Episode 47: The Blah in the Middle


I hear it quite often. Somewhere about the middle of a long project, many writers will confess to having a love/hate relationship with their work. At first they were excited about the planning and preparation, the freshness of the idea. But the execution of that planning is another matter entirely.

Many projects fall apart in the middle because writers lose interest with the plot, the characters, or the idea. This isn’t always a bad thing, since the work might not be ready for a full treatment. A “blah” feeling may be a cue that you need to go back and rethink where you’ve been.

That’s not always the case. Sometimes the process of working the idea to completion can take an emotional toll. A slump could simply be a sign that you’re ready to get to the Death-Star-destroying, football-spiking conclusion—but it seems so far away.

Here are some things you can do to fight the funk:

  • Don’t be a hater. Even if you really are hating your work, don’t admit it—and definitely not in a public space. Your words on the Internet are just a Google search away. If your work gets published, knowing that you hated it doesn’t exactly inspire readership—semi-jokes don’t always come through like you meant.
  • Break it up. If you’re bored with the work, put it away. Bored while writing almost always translates to boring writing. Love it or leave it for a time—even if you’re on a deadline.
  • Swing for the fences. If you’re itching to get to the end, then go for it. Put the middle on hold and write the conclusion. It rarely works out that the you’ll use this ending as is, but it will give you ideas for the middle.
  • Turn around. Take some time to review what you’ve written so far. When I get stuck, this is my main strategy. I go back and read what I’ve written and revise; this peps me up when I jump back into the writing phase.
  • Look for leaks. Good writers have trained instincts. They’ve read enough that they know what works—and what falls flat. If you’re having a blah moment, make sure that your writer-sense isn’t telling you that something is amiss.
  • Send an SOS. Present your unfinished work at a writers’ group, or let some colleagues review it. Ask them for advice on where the work should go and if it’s worth pursuing. Feedback is a great motivator.

Many projects fail in the middle because motivation wanes. It’s easy to give up at the first sign of blah, but that’s not writing. Real writing is pressing forward to the goal—and doing a chicken dance in the end zone (or insert your own altered cliché motivational metaphor).

What is your method for working past the blah in the middle?

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One thought on “Episode 47: The Blah in the Middle

  1. John,

    Good stuff.

    I’ve found that it also helps to go back and outline what I have written. I start most of my projects with a written outline, but the project can grow beyond the original parameters when the creativity is flowing.

    During “blah” times, I go back and see if the written piece is still true to the outline. At times, one or the other needs to be revised. This exercise will usually allow me to see areas to explore or clarify and helps me get refocused.

    Keith

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