Help! I’m not writing: what do I do?

QUESTION:
Help! I’m totally blocked and haven’t written a word in too long, except in my daily journal which is more morning pages right now. How do I begin again?
~Sheila

Sheila!
Thanks so much for this right-to-the-heart question. I know you speak for many writers out there. You are SO not alone.

And I’m not just saying, “High five sister, you’re not alone!” I’m saying I totally and deeply empathize, and you are in the normal albeit sucky part of the creative process. As heartbreak is to love, the fallow season is the natural yang to the high of creation. The only way to avoid it is to never create. 

So high five for being in the arena at all. Most people would rather pretend they aren’t creative than go on that insecurity roller coaster.

But yes, the “not creating” part of the process raises all our fears and leaves us shaky and off balance. That’s real. And I don’t have a magic answer, but I do have a couple of reframes and some suggestions that might make navigating this time a little easier.

First some sleuthing: Why are you in this fallow period? It didn’t happen without a reason. Sometimes if we can figure out why something is happening, it helps us have compassion and put things back into context. For me, this phase often coincides with the end of a large creative project or push. Maybe you just finished a project or you’re coming off a very prolific period? Maybe it wasn’t a creative project but one that still drew on your creative energy—the culmination of a large work or school project or event, a large purchase or remodel, or maybe even a life cycle shift—death, birth, divorce, retirement, relocation.

So if can be helpful to discover (this can happen in your journal!) a clear precursor to this non-writing period—if only to give yourself some grace and get out of the shame/blame cycle. Too often we beat ourselves up for not writing when there is actually a good reason.

BUT understanding why you are there doesn’t solve it, I get that. And here my advice is not magical either, but there is unfortunately no other way:

Eventually we have to take a baby step back into relationship with our writing. A BABY step—smaller than we think is even worth it. I often suggest journaling AS a first baby step, and you’re already doing that. Daily, even! How many stuck writers aren’t even journaling? Show of hands? My point. Journaling is a fantastic first step because we begin showing up for the regular practice of looping words into sentences and spending time inside the maze of our minds. 

Keeping baby steps as small and non-intimidating as possible is super important, so I suggest stepping up what you are already doing in your journal. You could write a letter to your writing and/or ask your writing some pointed questions. Or, to kickstart inspiration and get outer-focused again, you could spend an entire day noticing and recording the many beautiful, strange, unique things in your world. Or you could make a list of all the stories you intend to write someday–I love a good list and I find this process will very often pop a hot idea.

Outside of the journal, when I’m blocked or sluggish I like to reread favorite books. You know, THE favorite books that made you want to be a writer in the first place.

And then step away from the page and go see some art, visit a garden, listen to some music, and trust that your new ideas are coming, especially now that you have let them know you are ready.

Bottom line—don’t panic! There is nothing I trust more than the turning wheel of the creative process—fallow periods are always followed by fertile ones, summer follows spring—if you stick with it. So keep showing up and ask:

What is one tiny baby step I could take towards my writing today?
(Then take another one tomorrow.)

Wishing you overflowing creativity!
xoxox
Nancy

Do you have a question about flash fiction, travel, writing, the creative process, craft, the writing life…or anything else?

P.S. I’ve had SO much fun sharing my travels, writing inspiration, creative discoveries, retreat photos, food poisoning and more! I love sharing the adventures with you xo

First Stop: Spain–CHECK! (photo from Spanish Retreat Salon Night! Full retreat wrap-up with photo gallery coming soon!)
Next Stop: Bristol, England and the 4th Flash Fiction Festival!
August: Final 2022 Flash Fiction Retreat in Grand Lake, Colorado!

Continue the adventures on:

Instagram and Facebook and Facebook Retreats Page 


Save the Date: Upcoming Workshops and Retreats


Flash Flood: Write a Flash Novel
August 22-September 2

Going Short: Beautiful Flash Fiction Part II (NEW)
(can be taken independently of Part I)
September 5-9

(Details here. Registration for both opens August 1) 


The Flash Novel Mastermind: a 12-week incubator to get your manuscript across the finish line
September 13-December 2
(Pre-requisite: Flash Flood. Registration and all details Sept 1)

AND
If you’re ready for some radical inspiration, a creative adventure to energize your spirit, and camaraderie with your creative community, then get on the waiting list for 2023 Retreat Early Access and announcements this fall! 

My embarrassing writer moment, or Why I sobbed over a cake….😂

This story does have a happy ending, but here it goes:

When Going Short was first released as a print book in 2020, I knew the decision to release it in a quarantine year would mean some sacrifices: no live events, no release party, no fancy cake with a picture of my book cover on it. However, I felt strong enough that it was the right book at the right time that I embraced the virtual book tour and all the wonderful virtual events (and I don’t regret it!)

BUT…here’s the cake story: The night before the official release, I was in the kitchen, thinking about that cake with my book’s picture on it that I wasn’t going to get and I just lost it. All the self pity and all the fears of 2020 just bubbled up and out and I was found by my partner, sobbing at the dining room table about how I never get to have a cake.

So, like any good partner, Nick went on a mission to end this sobbing immediately (and for anyone reading this, if anyone in your life is ever sobbing over cake–heed this course of action!) 

As the story was later relayed to me, he went to the nearest grocery store bakery, but since it was already 10 pm, the bakery was closed, and the decorators were gone. However, the teenagers on the night shift, wanting to be helpful, (and maybe having had a sobbing cake episode in their own lives) suggested they could let Nick into the kitchen with some frosting tubes and he could decorate the cake himself.

The situation was of course, desperate. 

When I woke up in the morning on the official Going Short release day I saw this cake in the fridge:

And honestly, it’s my favorite cake ever.

So now, two years later, it’s a thing. This past weekend, in preparation for the Going Short Audiobook release, I still haven’t hugged most of you or had a pre-2020 style release party, but I’m eating cake. All week.

And I’m hoping you not only love the new audiobook (and my narration debut!) but that you eat a piece of cake with me! There’s no way I would rather celebrate than to eat virtual cake with you! For real!

Thank you all for the many years of support, inspiration, and friendship. If I’ve learned anything in these last two years, it’s to cherish your tribe in all the ways, hug them when you can, and always know they are eating cake with you, wherever they are.

Let the cake-eating begin!! 
xoxoxo Nancy

(Yes, I know this is a St. Patrick’s Day cake! I’m not good at this cake thing!!! xoxo)

AND Presenting….
GOING SHORT: THE AUDIOBOOK!

Listen exclusively on Audible NOW

For New Audible members: Listen for $0.00

Seriously!

Happy Reading and Writing (and Listening!)

P.S. Tell me what you think!! Nervous!

P.S.S. Head over to @apparelforauthors on Instagram this week, where I am talking all about writing and fashion!

FlashNano 2021: Day 30

For our last prompt of 2021, a flashback to a prompt from 2012:

Day 30: Write a story where the impossible is now possible.

(Thanks to everyone for all the wonderful guest prompts!) 

YOU MADE IT!!!!

 

All 2021 prompts here:

Not already on the FlashNano list? Join us here:

WANT TO KEEP GOING???
Winter Workshops opening December 1!

WINTER WORKSHOP SCHEDULE