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When I Get Bogged Down In The Writing I Quit

Whew! I’m closing in on the 3/4 mark of a ghostwriting project I’ve been working on for several months. This week I had hoped to have at least drafts of 16 chapters. As it turns out, it’s going to take me into next week, because instead of 16 I’ve now got 19 started. Since the proposal calls for 25 chapters, I’m getting there.

Of course, these are only drafts. The author has seen 12 or 13 of these. Normally I would have shipped more, but between travel and some illness, she hasn’t been available, so I’ve kept writing.

That probably means at least a couple of the chapters will be dropped or radically rewritten, but I’m confident most of what I’ve done will at least serve to get clear on what’s next.

I bogged down completely

But a few moments ago I bogged down completely. When I get punchy I can’t always tell. I hadn’t realized how late in the day it had gotten, but it was past time to put this particular project aside until at least tomorrow. In fact, I’m going to take the day off from this project, maybe even two. Taking breaks is critical to good writing.

There was a time when I tried to push through this sort of mental fatigue, but I learned long ago it’s  much more efficient for me to honor it. Often that simply means switching projects. You’re reading the results of such a switch now. When I get back to the book tomorrow or the next day, I’ll be much fresher and my writing will be much better. I might even find that the suspect sentence isn’t so bad after all.

It takes practice to trust yourself to know your own writing rhythm, but it’s worth learning. I’ve come to trust my writing process; not surprising considering how long I’ve been doing it. Write often enough and you’ll discover your own patterns and learn to work within them. You’ll be a better writer because of it.

What do you do when you get bogged down writing?


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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Jori

    I, too, do housework – whatever needs doing at that moment. Just getting my legs, arms, and body moving gives my mind a break and a chance to process.

    • I laugh at myself… I know I’m bogged down when I’d rather wash the dishes than write 😉

  • Oh so true! Last night I absolutely had one of these moments actually. After a long day beginning at 5am, involving a full day of work, followed by a medical appointment after work, I didn’t get home until 7pm. I am currently working on an order for a bunch of medical articles for a client, & although I’m ahead of target, I really needed to complete another one last night – I stay ahead as much as I can because of my FT job (I never know what might come up that stops me doing my FL work in my free time). I felt mentally & physically drained though, & half of me couldn’t face sitting at the computer again! So I had a snooze on the sofa instead! Just a 30 minute power nap left me with enough energy to jump back into it afterwards!

    • Anne

      Good for you for taking the break… and for confirming here that it works.

  • Hannah

    I think you’re right on, Anne. The best thing when you’re tired is to stop and do something else. I have to write after my regular job, on my lunch hour and on weekends, so I’m usually already somewhat tired when I get to it. If I can’t catch that second wind, it’s sometimes best just to shut down for the day. Then I can attack it fresh the next session.

  • Good topic, Anne. Soon as I saw the title, I thought: “Anne just got bogged down!” And, yes, I do just what you do, move on to something else. When I was writing software books, I divided (mentally) up the work into two sorts: things that require decisions and things that need only slogging. Decisions are the things that take energy, wear me out. When I can’t decide well anymore, I do some slogging: d/l graphics or do research or draw no-brainer charts, etc., in Excel or Printmaster. When I can’t slog anymore, I knock off for the day. Surfing the ‘net is dangerous; I keep to a very narrow list of sites, bookmarking anything else for a rainy-day visit.
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

  • I’m two kinds of writer wrapped up in one, a copywriter and a songwriter!

    So, as an advertising copywriter, my favorite anti-bog-down is pick up a guitar a strum it. If I’m in an office, well, I confess, I have been known to simply surf the net mindlessly for several minutes, sometimes longer.

    As a songwriter, when the music stops I like to walk to a coffee shop, order a cuppa brew and read the newspaper. Sometimes the stories of everyday life have little nuggets that can really help me with my lyrics.


    Jeff Shattuck’s last blog post..A song I have ridiculously high hopes for.

  • admin

    Leslie and Lauri, I also find doing some mundane task or a walk or a workout helps breakup my stuckness, and Annie, I remember when my kids were little and I didn’t have time to be bogged down… thanks for the memories.

  • Heeheehee. I work from home with my 2 1/2 year old daughter and 1 year old son… I never get to write long enough to get bogged down! 🙂 But I love it.

    Annie’s last blog post..Freelance Writing Report: A $500 Week

  • Lauri

    As a book writer, I get bogged down all the time! Large projects are daunting and it can be hard to feel the satisfaction of accomplishment the way there is with smaller projects or editing jobs.

    I always know when I’m “bogged” because I get crazy fidgety, ADD-scattered all over the place, and am tempted to take lazy shortcuts (which, ironically, always waste more of my time).

    In such moments, I walk my dog, clean the house, or go for a swim at the Y. When I return to work, I am invariably refreshed and more productive.

  • When I get bogged down (and it happens quite frequently) I do laundry! I’m a freelance copywriter for the credit union industry. Folding warm towels gives my weary brain a rest, and often leads to the perfect headline or that elusive closing sentence I need to complete an article.

    Lesley’s last blog post..Nothing to fear

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