The Slump


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Image by Chantilly Mom via Flickr

This past Saturday I ran a 5K, my first in over nine months. It went fairly well, better than I thought it would. I’ve been training for it for over a month, running four or five days a week, a few miles at a time. When race day came I was ready.

While I was training for this run I’ve also been working on my next book.

I’ve noticed a correlation between running a 5K and writing a book. Things start off with a bang. The starter gives the signal and all the runners jump into gear, a mass of legs and arms swinging and pounding the pavement. The same goes for writing. The first third of the book always comes easy, it flows like clear water down a mountain. Often, the story unfolds in my mind faster than my fingers can keep up with it on the keyboard. I’m in a groove, all the pistons firing in sync.

Then the second mile arrives. For me, when I run, after the first mile I hit a wall. That’s when the battle begins. I start second-guessing myself, questioning why I’m running, trying to convince myself to walk or quit altogether (can you tell I’m not a natural runner?) Writing is no different, the middle third is the toughest and slowest. I get bogged down in the plot and start wondering why I started this story in the first place. I lose my focus, get distracted, change my mind, and try to convince myself to throw in the towel.

Then the last mile arrives and I know I’m almost home. The proverbial second wind arrives, bright and smiley and, while my lungs still burn, my legs feel rejuvenated. The final push comes rather easily and the finish is in sight. I ride my high and finish strong. In the same way that last third of the book, the climax and resolution, is where my writing finds new life. I see the end ahead, the light poking through the darkness, and head straight for it without wavering or stopping for pause.

So where am I now? Right smack in the middle, the slump, the drought. I have no idea where the story is going or how I’m going to get there. I’m questioning myself and my abilities, wondering if I should have embarked on this journey, wrestling with whether to push on or send my work thus far to the scrap pile.

I’ll push on, though, and ignore the voice of pessimism, of discouragement and negativity. Writing is an exercise in perseverance, a challenge to determination. There will be light in this darkness and a story will emerge. I’m confident of that . . . or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

So how about you? If you’re a writer, do you experience a similar phenomena? What do you do to revive your writing?

If you’re not a writer, is there anything in life that puts you in a slump and challenges your perseverance? What do you do to climb out of that hole?

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About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on September 30, 2010, in Writing Life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I’m with you, Mike. Pushing through the middle. God bless and good writing.
    Mark

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  2. Same thing Mike . . . but with essays! I started my undergraduate studies in 2005 and now I’m 3 courses into a master’s program. I find that my looming deadline gives me that last “push” I need to get me to the end. During the process though, I always wonder “Why am I doing this–again?!” I doubt myself and drink lots of coffee 🙂 I say to my teens in exasperation, “You getting your education while you’re still young,” and they encourage me, telling me that I can do this.

    You can do this, Mike! I’m sure I’m not your only cheerleader but every little bit helps! Congrats on the run too–a feat in itself 🙂

    Anne
    p.s. can’t wait for the new book!!!

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  3. Yeah, the middle stinks. I’ve only successfully completed one “novel” and I thought the middle to be the toughest. Kinda like riding a bike up a hill. Not that I’m much of a bike rider anymore, but as a kid I remembered struggling up a steep hill sluggishly pedalling and sometimes even jumping off to walk the bike up, sweat pouring down my face. I would wonder why I would bother riding up the “stupid” hill and maybe I should just turn around, but finally I would reach the crest of the hill. I would hop on top of my bike once again and push off, coasting down the steep hill, wind whipping my ponytail behind me and causing tears to stream down my face. That’s when I would realize the hill was worth it. The climb was tough, but the feeling of flying down the other side was priceless. Like a story, to me, the middle is the tough hill, but when I get to the top of the hill, I love the rush that comes with figuring out a plot, adding an interesting twist and a compelling end to the story.

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    • Thanks for the comment, Shawna, and for the memory of rushing downhill on a bike, just on the brink of being out-of-control. What a wild ride! We authors can only hope our endings give readers the same feeling 🙂

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  4. Well, I’m trying to write a book, novel, etc. but it’s really slow. I often find the parts where I am describing something to the audience, or there’s no real character emotion to be slow. And then there’s the parts where I write something completely ridiculous on in impulse, and the I REALLY feel like scrapping my efforts. But as for the “slump” in the middle, I really can’t say, I haven’t gotten to the middle yet.

    As far as the fiction on my blog goes, I’m usually all into it, and everything is great. But, there are a few times when I feel discouraged or downtrodden with the story, and wonder if I should just delete the whole thing. But later I’m so glad I didn’t. Which is good 🙂

    As for running… That’s pretty close to how I run as well. 😉

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    • Writing can be slow at times. Persistence pays off big-time. Most people who start a novel never finish it. It’s something you have to work on every day (or almost every day) for months on end. You struggle through it, wrestle with it, curse it, laugh about it, cry, question, and before you know it . . . it’s done and you have a completed novel to your credit. You’ve accomplished something most people only dream of doing. Stick with it!

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  5. Hey Mike,
    Loved this post so much that I chose it for my Blog Post of the Week over at http://www.jilliankent.com

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