Love Is A Battlefield – Overcoming Creative Depressions

For the past two years, I’ve put the majority of my creative energy into writing a novel. Yeah, yeah. I know. My attention has clearly been aimed elsewhere, far from my blog.

Rather than talk about my sporadic posting, let’s talk about something else today: creative depressions. Many of us experience miserable lulls with our writing every now and then. These lulls can last as little as a day, while others can last as long as a year–er, years. Personally, I’ve experienced two significant lulls in my writing career thus far: The first knocked me down–hard–after my YA option contract expired. For six whole months, I refused to pick up a pen. I even considered giving up writing all together. It was a dark, dark time.

The second lull struck more recently, in January. Right after I rang in the New Year, I sent out my first query letters for the psychological thriller I’d bled, sweat, and cried over for two years. I was so excited to embark on this part of the publishing journey, and I felt so confident with my material. My manuscript had been put through the beta reader ringer, and my query letter had been put through the Writer’s Digest gauntlet (which included an agent critique). I was ready! To add to my confidence, I knew the querying drill. I’d done it before (and semi-successfully). I just forgot one thing:

Querying is one of the most depressing things on the planet!

Despite telling myself there’d be lots of waiting and lots (and lots) of rejection, I forgot how hard the process is. I forgot how much tenacity and patience it takes. I forgot how it feels to hit the “send” button on a query email: like dropping your beloved baby into the gaping jaws of the industry.

Snap! Chomp! Gulp! Dreams get chewed up and spit back out (or, more often, swallowed for good).

On top of enduring the harsh querying process, I also received three rejections for short stories and failed to advance to the finals of a cinematic prose contest…all within the same week. To add insult to injury, my day job was insanely busy AND my dentist informed me I had to get my wisdom teeth yanked.

Put all of these unfortunate pieces together, and–kaboom! I toppled into a creative depression. For about three weeks, I wallowed in self-pity, ate lots of chocolate, punched a few pillows, and wallowed some more. I ignored my laptop, cursed everything I had ever written, and mentally abandoned my beloved novel, still out there fighting for its life in the wilds. Honestly, I couldn’t even pick up a book without having a flare of panic, followed by an existential crisis of some kind.

I finally had to–firmly–remind myself that love is a battlefield. And if you love writing enough, you’ll find a way to fight through a creative depression, however low it drops you.

Overall, it took me about three months to battle through my creative depression. To overcome my doubts and insecurities, anger and bitterness, and utter lack of motivation to put pen to paper, I enlisted various war tactics. Some of these included:

  • Getting support from my writing group: The first time I went through a creative depression, I only had one writing friend (and he wasn’t the supportive type; at least, not in the way I needed him to be). The second time, I had a strong, tight-knit writing group that caught me as I plummeted into a deep, black pit. Their rock solid support raised me back up and set me on firm ground again. Well, the ground continued to tremble and shake for a while, but every time I threatened to fall over, they steadied me. (If you don’t have a supportive network of writers, find one! It will change your life.)
  • Listening to new music: Music is a big inspiration for me. While I can’t listen to it during my writing sessions, I like to listen to it as I drive, work, exercise, read, clean the house, etc. Basically, all the time. Around the middle of March, it hit me I’d been listening to the same playlist since January (about 100 songs on repeat, over and over). I realized the repetitive music likely contributed to my lull, almost like I was stuck on replay. So, I clicked on a random music video on YouTube, and then let fate choose which songs popped up next. Ta-da! A spark. An idea! With a low groan and a rusty creak, my imagination started running again.
  • Reading: As I mentioned before, reading can be such a turnoff when you’re stuck in a creative depression. It reminds you that you’re not writing, you’re not published, and you might never achieve your lifelong dreams of being a New York Times bestseller (or whatever your ultimate writing goal might be). But, whether you like it or not, reading is a key ingredient for writers. It’s like fertilizer for our imaginations. A couple of weeks ago, I finally admitted this fact to myself and began reading a highly recommended book many agents mention in their bios (“Luckiest Girl Alive” by Jessica Knoll). Surprise, surprise, it’s helped. A lot!
  • Participating in writing contests: Around Easter, I found out that I took first place (in the first round) of a writing contest. Receiving that news gave me a much needed jolt of confidence. It also literally forced me to sit down and write for the second round of the contest. To be honest, it was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. However, the story I churned out was…decent. Not great, but decent. Better yet, it spurred me to participate in two more contests, one of which led to an idea for a new novel. Yay! Suddenly, I was excited to write again.

Writing is hard. No doubt about it. It’s even harder when you’re hungry to succeed, but can’t seem to get your foot in the door. It’s harder yet when you get knocked down–again and again–and eventually lose the strength to stand back up. But, remember: you can stand back up. It might take days, it might take years, but we all have it in us to overcome a creative depression. We all have the power to shake off a knockout punch, crack our knuckles, and charge back into battle!

What are some of your strategies to snap out of a creative depression?

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Music Monday – Bad – Michael Jackson

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicFor the past week, I’ve been struggling with developing one of my novel’s lead characters. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m over-thinking who he is, or if it’s because I can’t decide how to present his chapters to readers, or if it’s because I’m distracted by life (crazy at the moment), or because of something else. Whatever it is, it’s been impeding my progress.

So, just like I always do when I’m having trouble writing, I set aside my computer and listened to some music. Thankfully, Michael Jackson’s “Bad” popped up on my playlist and gave me the spark I needed!

51i6U1TFYzL“Bad” has always been one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs. It’s got great energy, lots of attitude, and a fast-paced rhythm that gets my creative cogs turning.

