The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth
Stuck in a rut.
Hitting the wall.
Those are all similar terms for when you reach a standstill. When, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you flail, you stay in the same place.
Most of us have heard of the term ‘hitting the wall’. It’s a runner’s term for the point in a race, where your body just stops. Either mentally or physically, it becomes the moment when runners are convinced that they can’t go on.
In some form or another, it becomes a collapse of the entire system: body and form, brains and soul.
What do you do when you realize that the rut you’ve been stuck in is slowly turning into a grave? You find out what has been feeding into your fears, what has been blocking you, and you eliminate those things from your routine with a vengeance.
1. Stop Abusing the Internet
Instead of writing, I spent hours mindlessly on Reddit. For the most part, Reddit can be an interesting site (if you stick to subreddits that engage and educate). I didn’t I stuck the the main page. Which, though it had cute animal pictures, was also filled with misogyny, fat shaming and casual racism. Mindless internet surfing isn’t only a time-sink, it’s a form of isolation.
How to Solve?
For a site like Reddit, the answer was easy. I unsubscribed to all the subreddits that I knew were feeding into my worst habits. To use a term coined by ze frank, stop hitting the internet like a crackpipe. If there is something you want to do professionally, if there is something you want to do well, you need time to practice.
If you need something stronger than cold turkey, there are numerous apps that can disable your computer’s wifi – the modern day equivalent of stuffing your ears with wax.
2. Nobody said it would be easy
It became easy to project my bad attitude onto my writing. My work is relatively invisible. It’s something I can stick in a drawer and pretend that it’s something only I see. It’s something I can torture myself with without anyone really knowing. I look at the same paragraph that I’ve been working with since March and wonder if I’m supposed to feel this stupid.
I think I am. Supposed to feel like stupid, I mean. I think it’s pretty typical to feel lost and overwhelmed within your own work. But holy crap, I should really just get over it because it’s a first draft and it’s still not done.
Every time I open Scrivener, I do so intending to finish my scene. Or start a new one. To do something beyond write a couple hundred words. I’m pretty sure I don’t have writer’s block, I have the ideas but my drive has plummeted. I have a bad attitude about my writing right now. My intentions are good, but I always have a little Hamlet messing with my mind. I have this piss poor attitude that I am letting tarnish my work
How to Solve?
Well, a little writing is better than none.
There’s always some form of a writing challenge going on that provides interaction with the writing community. Since I’m competitive, it’s always better to focus the challenge onto myself rather than waste my time comparing myself to other writers.
3. Find something that cheers you up
Your incessant monologizing fills the castle with ennui
Your antic disposition is embarrassing to see.
And by the way, you sulky brat, the answer is to be!
I think the title speaks for itself. Force yourself out of the negative space.
Here are some small things that always cheer me up:
- ze frank – specifically his Invocation for New Beginnings
- Kate Beaton’s Hark a Vagrant
- Cheer up Hamlet (one of my go to happy songs)
I’ve also spent the last few weeks looking for opportunities to branch out and develop new skills. Learning something new is never a waste of time – plus you never know when your new knowledge will come in handy with your writing.
In sum, and to be entirely truthful, I hit the wall a couple months ago and I still haven’t fully moved past it.
I regularly alternated between staring at a blank page and staring at the recycle bin. I fed into my fears and my paranoia, convinced that I was wasting my time, wasting the time of everyone I came into contact with, and worst of all, completely embarrassing myself.
Once I came/was forced into the realization that I was self-sabotaging myself it made me start thinking about solutions. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t writing, I was seeking outlets that feed into my neuroses.
If you’ve hit the wall, take a step back at look at it objectively. Nothing is impossible, and trust me, you are not as terrible as you think you are. Take a good long look at the wall you’ve created (because this is most definitely a problem you’ve created) and start taking it apart. It might take days, weeks, months, years. Doesn’t matter. The point is to get past it.