I have a confession to make.
I hadn't written anything of substance for months. MONTHS.
The occasional idea percolated. My ability to throw ideas around during dialogue with friends hadn't declined. But when it came to putting my butt in a seat and cranking out word volume, I sucked. Rather than staring at a blinking cursor, I dove into the wormhole that is YouTube as a distraction. Somehow writing had become a chore. I no longer needed it. Hell, I didn't even want to.
I didn't have writer's block. I had writer's abandonment.
It's normal for me to slip into a rut after releasing a book. It takes months to write a first draft and then turn it into something consumable. The back and forth with beta readers, the editor, and the proof reader also takes months-- culminating in a feverish sprint of marketing activity. My typical pattern involves finishing the first draft at the the end of November and launching in May. I use the summer to recover and plot the next book (sometimes I crank out a book for fun that will likely never be published).
This year was different for a lot of reasons. I switched gears with my career and took on more challenging work. Somewhere around March I realized that I had trouble reaching people at my publisher. I knew something was off, but I was still surprised to receive official notice that Booktrope had decided to shut its doors. Instead of launching a new book, I spent the month of May negotiating contracts with the people who helped produce my finished novels and readying the content for relaunch. I pushed my team to complete work on my new novel, Visions and Bones, in June and launched in early July. Another month passed before I realized my typical malaise had morphed into something heavier.
A lot of factors fed into my decision to disconnect from social media, blogging, and the news (without risking a polarizing comment, I think it's safe for me to say this election year has been particularly vitriolic and damaging). In my darker moments I've considered pulling the cord and removing my books from sale altogether. I allowed my insecurity to overshadow the tremendous accomplishments I had achieved.
Now that I've had a couple months of recovery, my temptation to blow up what I've created seems silly. I don't regret withdrawing from writing and focusing on self care. I'm back to running every other day and lifting weights on days I don't run. Physically I feel better than I have in a couple of years. I still struggle with finding balance at my day job and come home with just enough energy to eat and decompress. I don't know how I used to come home and spend hours writing after a full day of work, but a few hours a week seems reasonable. I finally feel ready to participate in a scaled down version of NaNoWriMo.
The minute I pulled into the parking lot of Third Place Books, I knew meeting up with my writing group had been the right decision. Eliana West, our resident ambiance official, pulled out all of the stops. The table in the middle of the food court was a thing of beauty. Six women showed up to encourage one another and discuss the issues we perceive in our projects.
There's a kind of magic that happens in a really good writing group. People committed to cheering one another on doesn't happen often. Perhaps the collective creative energy also fuels word count. The thing that blew me away today was the realization that each of us has benefited from one another's experience. My writing has improved because a member of our group challenged my way of thinking or called me out for relying on tropes.
In the corporate environment, the best bosses realize that diversity provides tremendous strength. People from varied backgrounds tend to approach problems from different angles and offer unique insights critical to strengthening a product. Our writing group is no different. We have writers from romance, sci fi, fantasy, horror, and thriller genres. Our religions and lifestyles vary just as much as our genres. As a result, I can offer my friends plot devices to increase tension and conflict. At that same table, I receive advice on upping the romance between characters (which I need!). While I don't like hearing my fellow authors are also struggling, it is a bit of a comfort to know I'm not the only one dealing with insecurity.
Perhaps joining up with my writing group sooner would have sped up my recovery, but I think I needed the time away. The words flowed today, albeit slowly. It may take me a few more months to finish book four in The Hunted series than usual, but I no longer doubt my ability to keep going.
How do you get out of a writing rut? Do you have a writing group that works for you?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.