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I think it's a reasonably common situation to have an ongoing creative project and find at times that you just don't feel up to working on it. It's happened to me with Mermaid Liaisons a couple of times, most recently last weekend when I was feeling ill... but it continued on into all of last week even when I'd pretty much recovered from the bug. I kind of wanted to be writing, but just didn't feel like I could face doing any, or like I'd be able to produce anything. It was this Monday before I was writing script again, though I've been getting some good stuff written since then.

I'm curious: Several of you either are at the moment, or have been at some point, in the process of working on a reasonably large ongoing creative work: a novel, a game, a comic, or assorted other possibilities. How do you handle times when you don't feel that you can do any creating tonight? Even if it drags on for a week or a month?

I'm thinking primarily of things that you work on in your leisure time rather than professionally, though insights from professionals could certainly be interesting too. And also I'm primarily interested in things that you really want to get finished, that you're emotionally invested in; there's less tension of whether to force yourself to keep on going if the whole thing is just "meh, not too bothered".

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 18th, 2010 01:44 am (UTC)
I for one work on something else.

If I'm still working and being creative, it helps me maintain momentum...
Feb. 18th, 2010 09:12 am (UTC)
hmm...if its a short-term thing i would often put it down to just being a bit burnt out on the project, and giving it a few days usually means i can pick it back up feeling more refreshed (i'm lucky in that i have both artsy and writing-based side projects, so i might switch from one to the other for a change)

if i find i'm constantly prioritising other stuff over a particular long-term creative project for weeks/months i then start to question either how much i really want to do that project or whether i will in reality have enough time (this is why i've pretty much entirely dropped creating comics for the time being - keeping Comic Mole on a fortnightly update schedule, keeping my house at least vaguely tidy, and getting more exercise have become higher priorities)

i don't know if jen has you're LJ on her watch list, but i'm sure she'd have something to say about this - i think she's finding it pretty difficult to fit enough writing into her life at the moment ^^;
Feb. 18th, 2010 11:00 am (UTC)
I often find that the not wanting to do it fades away, at least a bit, once you actually start, so I tell myself that. It's not a matter of spending hours doing something I don't enjoy, it's just five minutes or so of forcing myself and then it will probably be quite pleasant.

The other thing I tell myself is that writing even when you don't enjoy it is part of being a writer. I want to do this professionally, and I think the rewards are worth the effort.
Feb. 18th, 2010 12:44 pm (UTC)
I 'handle' this by never finishing anything...
Feb. 18th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
I know this feeling - sometimes it's just really hard to get into the groove of writing even if you know it's something you love. I've had projects that I just drop entirely when I just can't stand the though of going back to writing them, but thankfully this hasn't happened often. I like to take a break and write something else for a while - I'm doing it for fun after all^^

Sometimes it takes me a while to get back to a particular project (most memorably a particular novel I've been writing on and off for about 4-5 years and is only now nearing the end of the editing stage!!), but I'm always writing and so always progressing. Currently I have 4 projects at various stages of writing/editing and at least 2-3 more in the planning stages - I'm currently trying to focus to get some of these finished off, but generally I just switch between whatever I feel like at the time. And if I just want a quick (one or two writing sessions) break from thinking I write a fanfic for pure useless fun :P

Of course there are some times where you just have to tell yourself to get your butt back in front of the screen, NaNoWriMo style, and trust that once you've worked yourself through the block it'll be nice and shiny again. I don't generally resort to that unless I know that I'm just on a hard bit I need to get past (or doing NaNo :P).
Feb. 18th, 2010 03:00 pm (UTC)
When it's something I'm doing in my leisure time, I have to ask myself whether it's actually fun. If it isn't, then maybe I don't want to be doing it after all. A break can be good.

But sometimes it's just that I've got out of the habit of writing, or temporarily lost my feeling of excitement about it. Sometimes if I immerse myself in it again, it becomes fun again. Or if I talk to someone else about it it can rekindle my desire to write.
Feb. 18th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC)
I haven't been doing a lot of creative writing lately (though I will be doing quite a bit of it starting in a couple of months), but I face this same kind of problem when I write code. Some days I feel up to it and produce a lot of lines of work, and other days I'm uninspired and painfully scratch out just a few lines.

