How to Emerge from a Writing Slump? Excavate

We’ve all been there. As writers, we’re always in search of inspiration. It could be that we’re writing already, but come to a stone wall we’re unable to chisel through. Rationally, we know we will eventually break through, we’ll discover the right word or middle or ending we were trying to excavate in our mind. It can be maddening. Everyone experiences this frustration. To remember that it is only temporary helps, but when we’re in the middle of it we often don’t have that realization. That is why it’s important to try to keep the right tools at hand so when the stone wall appears, there is an easier way through it.

Writing is a lonely job, and being too isolated can be a problem. Yes, we need the solitude in order to write, but when I feel the stone walls getting thicker, and I notice I am looking for other things to do like cleaning out closets and drawers, that is when I know it’s time to get out, and see friends. Live life. One of my professors once said, “You all need to get out and do something. Your poems have no life. You can’t write about life until you’ve experienced it.” He was right. That day none of the poems were engaging. Get out and enjoy life then go back to the page and excavate.

Some people are superstitious about letting others read their work before it’s “finished.” I have several groups of friends and professional acquaintances that I trust with my work. It’s not easy to find people willing to take the time to read my work. It’s a busy world, and we all have busy lives, but this is essential to improving my writing. It can also be a way to break through the stone wall, and find those fabulous trinkets on the other side. Fresh eyes during revision is essential to fine writing. Many of us no longer have access to a poetry or fiction workshop anymore. It’s important to nurture a relationship with other writers to continue to improve craft, but most importantly to help in seeing the work in a new way—to see it from another angle.

Finally, and this is my favorite way to crack the stone wall, give yourself a prompt and a deadline. I’m part of a group that takes turns giving a word or phrase prompt every day—Monday through Friday. Of course, the amount of work can be altered and agreed upon. I’ve written more in the last month than I’ve written in a long while. My nose is held down to the sharpening stone—there are people who expect a response from me daily. We then email our work to one another, and we write helpful responses back. Sometimes it’s only a line I can keep, or a paragraph, but often it’s an entire poem or short story. Happy excavating, dear writers.

Nancy Correro holds an MFA from McNeese State University, and is pursuing a PhD at Georgia State University. She finds inspiration while hiking the Big Creek trails. She is the recipient of the Joy Scantlebury Poetry Award. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Panoply, and Sadie Girl Press.

Read Nancy's poem,  Dreams from the Strand.