The Career Author Podcast: Episode 145 – Relief from Your Writing Rut

Relief from Your Writing Rut

Relief from Your Writing Rut

Do you feel a dip in your enthusiasm for that WIP? Are you procrastinating by working on another project instead? Sometimes it’s hard to diagnose the problem, to tell if you’re burnt out or in a writing rut. Spoiler alert: They’re not the same thing.

In this conversation, J. and Zach talk about the difference between burn-out and a writing rut by examining questions you can ask yourself. Although it’s good to build habits and routines, it’s also possible to coast along the learning plateau producing average stories that lack enthusiasm.

The Career Author Podcast is a podcast where co-authors J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon share their struggles and successes as full-time authors, advice for improving your writing craft, and honest discussions of what it takes to build a successful career as an author.

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • The difference between a writing rut and being burnt out
  • How you can determine if you’re in a writing rut
  • Ways you can climb out and re-energize your writing

Also, J. recommends a new course (shout to Diann Gunn for sending it along).

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Leave us a comment: How do you get relief from your writing rut?

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16 thoughts on “The Career Author Podcast: Episode 145 – Relief from Your Writing Rut

  • Morning guys. Interesting topic. I have written all my life so I have strategies, some of which are not writing and some of which are writing.
    Not writing is essentially research. I am changing genre under a new pen-name in 2021 so I have a long reading list and list of films/TV to watch which I have started. It’s not a new genre as I am an eclectic reader and viewer.
    The writing strategy is that I have a few different projects on the go at the same time. If I find a project tough going I switch to another and return to the first when guilt drives me back. If guilt doesn’t kick in it doesn’t bother me because it probably means the original project was not worth pursuing. Although if I am approaching the stadium, and can hear the roar of the crowds I encourage myself toward a final push to cross the finishing line.
    And as an interest I am currently studying, by distance learning, for a degree in the classics (Ancient Greece and Rome). I hope to pursue it to PhD level and study ancient literature in some way.
    By the way guys, yes I am still listening, along with the CIA, the FBI, the SVR, GCHQ oh, and yes… possibly Chad…
    Great show.

  • Thanks, Zach and J… This episode arrived when I was deep in a writing rut–working on part 4 of a 6-part project, which is always (for me) where the momentum seems to sag. But this morning I went back and re-read the first part of the project to draw from the enthusiasm and freshness of the beginning, when all was possible. Because I write several series, I frequently employ this tactic as a reminder that somewhere a reader is also picking up that first book and hopefully being drawn in, with the expectation that the entire series delivers the same punch. Now I feel refreshed and ready to get back to it.

    Also, I love the advice to get out of a rut by changing up the format, i.e., to write a short story, a script, a graphic novel, a comic-strip, a bonus scene, etc. Writing begets writing!

    And I appreciate the differentiation between burnout and being in a rut; a rut, I think, can be the prelude to burnout. But I wanted to toss out one more question I ask myself, which Zach touched on: Am I truly in a rut, or am I just being bratty about not wanting to do the hard work? Sometimes I’m just being bratty, which is pretty unattractive this far into my career. So I picture Cher slapping Nicholas Cage in MOONSTRUCK and saying, “Snap out of it!” And I get back to work at the best job on the planet.

    • Fantastic comment! And I love the last question that you posed. Writing is hard, and I don’t care how much you love it, sometimes it’s difficult just to sit down and make yourself do the work. I’m glad this episode was timely for you, and good luck digging out of your rut! I feel you, for sure.

  • Epic flub at the end. 😏 We’re listening…

    I’ve been two different ruts. One for my non-fiction, because I felt like my version of health and fitness is too reasonable, and people want stuff that’s extreme or a quick-fix.

    My other one was more like Zach’s. I’m totally into the series, but working out the plot points was turning me off. Also, feeling like I’d waited so long to write fiction that it was too late.

    The solution for #1 was to not cave in and stick to my morals, but focus on a segmented population. Hence “The Author Brain,” coming soon.

    #2’s solution is to pretend I’m a 29 year old me. I might even use a pen name and just get into character.

    • It’s funny how we get so far into our own heads sometimes. It sounds like you have some great solutions to getting out of those ruts. I also think there are ways with #1 that you can get people into your books and read them, but still stick to your values and offer the reasonable advice that people really need. Hope that makes sense.

      And write your fiction, dude! Just do it!

      • That makes sense. You were in the industry, so you know how hard it is to complete with things like Crossfit, marathons, and keto when all they really need to do for long-term success is to eat more real food, less processed food, learn some solid habits, walk a lot, and do some simple resistance training. 😋

        • J, you do seem to have the energy of a 29 year old, but be careful. You sounded almost like a kid on one of your recent episodes. Childlike and singing, even 🤣

          Zach, the fiction is coming along, but I had to dial back that time to do work that pays bills today. COVID really took a bite out of my health and weight loss coaching business. No one wants to diet much when they turning to food for comfort.

  • We are listening! 🙂

    The first thing I do when I get in a rut or am approaching burnout is to take stock of my life. The rut might not have anything to do with writing. It could be that I need to get more exercise, sleep, or clean up my diet. Am I stressed about something outside of writing? The pandemic has made it clear how much stress affects my ability to first draft or even to solve problems. My family has been hit hard and I’ve barely written anything. I’ve been going around and around about a new book and am not getting any traction. It feels like a rut, but I think it’s actually stress. Getting out of a small rut might be noticing my house is a mess and I can’t get into a writing head space until I clean it up.

    I also do some woo-woo things! I’ll light a candle. I’ll take a few minutes before writing to sit quietly and meditate. I’ve even invited the muse to join me! I try to keep my sense of wonder at the writing process. It’s like magic! If I’ve had a writing session in which I was totally in a flow state, the words flying, everything working, I take a few moments to linger in the feeling. When I do that, I think I’m less likely to fall into a rut.

  • For fiction, picking up a masterwork and reading, even for a few minutes, works miracles. Daily running/exercise also keeps ruts at bay. Travel and hiking to mysterious, historical, and haunted places is inspirational magic.
    A “comfortable rut” (as J described) is a good place to be for non-fiction that pays the bills. Non-fiction burn-out happens, but seeing next month’s bills is a quick cure for that. It helps to keep upping my game by trying to create a unique spin, fresh perspective, more compelling lead and hook, more insightful interviews, etc.

  • Amusingly enough, I missed this episode when it first came out because I was resting from burnout 😉 Took a week off from everything, got a whole bunch of reading done, and now I’m back at my writing and feeling refreshed. Glad to hear that you two have gotten out of your own writing ruts!

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