The Doldrums: How to Put More Wind in Your Writer’s Sails

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By Bonnie Doran

What are the Doldrums? Here are the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary definitions:

1. a spell of listlessness or despondency
2. a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms, squalls, and light shifting winds
3. a state of period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump

Do you ever feel that your writing is in the Doldrums? You can overcome the Doldrums by applying some of the principles I’ll outline here.
First, recover.

You’ve just survived a squall of surgery or a long illness. You’re suffering with grief. You’re stressed because of tensions on the job, a difficult relationship, or an overwhelming to-do list. Take time to care for yourself.

1. Get to bed on time. Maybe even take a nap.
2. Exercise.
3. Eat right.

Second, set your rudder.

You won’t go anywhere if you can’t steer.

1. Pray.
2. On the back of his musical scores, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote S.D.G, shorthand for Glory to God Alone. Make sure you’re writing for God’s glory and not your own.
3. Remember that God wants to create with us, not just through us.

Third, Repair Your Sails.

Work on something related to your WIP.

1. Listen to your characters, then simply write dialogue.
2. Go back to the previous chapter and edit.
3. Do research.

Work on something unrelated to your WIP.

1. Switch to another project.
2. Organize your desk or your computer files.
3. Try writing poetry instead of fiction. Here’s something I found in an email sent by
Betsy St Amant to the ACFW loop:

Writers block, you really stink
I need an idea, I need a link!
What to say? Where to go?
My spirits have sunk so very low.
I need a gimmick, I need a plan
My heroine desperately needs a man!
Adjectives and adverbs, don’t fail me now!
Prepositions and nouns, please tell me how!
What will I do? How will this end?
Time ticks by that I don’t have to spend.
The pressure mounts, the page stays bare
My eyes glaze over as I continue to stare
Tension builds, desperation rises
A blank manuscript just doesn’t win prizes!
The end of looming, the tunnel is dark
My palms are sweaty until-hark!
What’s that? A word? It glimmers bright
I type it out, the tunnel flickers light
Another word follows, behold, a phrase!
Oh precious muse, promise you’ll stay!
I’m on a roll-now, a paragraph!
When this is over, I just might even laugh.

Take a break.

1. Go to the movies.
2. Go for a walk. Take the dog. Do you have big dog? Go for a pull.
3. Reupholster the furniture.

Use a scary solution.

1. Ask your characters questions in longhand and answer them by using the opposite hand.
2. Write with your screen turned off.
3. Bring a guy with a loaded gun into the room.

So let’s see where we are. We’ve recovered from the squall. We’ve set our rudder. We’ve repaired the cloth so it will catch the wind.

It’s time to hoist the sail.

Bonnie DoranBonnie Doran’s heart is in science fiction. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, and Sudoku puzzles. She and her husband of thirty-one share their Colorado home with two Siamese cats. Her science thriller, Dark Biology, released October 25, 2013, from Harbourlight (Pelican Book Group).

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