What works for me though, is to plan ahead. When I am feeling inspired, I write out a plan of what I need to do. For creative writing, this would mean deciding the location and tone of a scene, what characters are involved, and what information needs to be conveyed to further the story and the relationship between the characters. This is set down in broad strokes, but provides a framework in which to work. Then whenever you have time to do some writing, you take a scene and flesh it out. Since you already know generally in what direction you need to go, it frees your brain and removes some doubt as to whether you are going in the right direction or not. Then on days when you are inspired you will get a lot of work done, and on days you are bummed you'll get a little work done, but you will get work done regardless.

The days when you aren't inspired are the days you fall back on your knowledge of the craft of writing. It won't flow from your heart, but it can flow from your head.

Feb. 18th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
Comics have a big advantage in that they involve multiple different things. If I'm not feeling like writing, I can usually pencil something. If I don't want to pencil, I can often ink. I never want to tone, but anime is helpful for that ;) Also, most of mine come in little bits, a chapter at a time, so it's a short period to the next 'aaah, finished!' moment, which is very motivating :)

If there is a deadline (eg for a webcomic), I will make myself do something, and I can do that, although sometimes the results are not so nice. Much like Michael said, though, even getting a little done can be a help, and prepare the way for when you're feeling like getting on with it. I find pure writing much harder than comics, so when I wrote the Covenant Tapestry, I had a strict '4000 words a week' rule, and I did them on Thursday and Friday. It was in my diary, even. And even if I churned out rubbish and got rid of it later, it kept me going and the story evolving, and even with getting rid of stuff later, I had plenty of story in the end :)
Feb. 23rd, 2010 03:09 am (UTC)
I've been doing a lot of writing lately; I've been working on a novel. I haven't had this problem too much lately, but I have encountered it in the past. It's really just a question of how much time you're willing to put in, I think. If you're really ENGROSSED in the project or not. I live and breathe my novel. When I'm sitting in my class and my professor is talking about something, oh, I'm listening, but my brain is also working on the details of my novel. What's going to happen next? What would make this relationship more interesting? I always have a notepad with me to jot ideas down. Things like that get me to the library to sit down and write. If I have a real obvious goal of what I'm going to write, it makes sitting down to actually write much easier. I may have the general concept down, but it's the actual details that get me excited and get me to sit down at my computer.

On the other hand, sometimes I'm just at a standstill at what to write. When that happens, I'll sometimes just put some headphones in and lay down on my bed. I'll put on either classical music, or some movie score - usually one that relates to my novel (setting-wise, or something like that). I'll get ideas. I may HATE them later, but it'll at least get me to write something down on my notepad. If I can write something down, then I can write in my novel.

Lastly, sometimes I just do a freewrite. I just try and figure out what's going to happen next. I just write nonsense sometimes. Like with the music, I may hate what I come up with, but at least I'll be able to start something. I'll change it along the way, but at least I have a heading. So, overall, if I have a heading, I can usually get myself to actually sit down and write.
Mar. 19th, 2010 07:23 pm (UTC)
I resemble Chess' remark. I had 4 games I wanted to write for the Java4k competition this year, and I managed one (although I might have finished a second if I'd been spending less time travelling). I have 4 articles I'm translating from English to Spanish, all at first draft complete, and needing a second draft before being passed on to someone else for proof-reading.

I think one key thing which helps me to get anything done is having a non-Internet-connected computer. Those four first drafts were all written on my netbook while waiting for the train (whereas the second drafts require a very bulky dictionary and so need to be done at home). When I'm preparing sermons I again use the netbook and I move away from my desk to the sofa, so that distractions from it require me to actually get up and go somewhere. And talking of preparing sermons, I was going to get some work done on one today, since it's a public holiday here, and I haven't really done anything all day apart from play Flash games and cook lunch.
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