The Fires Burning Within

This sounds like an inspirational post, but it isn’t…more confessioinal in nature I suppose.

Here’s one confession: I love this horrid, cold dreary month of January with a passion…uh, as a writer.

Why you ask?

Because while the wind is blowing, the inevitible cold fronts blasting down and my yard resembles a slushy, wet yellow marsh, I’m hammering away at the keys. Yep. Winter is my most productive time of year.Nothing to distract me except the occasional grocery store run and contemplating all the changes I will make in my house when I feel like crawling out of my warm hidey hole again. Not to mention I participate in the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival where I drop into chatrooms and rack up 2k-3k at a time. Oh, and there is that New Years resolution for being more productive still chugging along in my soul, shaking pom pons at me and telling me “You can do it!’ So, yeah, I love this time of year for lighting a fire…in the hearth and in my writer’s soul.

So it’s fortuitous that my bleakest creative moment occurred a few weeks ago. Not only was I stuck in my writing, but, Confession number two,  I comteplated something I’d never thought about before….quitting.

I know you’re probably thinking “Wait a sec, isn’t she under contract…for six more books?” Okay, you probably didn’t know that, but on the outside, I’ve been tripping right along releasing on average a book every four month over the past two and a half years. Should be gravy at this point. I should be a well-oiled machine.

But I’m not.

A month ago I was impossibly tired of writing. I had actually thought about emptying out my writing account and sending the money back to Harlequin. I kept thinking “what if I just stop here? 10 books published. That’s pretty good. Then I could work out and not look like a marshmallow. I could take up tennis and have lunch with the ladies at the club. I could go back to teaching Adult Ed. I mean, I loved teaching GED prep and I was good at itl Or I could help my husband more at his practice. Volunteer at the Children’s Hospital, chair a committee, work in my kid’s school office…anything but write a stupid book.”

Don’t know if any of y’all have been there, but it’s a crossroads kind of thing – should I stay or should I go?

I decided to not make any decisions. Our floors were coming up, husband having surgery, youngest kid struggling with grades, Christmas was on the horizon, a book releasing, and my car was being repaired – not a good time to make a drastic decision. So I took two weeks off. Oh, I still blogged and tweeted and FB, but I didn’t write on the story I’d begun hating with a thousand flames of hatred.

Then January came. I figured I needed some goals…but I wasn’t really enthused about anything. Exercise? Meh. Eating better? For a month before I’m back to real creamer? Being a NYT Bestseller? Ha. Yeah, uninspiring, huh? But as I sent the kids back to school on January 6th and sat down with a book at 39K due at the end of January (at 85K), I began to picture my life without a cup of coffee, a huge group of writer friends and a world I created. I didn’t like the way that life looked. So I dropped in on the RSS WWF and made some goals. 10K a week for the next four weeks. Basically, finish the book. Still wasn’t totally inspired, but I started writing that day. Ten days later, I’m at nearly 60K and I’ve got my groove back.

So what changed?

Having others believe in me.

If you’re ever at a point when you can’t write, try making a writing pact with a group of friends. There’s something about making a commitment that makes you, uh, meet a commitment. And when you start writing fast, allowing your inner editor to take a nap, you rediscover the joy of writing and creating a story. Your characters come alive, your voice pushes aside doubt and shines, and you become once again the writer you wanted to be. That’s where I am today. I committed in a very non-dramatic way, committed to writing every day, making it a habit and my muse returned home from her vacay in the woods of my mind and got to work with me.

There’s something to be said for doing work. Somehow, someway committing to do something like the Winter Writing Festival reawakened the fire always burning inside me and I know the embers will always be present, ready to be nurtured again if the flames should ever die down…all I need is friends and a commitment to try.

So what about you? What things have you done to pull yourself out of a slump? Have you ever done Nanowrmo? A similar writing fest? Do you do #1K1H? Or have you ever taken a hiatus? Wondering how other writers (and readers) deal with being burned out on the job?