Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: It happens to all of us. You’re working on a piece and it just isn’t going well. Last you knew, you were smarter, sharper, funnier or whatever-er than this miserable article, story, or blog post. What do you do to get back on track?
Lisa J. Jackson: Ah, yes, losing Mojo, it happens. Mojo seems to run off when I have a lot of time to dedicate to my project. I look forward to my time to write on the project and tell Muse, show up, and then Muse is off on a carefree cross-country motorcycle trip with Mojo.
I get frustrated, probably curse a time or two, and then laugh at the absurdity of thinking I’m floundering. I mean, seriously, Muse and Mojo as a couple? Ha! No chance they’ll last longer than a few hours, and then both come racing back and want to be first in line with the apology.
It’s funny to see the imaginary expressions on their faces when they realize I’ve completed a brand new project that neither was privvy to, while they stepped out together.
Once Muse and Mojo are back at home, though, I can finish up the project they ran away from quickly enough, since they both go above and beyond to get back in my good graces.
Jamie Wallace: I smiled when I read this week’s question. The column I wrote for my local paper this week was a perfect example of losing my mojo. Ironically, it was on a topic that I thought would be a breeze: my cats. I had a mind mapped outline that sprawled up, down, and across a whole page in my notebook. I had plenty to say and passion for my subject matter, but try as I might I just couldn’t get the words to come out right. My column typically clocks in around 600 – 700 words. I think I wrote three times that over four false starts. I’d literally get 400 words into a draft and think to myself, “Nope. That’s not it.” It was exhausting. I eventually found my groove, but it was a grueling process.
When I find myself in this situation, it usually means that I haven’t prepared enough. I either don’t have enough reference material (often the case on client projects), or I just haven’t found the angle that makes everything clear for me. There are other reasons that come into play (I explored several of them in my series on writer’s block), but usually the underlying culprit is simply that I’m not ready – tactically, logistically, or emotionally.
What do I do? First, I keep writing – trying to pull something through that will give me the thread of an idea or perspective I’m looking for. If that fails me (and I haven’t backed myself into a corner by procrastinating right up to my deadline), I will walk away for a while – get outside, go for a walk, take a karate class – anything to get my head out of the work. Finally, I’ll read something – anything. Sometimes, reading someone else’s words can help me get mine flowing.
Deborah Lee Luskin: Yup. Happens all the time. My answer? A walk. A true, four-to-six-mile walk works best, but if I don’t have the time or weather for that, simply walking away from my desk and doing something else also does the trick. It’s a matter of time and space – giving my mind enough of both to freewheel through its mysterious processes. And just as mysteriously, it comes back. Learning patience and having faith that this is so has made my life as a writer much richer and more productive – and I’m a lot happier, as a result.
Diane MacKinnon: When I start to lose my oomph for my writing, I walk away and do something else, as Jamie and Deborah mentioned. I often plan for this–most of the time I write a blog post draft and then put it away, usually for a couple of days, occasionally only for a couple of hours. With my other writing, I am sometimes blind-sided by the sudden lack of enthusiasm for the project. When this happens, I do exercises to get back on track (since I’ve usually set aside only a specific period of time and I don’t want to squander it). Creative writing prompts, open-focus techniques, a short stint at meditating while sitting at my desk–all of these can work for me. In those moments, I just stay at my desk until I’m back into work mode (or my time is up!)