For those of us in the northern hemisphere, February is a brutal, soul-sucking, mind-numbing month of misery. It’s so damn cold. And dark. And depressing. If you live in the city, all the pretty white snow has turned to salty grey sludge. If you live in the country, you’re probably buried up to your eavestroughs in the white stuff and getting a little claustrophobic. And if you live in the milder sections, you’re permanently damp from the unrelenting drizzle and so low on vitamin D you can hardly get out of bed in the morning. Yep. February sucks. It takes a physical and mental toll on us all. But as a writer, it also takes a toll on my self-esteem, because around this time of year I start doubting every writing project I’m working on, and therefore doubting my decision to become a writer. However, what I should really be asking myself is this:
Are the February Blahs simply bringing me down? Or does my story legitimately suck? Or is this just a writing rut? How can I tell the difference?
If only I had the answers. I know nothing! I’m useless! Wait, that’s just the blahs talking. I’ve already come up with strategies to deal with this, I just have to crack open the blog archives and remember…
My 3-Step Plan to Beat the Winter Writer Blahs
#1 ASSESS THE STORY. I’ll be honest, I need to do this 12 months of the year, not just in February. Recently I came up with a little formula that I quite literally refer to every week to make sure my story hasn’t gone off the rails: HOOK + THEME + END = GOOD STORY. I blogged about it here in 3 Things That Make A Story Worth Writing. The good news is that one of my WIPs totally passed this test, and I was all like, “Yes! My story doesn’t suck! Woo-hoo!” But the bad news is the other one didn’t. However, the positive takeaway is now I know what to do. I don’t just have the blahs, I have identified a story problem and can take steps to fix it. And that makes me happy!
#2 GET OUT OF THE STORY RUT. This is a big one for me. I used to spin my wheels on the same story problem for weeks or months. Last February (no coincidence) I wrote a blog called Write, Revise & Repeat – Are You Stuck in a Rut? and came up with four types writing ruts and how to get out of them. But am I actually in a rut or is this just the February blahs? Guess what, it doesn’t matter! Either way, I’m stalled and I need to get moving again. So I give myself a time limit: 2 hours. That’s as long as I let myself stare at a scene or plot point or page, wallowing in my writer pain, before I move on to something completely different. This is why I always have another project on the go. It gives me something productive to bounce over to when I need a break from the main project. Starting something new is a sure-fire way to beat blahs (because new things are exciting!), and when you return to your main project you’ll have the perspective to fix it. Take that, blahs!
#3 DO SOMETHING FUN. Right, way to point out the obvious, Heather. But when the February blahs hit, this is one of the hardest things for me to actually do. I will stubbornly insist that I am fine, that I’ll feel better as soon as I accomplish this scene or whatnot, when really I need to acknowledge that I’m just freaking bummed out because it’s the most depressing month of the year. So when a friend invites me out, even though the blahs would rather I just huddle under a blanket and cry about my shoddy excuse for an Act II turning point, I make a conscious effort to accept and go have some well-deserved fun.
And since we’re making an effort to look on the bright side, here’s a happy reminder – February is almost over! The days are getting longer! The weather will get warmer! We’ll get through this!
How are you coping with the Winter Writer Blahs? Any tips?