So that might not help if you aren't like that.

Just read a lot for a bit?

I'm probably no help, but hugs. And I'm sure it sounds better than you think. I find that the burnout is usually more mood than a measure of quality.

05-15-2009, 07:14 AM
Love the quote. I've had polio more than a few times... this morning included.

Basically I'd suggest stepping away from your computer for a while. Doesn't have to be long - take a walk around the park, do the dishes, read a book. Shake it all out, think of something else. Then come back (hopefully refreshed) and allow yourself to write crap. The beauty of first drafts (or second, third, whatever) is that you can always fix them later.

Luckily, I got over this morning's discouragement and wrote about 1000 words this evening (and the night's still young). Discouragement won't last forever. But while it does, branch out, chill out, and don't kill yourself over it!

Clair Dickson
05-15-2009, 07:16 AM
I keep writing. Sometimes it's dreck. But, increasingly, I'll write some gems and get some GREAT ideas for later and the thrill, the joy comes back.

Sometimes, if I have no interest in stringing words together, I brain storm. I think through the next couple plot events, character motivations, and so on.

I also watch TV or some two-star movies. Enough suckiness will send me back to writing because I can write better than *that*!

And even if writing isn't always enjoyable, there's still nothing quite like the euphoria of having written. So put the enticing treat of your choice on the end of that stick and write one!

05-15-2009, 07:19 AM
I take a break if I'm feeling fatigued. Everyone has limits.

05-15-2009, 07:22 AM
Thanks. I'm in the state where I'm trying to take breaks but it's still all I can think about. But if I can learn how to chill out this time, that sounds like a good plan.

William Haskins
05-15-2009, 07:30 AM
I don't know how to write through this. I've been trying to use it and write stories whose tone is informed by my own whatever.

this may be the crux of your issue.

when we are immersed in projects that have a piece of us deeply entrenched in them, it's oppressive at times. you're writing through the prism of the person you are 24 hours a day and, as such, you're in a prison of sorts.

sometimes it's helpful to put the reflection aside and step out of our comfort (or, all too often, discomfort) zone and write something very different—even if it's a piece of flash fiction.

giving yourself permission to write something completely out of your element provides a breath of fresh air and sometimes some new insights.

the key is to not stop writing.

05-15-2009, 07:40 AM
Oh, I originally thought this thread was entitled, "Writing through Fatigue, Starvation, Etc."

I'm a poor (as in "broke") writer with threadbare clothes, eating bread from charity donations and driving a beater car that sounds like a tank.

That motivates me to write, actually. :D So if you find the right motivation, you might get past your writer's block, but I hope you don't have to get to where I am to find it.;)

05-15-2009, 09:56 AM
Sounds like you need to refill the well, so to speak. Go to a museum, see some movies, read a few good books, spend time with friends, go to a concert, etc. Find something that inspires you and DO it. That is the only thing that helps me when I hit the point where I'm so frustrated I'd rather stab my eyeballs than write.

05-15-2009, 10:16 AM
I usually swap up my environment and method. I usually write in my office, lights on, window open, on my computer. If I'm having trouble, I might swap over to writing on paper instead. Or, I might draw the blackout curtains, close the door, turn off the lights, turn on my small lamp and write. The limited light cancels out surrounding distractions (for me, anyway).

If I've spent more than an hour like this with no luck, I go and do something else for a day or two. Rinse and repeat.

Wayne K
05-15-2009, 10:59 AM
I think fatigue is the one time you should stop writing. If your body is telling you to sleep then do as it wishes. The whole idea that you're going to wake up and the inspiration will be gone is a myth IMO.

05-15-2009, 04:18 PM
The very first thing to do (in my opinion, of course) is take an introspective inventory of your life in general, not just of writing. Is this depression centered only on your writing, or is it something larger that is taking hold of your life and now invading your writing? This is critical because writing will not solve life's problems, and the invasion of life's problems into one's writing mind set requires work outside of writing time. If this is a larger problem, stepping away from writing to work on YOU may be the way to go.

If this is writing specific, william's advice to step into a different writing box might be a good thing, as would just stepping away from the current project for a while. But even in this situation, a little introspection could help. Are you too close to your writing project--expecting too much from it? If we let a project get too large in our minds, it will be near impossible for it to live up to that size when it is turned into black letters on a white screen, particularly if we are in the learning stages of the writing craft. If you shift your attitude from writing the next great classic to just writing a damn good story, it could help take some of the tension out of writing. The best analogy comes from my Yoga classes (I'm a relative newbie to it). I find several stretches, bends, and twists frustratingly difficult. My body just doesn't want to do those things. And, it's hard. The reason it's so hard--I try to power into the stretches with muscular effort (testosterone at its finest). Once it was pointed out that this was not a he-man activity, and it was best to relax those muscles, to relax into the poses, I found my body would go well beyond what it did under all that tension. When we run into a difficult activity that is more mental than physical, the same technique could well be the way to get through it. Not power into it, but relax into it. It could be as simple as not looking at the whole work, at the overall ending, but just focusing on the immediate scene. Put all of that other stuff out of the mind and just concentrate on that one scene. It could also involve letting loose of all of the "needs" of writing (need to get this done fast, need to make some money from this, need to justify to others my time involvement, need to be a good writer), and just tone it all down to a concentration on the story. Finally, relaxing into writing may be as simple as coming to the word processor prepared to write. If you are expecting the story to flow from your fingertips as you write, and it isn't, frustration isn't going to be far behind. Coming to the computer prepared to write is not suggesting full-on outlining. But with that next scene, think it through before a finger touches a key. Think how the scene should be organized to best support the overall story arc and to move that story along. Think about who is going to be in that scene and what they are going to be doing in that scene. You don't have to work out all of the details, but coming to the computer prepared to write could well save time, energy, and a whole bunch of tension from what-happens-next frustration.

Overall, though, this is an individual thing, so all of our advice in these posts may not amount to squat with your specific situation. But give some of these suggestions a try. Also, though, do look inward to see if there are larger issues that are impacting your writing attitude. If there are some, work on them first and let the writing follow.