Beating the Writing Life Blues: Tips for Overcoming Ennui

2020 already getting you down? Me too. It’s only a little over 100 hours since New Year’s Eve. Images of the nearly 15 million acres burning in Australia resemble scenes of the apocalypse. The threat of war hangs over the United States like a cloud of smoke, this one manmade rather than the result of global warming. Not since 9/11 have I felt so uneasy. It’s hard to work on my #workinprogress, Chapter Nine of my memoir. I need to remember my own advice for avoiding writing paralysis, or for that matter, general life paralysis. Here are my go-to tips for overcoming ennui:

  • Get outside. Walk to the mailbox, take a hike, shovel your driveway, whatever. One of the benefits of having a dog in the city is that no matter what the weather, I have to go outside multiple times a day. I often don’t want to. It’s too cold, too hot, too rainy, too snowy, too late, too early. My pooch, however, shares none of these reservations, and anyway, the prospect of cleaning up an accident in the apartment is a really good motivator. But you know what? I am never sorry that I got outside, out of my cocoon, out of my head. I always feel better afterwards.
  • Move your body to move your brain. See above. Or do some yoga, or go to the gym, or clean your house or car or garage. (I’m going to clean out my refrigerator today).
  • Stay off social media. No matter how hard we try, algorithms force us into silos that reinforce the information we are exposed to. Just until the mood lifts, no Twitter telling you how the world is coming to an end, no Instagram making you feel fat, poor or just plain boring, no Facebook. (OK, Facebook has been off my radar since 2016, but more about that in another post).
  • Go to a museum, a play, a concert, a dance performance, a movie. Being in the presence of creativity sparks creativity!
  • Get into the kitchen and cook some real food. I love cooking because it produces a tangible product, engages my creativity, saves me money over ordering in or going out, and is much healthier than reaching for that bag of chips I might call dinner as I pour a second glass of wine. My mood is always lifted after the ritual of chopping veggies for “mise en place,” or concocting something delicious from pantry staples.
  • Pick a manageable task that will remind you of why you want to write in the first place. Some suggestions:
    1. Reread a short piece that you wrote that you are really proud of.
    2. If you have an inspiration notebook, reread it. Mine is filled with quotations that spoke to me, gathered over many years.
    3. Find a journal prompt that resonates and free write just to get the juices flowing.
    4. Do some research. Every writer needs to do research, no matter the genre. If you don’t have the mojo to write, then get busy doing background work.
    5. Start one of those books you couldn’t wait to get and haven’t cracked yet. Reading good writing is the predicate for writing good writing!

If all else fails, just call it a day. Don’t beat yourself up. Binge watch Netflix, get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is another day.

What’s your secret for beating the writing life blues?






5 thoughts on “Beating the Writing Life Blues: Tips for Overcoming Ennui”

  1. What an inspiring and beautifully written post. I also dance in my living room to shake off ennui. With wild abandon. I mean an arms swinging to the beat, legs kicking sort of dancing.


  2. There are 400 million blogs on wordpress, but half of the likes on this post are bloggers I know. How is this possible? What’s the format of your memoir? Are you writing it like a novel (one long story) or like a blog (lots of little stories)? I can’t seem to write anything longer than 1200 words any more. I’m getting the itch to create something bigger than a blog post, but I can’t wrap my head around what that might be.


    1. My memoir is in book form, chapter by chapter. I am in a writing workshop — ten people plus teacher, we meet every week and two people present for critique each time so once ever five weeks I’m up. I began in January of 2019 and have finished eight chapter of a first draft. I was terrified when I started. I couldn’t imagine how I would do it — dialogue, scene, pace, the whole works. But I’ve learned so much about craft. It was hard to hear critique at first but now I really want it. So yes, it is one long story. I am just about ready to post a bit about it on the blog — a page and a half resembling a query letter. There is definitely a narrative arc. It’s not “this happened and then that happened and I was born and now I am old, blah blah blah.” There are key themes. It is very different from blogging/personal essays, which I have written for years in a different writing group that I started, but that work really set me up for doing longer work.. So my best advice is — find some peers! Even online, although I think in person is best. If you want a writing buddy, I am available!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For diving in to a writers group, I’m going to hold off a couple more years. Both of my kids are in high school and they still want to hang out so I’m going to milk that. My town has one writers group that I attended when my kids were young and going to bed early. It was a really unsatisfying experience, There was no critique, just discussion and the same people wanted to discuss the same topics every week. It got so tiring. If you could point to one post that would represent your whole blog, which one would that be. I’d like to read it.


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