Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Crossing The Doldrums (IWSG July 1, 2015)

The Insecure Writer's Support Group
This is my monthly post for IWSG = Insecure Writers' Support Group (click for the link).  Alex J Cavanaugh (may his tribe increase) started it and it has, for me, provided wisdom, understanding, laughter, and a lot of thought.  Sign up!  Read!

I've been giving a lot of thought to The Doldrums, recently.  It's a word most people have heard, but I doubt they know what it means.  The Doldrums is the (maritime) name for region in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans:
The Doldrums are regions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that have little if any wind.  This was a particular problem for sailors in the past when they depended on the winds to propel their ships, a problem that could be potentially deadly.  The Doldrums are caused by solar radiation from the sun, as sunlight beams down directly on area around the equator.  This heating causes the air to warm and rise straight up rather than blow horizontally.  The result is little or no wind, sometimes for weeks on end.
The Doldrums, in the Atlantic, are near the Sargasso Sea, reputed to be the graveyard of hundred of stymied, drifting, abandoned hulks:

The old maritime term for an unmoving sailing ship, stranded and helpless, is 'in irons'.  It's a good description.  Weighted down, immovable, bound, tied to one place, stagnating...
Like someone in the grip of writer's block, maybe...
Haven't we all been that way?  At a standstill, no inspiration blowing through our imaginations, helpless, watching our energy drain away, knowing in our heart of hearts that it will never ever come back, and there is nothing we can do about it.

I've been there.  Haven't you?  Thinking that any energy for writing is a self-existing gift, almost like a happy guest that comes in, sits down, regales me with stories that I scramble to jot down...and then departs to leave me helpless.

The Doldrums or, if you think about it, Writer's block.

I'm emerging from a slight case of The Doldrums.  I've been going hammer and tongs on a story that is slated to come out early 2016.  It's coming along nicely, but not nicely enough, and I have spent so much time staring at the pages on my screen, reading portions over and over again, I ended up blunting my own creativity.  Basically, I sprained my muse.  Or, to be a little more plebeian, I burned myself out.

I think once you've powered through one of these times (once you remember that they're just a bit of time and not the death knell of your talent, drive and writing) you can recognize them and deal with them.  At least I can...

(After a couple weeks bewailing my fate, longing for the surge of inspiration, staring at The Most Boring Thing Ever Written...) 

The only cure for that, which I offer to all, is the writing equivalent of getting a jump-start.  If you're like me, you have  plenty of projects sitting around.  Put  down the current one that has you tired and grumpy, rest and relax, and then pick up another story and get going.  Use pencil and pen and highlighter.  Go to town! seems to be working.


  1. Switching focus to another project is a good idea. You get the boost of confidence from accomplishing something and you get the time you need away from the troublesome project.

  2. The real doldrums are fascinating. And frightening to get caught in them in one's artistic life. I hate it when that happens. More looking at the manuscript doesn't help but will confuse me even more. Like you, I will change projects, sometimes setting aside writing altogether for awhile and engaging in some other creative endeavor like cooking or rearranging furniture or gardening.

  3. Walking away for a bit does help.

  4. I'm constantly juggling projects. Pick one up, put one down. Repeat. Good to know I'm not the only one!

  5. Sometimes switching to another project is all it takes.
    Didn't know that about the Doldrums. I learned something!

  6. I'm always juggling more than one project. But I was so fascinated by the information about the doldrums. What courage it took to go on sea voyages!

  7. May the winds of creativity return to you, and always be at your back.