Renewing Enthusiasm

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I have a problem. Maybe you can relate. I’m in the middle of the 20th reading and 8th revision – 2nd since gathering beta-reader feedback – in the 13th month since truly starting my manuscript in earnest. In short, I’m tired. The idea that once seemed fresh and exciting just doesn’t have that new-idea shine. How do I get over the hump, roll up my sleeves, and get to work in the dog days of revision? Well, let me tell you.

Take a break… but not too long

There is a finite amount of energy in the universe. I don’t want to blow your mind, but you are a part of that universe, so it is the same for you. I am my own worst critic, so I beat myself up if I don’t do the things I think I should, but the truth is we all need space to breathe every now and then. So, put the pen down, close that laptop, and walk away…

…but come back! I’ve talked in the past about my two-year gap between starting to dabble in writing and taking it seriously. The specter of that lost time keeps me pushing towards the finish line, returning to the text.

A “break” does not mean inactivity. Take advantage of the opportunity to recharge your creative batteries.

Read (and watch, if you must) for inspiration

Pick up a book or start a show a step or two outside of your genre. Human creativity dies in a vacuum. We need material to twist, expand, reimagine, or reject altogether. TV and movies are great inspiration, but is is important to read to hone your craft. Every great painter started out imitating the masters. If you’re not reading, why should anybody read you?

Work on another project

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Sometimes you take one day off from training camp to remove your shoulder pads, stow the football, and play some softball. A change of mode is good for the soul. While never stopping work on my manuscript, I find joy writing short stories, outlining the current novel’s sequel, outline a completely unrelated novel, and wordbuilding for a TTRPG system. The benefit of this particular break activity is that it keeps your creativity muscles limber.

Review your goals

If you haven’t physically written down your goals – writing or otherwise – what’s stopping you? When I’ve lost focus in my writing life, re-reading my goals is the kick in the pants I need to get back to the keyboard. They have extra power, I believe, because I set deadlines. For example, and for accountability between you and me, internet, I have promised myself that I will have finished all revisions and started writing query material by the end of March. It’s time to get moving! If remembering what you plan to accomplish and by when does not start your engine, perhaps our last suggestion is more your speed:

Remember your first love…

…creatively; not in the sleepover or barstool-confession sense. Take a minute to clear your thoughts, breathe in, and revisit the beginning. What excited you about your current project? Was it a dramatic scene? A complex theme? A dynamic character? Whatever it was, take a second to write it down, as if interviewing your past self. Articulate that excitement, capture it, then channel it into another 1,000 words.

Whatever you choose, reader/writer, I hope that you wrest the energy and enthusiasm you need from the claws of lethargy and create something that brings you joy. Happy writing!

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