Today we’re pleased to welcome Rachel Hartman, currently on a blog tour for her newest work Shadow Scale, the sequel to her very well-received Seraphina (I loved Seraphina and chose it for one of our favorite books of 2012). Today she’s writing about a problem many writers encounter at some point in their careers — writer’s block. More precisely, how she overcame hers and managed to finish Shadow Scale. As someone who has been greatly looking forward to this sequel ever since I fell in love with Seraphina, I for one am happy she found a solution (and those who’ve read Seraphina won’t be surprised at what that solution was). Shadow Scale goes on sale March 10. Thanks to our friends at Random House, we’ve got print copies of both Seraphina and Shadow Scale for one lucky commenter with a U.S. or Canadian address. (Also, please notice that Seraphina is currently on sale for $1.99 on Kindle).
“Weathering a Dearth of Ideas” by Rachel Hartman
I used to compare ideas to cockroaches. It seemed like for every one I saw, there were a hundred I hadn’t glimpsed yet, waiting to jump out at me. I’ve always had more ideas than I could possibly use.
While writing my second novel, Shadow Scale, however, my ideas suddenly stopped coming. It was terrifying.
A drought can happen to anyone, but I had foolishly considered myself immune and had no strategies for dealing with it, no irrigation networks, no wells dug, no saving up for a non-rainy day. I was more than half convinced my brain was broken, which led me down a hole of depression and anxiety. I did have a strategy for dealing with depression and anxiety: I usually wrote myself out of it. But what do you do when your usual therapy becomes the source of stress?
I won’t narrate the months of agonized trial-and-error. It’s much pleasanter to skip to the solution: I took up singing. I joined a community choir and a madrigal choir, and I taught myself overtone singing. I sang while cooking, riding my bike, and walking the dog. Music was a completely ego-free art for me, unburdened by expectations. No one cared if I was any good at it, and I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t care either.
That’s what writing had felt like, once upon a time. That was why I had started to write in the first place, because I loved doing it and didn’t want to stop. Singing reminded me of that original joy, and it enabled me to go back to writing and fall in love with it all over again. Only when I was finally enjoying the process again were my ideas willing to poke their little feelers out of the cracks and then scuttle out into the open.
I highly recommend finding some kind of auxiliary artform, but of course that’s not the only possible answer. Have you ever been desperately stuck for ideas before? How did you solve it?