I’ve told the story at several writers conferences of the time I reached a point in my writing ministry, somewhere after the release of my twentieth book or thereabouts, when I thought I was done. Finished. Burned out and burned up as a writer.
I’d been through a three-year process of revision and revulsion on one book that had left me doubting my ability and drained of all enthusiasm for writing. I’d hit roadblocks before and endured rejection, as we all do. I’d written some books that sold modestly; and by modestly, I mean my wife bought one. And I’d weathered those storms. But this time, I thought I’d have to find other work, honest work, actual work. Despite my lack of discernable skills.
Most writers hit rough patches in their writing. Some crash and burn, but nearly everyone gets stuck at some point. If that ever happens to you, you might try one of these five ways to reboot your writing life:
REBOOT #1. UNPLUG
Anne Lamott famously said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” So try it. Unplug for an afternoon or a day—or more. Maybe your “stuckness” is screen fatigue, tech fatigue, or just plain old fatigue.
REBOOT #2. GET OUT
A simple change of scenery may be enough to reset your operating system. Take a hike—or a picnic. Or maybe just a walk around the park. Or sit on a bench and listen to the birds.
REBOOT #3. CHANGE YOUR SETTINGS
Move your next writing session away from your desk. Go to a coffee shop or chapel to write. Curl up in your favorite chair in front of the fireplace. Or sip your favorite tea, wine, or coffee while you write in the bubble bath. (Use paper and pen, though; it’s dangerous to take your laptop into the tub.)
REBOOT #4. SET A NEW SOUNDTRACK
See if a “just right” playlist can energize your writing. If you’re crafting a romance, play The Notebook soundtrack. For a military thriller, play music from the Call of Duty game. Or maybe, “Alexa, play Mozart.”
REBOOT #5. PLAY AROUND
I once got stuck writing a contemporary manuscript about an archaeological discovery in modern Jerusalem. I spun my wheels for some time until I finally threw up my hands and said, “Let’s just have some fun with this.” I began inserting a new POV from the time of Jesus, and suddenly both storylines came alive. (That manuscript became my time-slip novel, The Bone Box.) Something similar happened with that draining project I mentioned above. I cleared my desk and started playing on a new project and, while it never saw publication, it played a role in reviving my writing. Why not try it? Play. Experiment. Knock it down, and build it back up. You can always go back to what you were doing before, but a little playfulness might do you good.
Your turn: Have you ever “rebooted” a writing project—or your whole writing ministry? If so, what did it do for you?