Have you ever seen those posts on Pinterest or Facebook that show what the writing life looks like? The pic looks something like this:
It’s funny because it’s true. I would be willing to bet every writer at one point or another has completely lost all creative ability and literally just sat there, fingers on the computer or pen in hand, praying for inspiration to hit. I have a term for this. I call it The Center Slump. Yep. You hit the middle of your book.
Seriously though, if you’ve experienced this momentary loss of creative ability there is a good chance you’re somewhere in the middle of the book. The fact is, we can outline and structure all the day long, but there are always pieces and parts that come in and surprise us. Sometimes we realize that the outline we wrote just won’t work for where the story is headed. It’s the Center Slump. Anytime you lose creative ability when writing, just blame it on the Center Slump.
What is the Center Slump?
The Center Slump is entirely my own term, but it’s a fancy way of saying you’ve hit writer’s block. The reason I call it the Center Slump is because it often comes in the middle of the story. You get excited when you start, and you have a clear vision of the end. You can write those! The middle details are often blurred though. They’re not as easy to get out of your head so getting through the blurred section can be challenging. Sometimes it’s miserable. Sometimes it’s boring. Sometimes you experience moments of brilliance, and other times you’re sure there’s nothing in your head but an chalkboard and no chalk.
Thankfully, you don’t have to become friends with the Center Slump. You can, in fact, get it to go away. Here’s how.
1. Write every day. This advice almost seems counterproductive when you think about how difficult it is to write through writer’s block, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do to get your creative juices flowing. You start writing every day, and eventually the story starts to flow in. You’ve awakened the creative mind; you’ve dumped life into the characters. They start talking, you start seeing little flashes of their experience. I promise, it’s only hard to write every day at the beginning. It does get easier!
2. Take your characters out of your story and into something else. While this exercise may seem like a waste of time, sometimes what you need when you hit Center Slump is to separate yourself from the story. For me, my brain tends to experience overload, and when it does it bogs down. Taking the characters into a new scene fires up a different part of my creative mind. It forces the characters to react newly, which makes it possible to flesh out more of their layers; a flat character never did anybody any good. When you put them in a new scene, you discover who they are. You can then take those discoveries and put them back into your novel. Quite often the story will start moving again.
3. Brainstorm with a friend. I’ve experienced writer’s block more times than I care to admit in my writing career. Sometimes I’ve let it stop me for months… even years. Sad, I know. But recently I committed to finishing a novel I started a few years ago. I gave myself three months to do it and promised to write 5,000 words a week. Halfway through the novel, lo and behold I hit the Center Slump. I could see the end, I had a good beginning, but I was stuck and no matter how much I tried to force my brain to think of something, it wouldn’t do it. Knowing this would kill my commitment, I got in communication with my family. I told them I was stuck and needed their help. They willingly pitched in and we brainstormed for about ten minutes, coming up with a lot of different things we could add to the story. By the end of the ten minutes I had pieces to put in place that would fill in plot holes that I knew were there, and pieces I could use to move forward. My brainstorm session added so much to the novel! And it only took ten minutes. It was well worth doing.
4. Write something completely new. Don’t do anything with your characters. Instead, find a writing prompt online and write a piece of flash fiction for that prompt. Again, it gets different creative juices flowing and re-opens the channels so you can get unstuck. It’s a short, easy exercise and can have a great payoff.
5. Take a secondary character from your novel and write their story. This is another great way to get a different set of creative juices flowing. When you take out a secondary character, you see a new story emerge of their life that lines up with the story you are already writing. It helps give you a fresh perspective on something you’ve obviously been looking at for too long.
6. Get out of the house. Go write somewhere else. Go to a coffee shop and write. Go find a rock by a stream and write. Go to a mall and write. Go sit in your car and write. Go anywhere but where you normally write and see if magic happens.
7. Get out of the house and leave your writing behind. If you’re really stuck, walk away from it all for a brief moment and go people watch. People watching is a great way to get new ideas! Be aware of what’s going on around you and add story to what you see. I even did this with a car driving by. The license plate was something along the lines of 1kisss. Something like that. From that license plate my friends and I came up with four or five different plot ideas that would have fit the man driving the car. Then we drove by the car and discovered it was a woman. Whoopsie! We had to change our plots. Still, it was a great exercise in creativity.
Basically, the idea is to do any exercise that will rekindle your flame. Writing is so much more than putting words on a piece of paper. It’s an experience. It’s a way to let go of old hurts. It’s a way to process new ones. It’s a way to celebrate joy. It’s a way to intensely experience old emotions and discover new ones. It’s magic. When you rekindle the magic, your work will start moving.