Having Trouble Writing Lately

In June I got into a really good writing habit. I hadn’t been writing regularly since starting my Master’s in the fall, but I finally settled into a routine that gave me time to work on my dissertation, apply for graduate jobs, post to my blog regularly, make a dent in my pile of books to read, and get around a thousand words a day of my novel done. I finished a rough draft a few weeks ago, but as I discussed at the time, it didn’t really feel like a “proper” rough draft, and I began working furiously to complete another draft. I worked faster than I had done on the previous draft, as much of the existing draft was good enough to just copy-paste at this stage, and over the course of ten days I got nearly 20 000 words down on my new draft.

Since the start of July, however, I’ve not written a single word. I’ve fallen behind on this blog, and I’ve only read three books. To an extent, I think I’m a bit burned out. I was so stressed in June and early July, spending more time than I could afford on writing while also worrying about getting a job, and reaching that point in my dissertation when I realised I was further into the trimester than I’d thought and not as far along in the project as I’d anticipated, that I discarded the hobbies and focussed on the most necessary stuff. I’m also feeling admittedly swamped by my to-read pile. So many of the books in that pile are book 1 of a series that I don’t feel like I’m making any progress. For instance, a month ago [i]Cinder[/i], by Marissa Meyer, was in that pile; now [i]Cress[/i] is. On a sidenote, I’m loving this series. I find the overall structure of it particularly interesting. Each book is loosely based on a fairytale, with the protagonist of that fairytale becoming a protagonist in that book. However, each fairytale storyline is also intimately related to the overarching myth arc.

To get back on topic: It’s more than just burnout, though. For the past couple of weeks I’ve not wanted to work on this book, because I’ve been wanting to work on another one. Neither of these novels have names, so for the sake of distinction I’ll call the one I’ve been talking about my “main” novel. This is what it is in my head, because it’s the one I’ve been working on, in some shape or form, for as long as I can remember. The other book, which I’ll hereafter refer to as my dystopia, is something I originally tried to write for NaNoWriMo a couple of years back. I did a fair bit of background world-building and character development for it, but I only got a few thousand words in before realising I had no idea where the story was going. I still don’t really know. I know the beginning, and the end, but working out how the protag gets from A to B just escapes me. And that’s why I’ve not been writing it. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about writing, trying to get this story sorted out so I can actually write it, but every time I come close to actually writing it, I realise I have no idea what to write.

And I know from experience that the best way to get past this is to write. So many things get worked out in the writing itself, and by actually spending time in the protagonist’s head I know I’ll get to know her better and, in doing so, have a better idea of where the story’s going. I also know that the more time I spend writing, the more clearly I think about the story, characters and world when I’m not writing. Yet I just can’t seem to bring myself to start. Perhaps the problem is that whenever I think of starting, I think of starting at the beginning and, in general, I do find that this chronological order works well for me as a writer. In this case, however, I have written the opening chapter or so, and I know it needs to be changed, but it’s not enough of a change for me to feel like writing it again is “new” writing.

It doesn’t help that I’m well into the writing phase of my dissertation now; I do enough writing about my code that, rather petulantly, I don’t want to write any more.


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