Tag Archive for: writing process

Even though I’m a daily writer, I go through highs, lows, and specific cycles in which creation might be easier or more difficult. These cycles boil down to three distinct writing modes that define my ability to create at any given time.

  • Consistent—when my production and creative output feels stable and constant and I’m happy with what I’m doing and don’t feel burned out after writing.
  • Stagnant—when I’m not writing much because I feel creatively drained and/or have low energy; when I’m not making progress on writing projects or otherwise feel negative toward my work because I’m not seeing the results I want. (This description makes me feel like a toddler throwing a tantrum because I need a nap… which is probably what I need when I’m feeling stagnant, to be honest.)
  • Overload—when I have huge days of creative production, writing a large number of words or making a lot of progress, but ultimately burn out when the juice is kaput.

Naturally I love it when I’m consistent. Consistency is a blessing. It’s like having the Creativity Gods shine upon you as they keep refilling your sweet head with more words and ideas to spill from your fingers daily, on a schedule, without fail. I cultivate consistency through practices like writing at least 250 words per day and planning, planning, planning, but even with that rigor, forethought, and routine, my writing life can still fall stagnate. 🙁

For the past few months I’ve been caught in a cycle, swapping between the Overload and Stagnant writing modes. It starts with a couple amazing days, churning out words quickly, working for longer periods of time, and writing well above my daily average. The choices I make and the words I use are exactly the right words to convey the meaning and tone of the piece. I can connect ideas in relevant and interesting ways. On these days, I feel great about the work I produce and get it in my head that everything in my writing life is about to turn around and it’s all blue skies!

… and then the stagnation hits.

I’m exhausted after all the production. Or I’ll have finished whatever bit inspired my stint in the Overload mode and have difficulty finding my way into the next thing. And I’ll try and try and try to write, but struggle to put words on the page, make relevant progress, or feel good about what I’m writing. It sucks when my writing goes stagnant, but I am—actually—still writing. It’s a struggle to put words on the page, but I’m getting at least my 250 words in. I might hate 90% of the words I write, but there’s a few sentences that have something interesting in them, or is the idea I want to convey, even if it uses all the wrong words to get there.

While the Stagnant mode is frustrating and I kind of hate it, I have to admit: it is a mode of writing. When I’ve rested enough, or my brain has refocused and I can slip back into Overload or Consistency, I usually find that the Stagnant Mode days left me with something usable.

That something is what writing is about. Writing is rewriting and revising. Every time I put down the wrong words, I get closer to the right words, and those stagnant, painful days of writing are unfortunately part of the process.



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Sometimes there is no sugar-coating life, and our best-laid plans crumble into failure. That’s what happened to me this past April after signing up for a writing boot camp at SavvyAuthors called One Scene a Day. I started the month with the best intentions of shoving my way through a huge chunk of my novel, or at least participating in the daily check-ins, and weekly lessons and activities.

On April 1st, I replied to the welcome post, stated my intentions, and did my best to keep up with the daily writing.

Uh, by April 3rd I was struggling to get into my novel and rethinking where I could start and how I could do this—but I was still definitely going to do it!!

And by April 7th I had totally abandoned the check-ins, though I made plans with a friend to send her what I’d written each day. I also finally found a way into my novel (by skipping Chapter 1 entirely).

And then I was distracted by Flights of Foundry and stopped pretending I was going to do that boot camp because I had already fallen far enough behind to understand not that I was a failure, but that this wasn’t a good way for me to work.

Many times when we attempt a routine or schedule as a creative and it fails, we assume there’s something wrong with us and we turn that frustration inward, blaming ourselves. We can walk away with the wrong message, thinking that our failure means we’ll never be able to write a novel or live a creative life or be successful. But a failure at a specific creative process doesn’t mean a failure in creativity, it means that process doesn’t work for you. Speed drafting DOES NOT work for me. I knew that from participating in NaNoWriMo, but thought the structure of this workshop would allow enough breathing space that I could do it. Instead, I learned something else about myself:

It takes me a lot of time to get into a project.

So, starting with Chapter 1 wasn’t working for me. And then expecting myself to sprint through Chapter 2 was also not working for me. You know what is working for me? Writing 100 words or so every day. I’m still in Chapter 2, but I have a start now, and I’ve reconfigured the arrangement with my friend to send her my writing for the week (rather than day by day). When I get into the draft and can go faster, we’ll increase the number of check-ins per week, but for now I’m accepting where I am, redefining this “failure,” and making adjustments to my process so that I can make progress without feeling frustrated.

The key to having a writing life is figuring out what works for you and not comparing yourself to anyone else.


Speaking of workshops and writing, I’m teaching a free virtual workshop later this month called Write Time Travel Fiction. If you’re interested in writing about time travel, I’ll be exploring both the hand-wavey and theoretical science that sends your characters into the timestream and how you can use time travel to tell a story. You can register (again for FREE) at OCLS. (No library card is needed, just leave that bit blank.)



For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.