Conquer the Writing Blues

Effective and Ineffective Ways to Feel Better

In general, writing is not a particularly joyful occupation—not all the time, anyway. Writer’s aren’t circus clowns or cheerful mascots. A large portion of our job involves digging into painful emotions and memories.

Once that’s over, we get to take out our highlighters and edit those raw emotions. We put aside our humanity and shape them into something like literature, ignoring the fact that just moments ago we were bleeding them onto the page.

Then, after we’ve deluded ourselves into believing the worst is over, we submit those words for publication and allow others to judge them. Rejection is part of a writer’s daily life.

It’s no wonder the blues can sneak up on a writer and catch them in a stranglehold. Here are some tactics I’ve tried to stave off the blues (and some others that might just work).

1. Check the mail.

I can see my mailbox from my office window, so I decided to check the mail to lift my sagging spirits. A postcard from a friend would do the trick. Or even a small package stuffed inside the box. I slipped on shoes and braved the cold. The first letter was my water bill. The second was a credit card offer. The third was my insurance bill. The fourth was a coupon to my favorite store!—that expired yesterday.

Difficulty: 5

Effectiveness: -6

2. Make a pot of tea.

Nothing is better on a cold day than a hot pot of tea. I closed my laptop and decided not to open it again until my blues had disappeared. I put the tea kettle on the stove and prepared the teapot with my favorite tea (hazelnut pu-erh). I steeped the tea for the perfect amount of time, added a dash of honey, stirred with a cinnamon stick, and settled onto the couch. As I lifted the teacup to my lips, preparing for a nice warm sip, a bird crashed into the window behind me and I spilled the tea down the front of my shirt.

Difficulty: 3

Effectiveness: -5

3. Read a book.

When I’m struggling to put words together, what could be better than a good read? I plucked a book from my shelf and curled up in the armchair. I enjoyed the first page. I even enjoyed the second page. But after the third page, my mind was whirring. I’ll never be able to write like this. I’ll never be published. What am I even doing? And the writing blues washed over me again.

Difficulty: 1

Effectiveness: 1

Methods that Might Actually Work

1. Breathe deeply.

Never underestimate the power of deep breathing. Breathe as slowly as you can, into your stomach. Inhale for a ten count, and exhale for a ten count. Do this for a few minutes and feel how relaxed you become.

Difficulty: 2

Effectiveness: 3

2. Do something you enjoy.

Go for a walk. Watch a ball game. Spend a day at the beach or the lake. Do something that makes you happy. Take control and banish the blues by giving yourself some rest.

Difficulty: 4

Effectiveness: 5

3. Write something else.

If the piece you’re writing is difficult—emotionally draining or a technical challenge—take a break and write something else. Write something light that makes you feel good. Reset your writing muscles and then try again.

Difficulty: 3

Effectiveness: 4

Banish the Writing Blues

When the writing blues strike, don’t let them ruin your day. Take control and let the writing blues know you have better things to do. Happy writing!


Photo by YangTS

January 8, 2018
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