- Working too hard. If you’re burned out there’s no way you’re going to keep it up. Despite Millay’s insistence, don’t burn the candle at both ends. It does give a lovely light. But that light turns into the ashes of your manuscript. And no one needs that. Even if you can keep yourself warm by the fire. It’s a bad idea all around. Best to avoid it if you can. So set realistic goals if you’re the kind of person who needs set goals.
- Too many ideas, or some other reason for not being focused. I know, I know. Focus is hard. Especially when you have a hundred or so ideas in a file on your desktop. I feel your pain. I have a file with about 400. I know. That’s ridiculous. I won’t live long enough to write them all. But the goal here isn’t just quality. It’s quantity as well.
- Anxiety. Anxiety can pop up for hundreds of different reasons. The things that give me anxiety may soothe you. I, for one, work well when I give myself a word count goal for each day. If it’s too high of a word count, I shut down at the sheer impossibility of it. Anxiety can be worry over the quality of the work you produce. It can be a reaction to outside stressors, like financial or social situations you’d rather not be in. But it can have a vice-like grip on your
- Deadlines. This can be too intense deadlines or no deadlines at all. It all depends on the way that you work best. I go through phases where I keep a strict word count chart and then go months without keeping on at all. When I don’t keep one, I don’t get jack shit done. I do find it better to work to my own deadlines, rather than ones someone else gives me. I resent them if they’re from someone else. But if they’re from me, I have no one to be pissed off at so I may as well do my work anyway.
- Depression is complex. It’s consuming. You sleep all the time. You can barely make yourself get out of bed. Why in the fuck would you want to write when you’re depressed? You may have heard this before, but do it. Please. God, it helps. Even if what you write isn’t very good. Even if it isn’t much. Depression shuts you down. It deprives you of enjoying things that you enjoy. Don’t let it do that with your writing.
- Self-doubt stems off of the anxiety and the depression equally. It’s aspiring to perfection and knowing that you are not, in fact, a perfect writer, so there’s no reason to try to be. So you shut down. And you get nothing done. And that’s no kind of solution. There really is no concrete kind of solution to self-doubt. I recommend you invest in someone who believes your writing isn’t shit. At least it’s someone to argue with the voice in your head.
- Physical illness can really screw with you. In every facet of your life. You don’t have energy. Depending on what it is, your head is all kinds of fucked up. I’ve done my fair share of writing in hospital rooms, but if you’re not used to being sick, then you probably aren’t going to be able to write when you are. Not everyone can be a freak like me, I suppose. Shame, isn’t it?
- Plotting. This can also be in two different ways. Not plotting enough so that you have no idea where you’re going, and plotting so much that it’s suffocating you. Never be afraid to deviate from your outline if it feels organic. It’s your outline. You’re allowed to change it. I personally don’t plot very often, and when I do, I don’t plot very tightly. I have ideas jotted here and there. Tightly plotted novels just don’t work for me. They read rather dryly.
- Some sort of trauma. A breakup. I generally have the opposite reaction to breakups, but this is a pretty common issue for writers. When I go through a breakup, it’s like losing a couple hundred pounds of sheer dead weight. I throw myself into my writing because–damn look how much free time I have! I’m not a glass half full sort of person in case you haven’t already gathered that.