As for my novel, this song helps me capture the essence of my less than angelic characters, especially the one I’ve been struggling with lately–a cruel, selfish, twisted man. Every time I listen to “Bad”, he springs to life in my mind and I’m able to see and hear him so much clearer!

So, if you’re looking for a song to help you break out of a rut or get in the groove of a “bad” character, check out Michael Jackson’s “Bad”! 

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

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Music Monday – James Horner Tribute

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicLast week, the world lost an amazing, creative, and inspiring composer.

James Horner.

james-hornerLike so many, I was devastated when I heard the news of his death. For years, I’ve been listening to Horner’s compositions, and not just while watching the many blockbuster films he scored, but also while writing. Many a scene has been choreographed in my mind while listening to his music. In fact, I’m certain I have at least one James Horner composition on every book playlist I’ve ever created.

james-horner-collageJames Horner’s work is dramatic, suspenseful, and touching. It not only brings the movies we love to life, but it also has the power to bring a writer’s imagination to life. It helps us experience the emotions of our characters, visualize and plan the scenes of our stories, and develop the twists and turns that take our work to the next level.

I encourage you to take a moment today to listen to some of James Horner’s work below. I promise you’ll find inspiration in at least one of them.

One of my all-time favorites (and a previous Music Monday).

I like listening to this one whenever I take a step back and look at a story’s bigger picture. (Almost like imagining its trailer).

This is a favorite whenever I’m writing a particularly dramatic scene.

Thank you, James Horner, for composing such beautiful music, and offering writers like me such amazing inspiration. You will be greatly missed.

james-horner-oscars-2010-1415881552-article-0

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Music Monday – Dark Paradise – Lana Del Rey

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicHave you ever heard a song and thought, “Whoa, this could be my book’s theme song!”? Well, that’s how I feel about Lana Del Rey’s “Dark Paradise”.
lana_del_rey___dark_paradise_by_joykill_design-d614nenI actually laughed when I first heard this song because it sounded exactly like my story’s female protagonist. The words, the voice, the tone, the emotion–everything about it was her.

Since then, I’ve listened to it countless times, and every time, I’m inspired by it. Lana Del Rey has one of those sweet, yet sultry voices that can borderline on eerie, which is perfect for my story.

What I love most about this song is its lyrics. I can’t explain how much they relate to my story. I feel like when I listen to them, I’m actually listening to my protagonist. It’s downright weird.

All my friends ask me why I stay strong
Tell ’em when you find true love, it lives on
That’s why I stay here

And there’s no remedy for memory, your face is like a melody
It won’t leave my head
Your soul is holding me and telling me that everything is fine
But I wish I was dead

c3ddb2965a98ea0f602a5f7f2e1a6452So, if you’re looking for a haunting song that inspires a wide range of emotions, check out Lana Del Rey’s “Dark Paradise“.

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

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Music Monday – Linkin Park – Bleed It Out

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicA few months ago, a friend recommended a song on her fitness blog, Bigger Than Smaller. At first I thought, “Great workout song!”, but then I listened to it again and realized it could offer some excellent writing motivation in the future.

Well, the future has arrived. “Bleed It Out” by Linkin Park has become one of my favorite songs to listen to while I work on my new novel.

20140606014550!Bleed_It_Out_single The main thing I like about “Bleed It Out” is its rawness. While I listen to it, I’m able to experience my characters’ self-destructive natures, as well as their rage, frustration, and despair.

I bleed it out, go, stop the show
Choppy words in a sloppy flow
Shotgun, I pull, lock and load
Cock it back and then watch it go

Another things I love about this song is its rhythm and beat. Let’s face it, sometimes (okay, many times) writing can be an energy drain. Physically, mentally, emotionally–it can take a lot out of us, especially if we’re writing stories that “dig deeper” and deal with uncomfortable subject matters.

That’s why I enjoy listening to songs like “Bleed It Out”. Not only do they inspire my story, but they inspire me to keep writing, even if I’m exhausted.

NDA5R0RRQzRLWTQx_o_linkin-park---bleed-it-out-official-bootlegs-live-from-So, if you’re looking for an energetic song that inspires raw emotions, listen to “Bleed It Out” by Linkin Park.

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

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Music Monday – Rachel Platten – Fight Song

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicToday’s Music Monday is one of those unexpected treasures I stumbled upon while listening to music on YouTube last week. From the corner of my eye, on the sidebar, I saw “Fight Song”. I’d never heard of its artist, Rachel Platten, but I decided to click on it anyway. And I’m so glad I did. It’s amazing!

Rachel-Platten-Fight-Song-1500x1500The first time I heard “Fight Song” I thought, “Well, this is perfect for writers and anyone else pursuing a dream.” Most of us experience failure along our journeys, and many of us get so crushed by it, we begin to question everything: Our passion, our goals, our abilities. Some of us even wonder if we have the strength to keep fighting for what we want most. I know I have.

Then I listened to “Fight Song” again, and I realized it isn’t just for writers and dreamers. It’s for anyone who has (or ever will) hit rock bottom. It encourages people to get back up after being knocked down, to forget the naysayers, and to keep fighting for what makes them happy.

11275279_1585162291762075_1632774544_n“Fight Song” also provides great story fodder. Although I can’t get a ton out of it for the current story I’m working on (my characters are way too crazy to care about digging themselves out of the pits they’ve fallen into), there are still plenty of gems to use from it: Conflict and drama. Depression and sorrow. Determination and hope. Freedom and courage…The list goes on and on!

promoted-media-optimized_5508890014322And, as you likely suspect, the lyrics are what make this song so great:

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song

3d80642a4708ae6f58e8489eaa366dc7So, whether you need a personal boost, or some motivation for your story, I strongly encourage you to listen to “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten.

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

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