I was stuck inside for the third day in a row, planning which blanket to cover up with before watching the seventh hour of The Voice. I scrolled through Facebook and read a post from a fellow writer offering hope to another writer in the doldrums.
“Poor thing,” I thought. That couldn’t be me because I’ve been on a straight path upward, no detours or setbacks. Since I got the guts to call myself a writer last spring at the non-ingénue age of 48 ½, my signs from the universe all confirmed that I’m not wasting my time on this whole writing thing.
I clicked on author Kristen Lamb’s blog post and recognized myself in the photo – a dark-haired writer with her face in her hands. The recognition called me to read on about the “span of suck” that is “The Dip” and how it might not be such a bad thing.
What are some signs this might be you?
- Everything’s been going your way and then it’s not.
This would be the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” scenario. I’d had a lot of mini-victories but then a few rejections came my way.
- You’re not actually writing.
I was back to talking about writing. Reading about writing. Not getting much writing done. A recent blog tour I’d signed up for ended and I didn’t have fresh material for my blog. Worse, I had no desire to create fresh material.
- You’re current project seems impossible to save.
The second draft of my WIP was under way but I suddenly became sure I didn’t have the talent or creativity to figure out plot issues, add interesting characters or finish it.
- You begin Fraud-Fretting.
Maybe it’s the alliteration but I loved this term. I was all of a sudden positive that having sold a few pieces, gotten a local byline in the paper, finished a first draft of a novel all added up to something other than being a writer. Maybe it meant I was a plumber?
- You withdraw socially from your writing peers.
Whether you’ve been connecting online or in person, all of a sudden, you don’t want to face the people who are really doing it. You begin wondering if cable will air old episodes of The Voice or American Idol which will help to take your mind off what you’re not accomplishing.
- You stop showing up.
You haven’t been at your desk in days. Your laptop is fully charged and you intend to conserve energy by not turning it on. You’re all thumbs so don’t even try to pick up a pen or pencil.
- You pray for the cold snap to continue so you can remain covered on the couch with a semi-plausible excuse.
Those talent shows are not going to watch themselves.
- Your hair has been in a greasy pony tail for days and you have food stains on your sweatshirt.
This could be more serious – rely on your family for indications.
How do you get out of it?
- Give yourself a break. Kindness works. Don’t berate yourself into a deeper dip.
- Set a time limit. “I will give myself 3 days to wallow,” etc.
- Hold a pen or pencil (do not point the sharp end at your heart) while watching The Voice or Idol.
- What have you been dying to write? If it’s not the WIP or that’s too scary to face, write something for fun. Send a raunchy email to your BFF gossiping about that horrible woman in your office.
- Call a mentor, coach, teacher so they can tell you how normal this is. Do not call your mother who will either tell you how beautiful you are (having not seen your greasy pony tail) or will give you the number of her friend that can get you a good job.
- Confess your doldrums to your best social media friends. Sit back and watch the inspiring quotes and memes roll in.
- Revisit what made you want to do this in the first place. Successes? Bylines? That poem that made your friends cry?
- Breathe. Move. Fill the well. Go to a movie. Dance to your favorite song. Have sex! Eat chocolate! Re-read your favorite book.
I tried all of the above. Not necessarily in order. Number four gave me the start of an essay I’d been holding inside. Yesterday, a trusted mentor confirmed that my fears were shared by “real” writers at all stages. Intellectually I knew this, emotionally I needed to hear it.
Staying in “the dip” isn’t an option. Nature doesn’t work like that. Setbacks become permanent only if you quit. Something better is coming. Will you be ready for it?