When Nothing Happens

Not too long ago, a friend told me, “I think I just stared at a wall for the entire month of June.” It happens to me with unnerving frequency – there’s plenty to do, but for some reason it just isn’t getting done. Maybe you make a nice list of things you need to work on, but then wash dishes or read books or play games or talk on the phone instead. I think that these periods are normal, and sometimes necessary. But, if they involve your income, they are also terrifying.

Four or five months ago, I decided to diversify some of my client base. Since I started writing, I’ve worked almost exclusively with small businesses, and nearly everything I’ve written aside from posts on this blog has been ghostwriting work. I love working with entrepreneurs, but wanted to develop some different skills, and so I’ve been learning about writing for trade publications and contacting lots of editors and sending out query ideas. I diligently contacted a certain number of editors each week (never quite as many as I planned to) and then…just stopped.

Beginning two or three weeks ago, I just couldn’t seem to get anything at all done. Articles that had already been assigned sat on my to do list forlornly waiting for attention. Calls that needed to be made kept the articles

Late summer outside, but winter in my mind.

company. I watched my bank account dwindle and thought about all the projects in my idea file but didn’t make a move toward working on them. It felt like the air was weighted and my mind was slowly blanking out. It would be nice to say my mind was adjusting to the transition or something, but I’m not sure enough to make that claim.

Then, this week, the turn-around began. I completed a large part of a book project (I can’t wait to tell you about it!), got several assignments from those editors I’ve been contacting, posted my first author interview post, emailed three other authors to line up more interviews, and finally started working on those articles that were still sitting on my list. Just like that, things started clicking again.

So here are the things I did during that dead time that might have helped things start clicking again:

  • Continued making daily and weekly goal lists. Even if the things on them didn’t get done, I kept making the lists so that I at least knew what needed to get completed.
  • Had weekly calls with a writing buddy, or friend, or mentor. I’m not sure how to classify this wonderful person, but I do know that talking with her makes my brain churn every week and that she helps me figure out what to do and is totally willing to share what she is doing.
  • Exercised and cleaned. My goals fall into three general categories: professional, health, and home. Pretty much any goal I’ve set for the last four or five years (maybe longer) fits into one of those categories. The times when I feel as if there is no progress happening in any of them are dark times indeed. So, when I’m not getting my work done, I try extra hard to make sure I exercise enough. When I’m feeling stuck fitness-wise, I try to make sure my house is clean.
  • Made notes as things crossed my mind. Even though nothing was really getting done, once in awhile I had an idea or vague thought and I wrote those down somewhere, knowing that more productive days would come again.

Do you experience these kinds of low periods? What do you do when you just can’t get anything done? Do you think it is better to just “ride it out” or is it better to push through these kinds of slumps?

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