This year I’d made a resolution to write a novel in a year. After a few false starts and less than 5,000 words written, I have ended up scrapping that goal. 

I’d originally thought that planning was my issue. (Going off vibes and premise alone hadn’t worked for me in the past). I thought that outlining each scene would help keep me going after the shiny idea became dull, especially since I had decided to go with a new idea rather than one I’d been turning over in my head for years but had yet to cross the 10,000-word threshold on. But I got stuck on the plot again, uncertain of which of several possible directions I could take. 

My plans devolved from there. I didn’t want to write without an outline, but I couldn’t figure out how to write the outline. I tried abandoning the outline and writing freely, but the words still wouldn’t come. Neither working within or without constraints worked. It was the worst writer’s block I’ve experienced—not even like pushing a boulder up a hill but like pushing against a wall. The insult to the injury was that I was experiencing this block just when I finally decided to get serious about writing a novel. To fight the block I tried to write other things, without constraints or even expectations that it will turn into something larger, and I’ve still struggled to get words out. Even writing these monthly posts has become difficult. 

I’ve come to accept that I’m in the middle of a creative drought. 

I’m not sure of the best way to overcome it. I’ve wondered if I should keep pushing, keep trying to force the words out, but I also want to do what’s mentally healthy for me. So for right now I’ve decided to let it go. I’m hoping that taking a break will release some of the pressure I’ve put on myself, as well as the expectations of other people who I had shared my original plan with.

So what have I been doing instead? I’ve been trying to read more. I’ve already read eleven books so far this year, which puts me on track to read more than last year’s thirty-something books. I’ve been working my way through Zen Cho’s works, and I’ve discovered a new favorite in Sofia Samatar’s mythical and lyrical A Stranger in Olondria. I’ve become that weirdo who reads a book while on the incumbent bike at the gym. I still go through weeks where I have to force myself to read and weeks where I finish a book in two days. Library due dates help, as does the consolation that if I can’t write, I can at least read. If reading is breathing in and writing is breathing out, then I’ll have to exhale eventually. 

I know I’m probably mixing my metaphors here, but I really do feel like I’m drowning whenever I don’t write for a long period of time. (Can one drown in a drought?) My only respite is that I’m still hit with tiny flashes of inspiration, even if they don’t morph into anything bigger, more writable. They remind me that writing is still a part of me. Snatches of dialogue still come to me while I’m washing dishes, forcing me to stop and type it out into my Notes app with sudsy fingers. Of course, the speakers of the dialogue aren’t kind enough to bring a plot or a setting or even a name with them, but I’ll take what I can get right now. I’m not going to force it. I know it’ll come back. This writing block won’t last forever.

1 Comment

  1. Kayleigh Fongers

    “If reading is breathing in and writing is breathing out, then I’ll have to exhale eventually.” This! I’ve had the same feelings lately, and I’m also behind on my reading goal for this year. I often forget how much reading can help in a creative drought. Maybe I’ll pick up a new book today…


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