June 20, 2011

How to Dig Out of the Pit of Despair

Guys! I'm so sorry that I went MIA on the blog last week. I had a couple posts lined up in my head but then the Doubt Monsters set in and I flopped head-first into the Pit of Despair.

I'm sure a lot of you have visited the Pit before. It's not a very pleasant place to be, full of doubt and angst and frustration and the overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. I think most writers, if not all, have entered the Pit at some stage of their careers. And I think most of us, if not all, have made this journey more than once.

The silver lining in this situation? The more I do this writing gig, the more I realize that the Pit is all part of the process. We all experience feelings of doubt and despair, but these emotions do pass. Eventually. Yes, it may take a few days or a few weeks or even a few months, but they do go away. Eventually.

But when you're in the Pit of Despair---when you're right in the thick of it---it's really hard to think about feeling gung-ho about your writing again. And so, I've come up with a few tips on how to dig yourself out of this awful Pit of gloom.

Tip #1
Realize that this is only a phase. You know how artists are often called "tortured" and "self-loathing"? Well, there's a reason for that---the artistic process can be heartbreaking and infinitely heart-wrenching. Of course, there are many highs that come with the lows but this creative life can be a frustrating one.

The same goes with writing. Writing, after all, is an art form. It's a creative process. And boy, it is NOT easy to birth something from your mind and translate it into a physical medium. This writing thing is hard. Extremely hard. And so, it's perfectly logical to feel doubt and frustration and, yes, even despair.

Tip #2
Get drunk.

(Kidding! Kind of...)

Tip #3
Commiserate with writing friends. When you're knee-deep in the Pit of Despair, you have to lean on your friends for much-needed support. Not just any friends, your writing friends. 'Cause they've been there before, honey. They know what you're going through.

So throw a pity party! Go out for drinks or grab a yummy lunch and don't feel bad about feeling bad. Your friends are there to support you and, later on, you'll be there to return the favor.

Tip #4
Exercise. I know, I know. I can't believe I'm saying this! I'm such a couch potato! But physical activity will do you some good. Last week when I was mired in the Pit, for instance, my dad asked me to help him with some yard work. I grudgingly agreed. An hour later, I had eight mosquito bites and a weird crick in my neck but you know what? I felt great. The sun on my back. The clean smell of the air. The ability to step back and admire the work that I had done. It was awesome---and it totally lifted me out of my haze of doubts.

So get off your butt! Go take a walk or play a round of tennis! Trust me, you need those endorphins right now.

Tip #5
Take a break. This writing thing sure can be hard, eh? So give yourself some time off. No writing. No blogging. No frantic email checking. Unplug! Maybe you only need a day off from technology or maybe you need a week or more. Whatever works.

At the end of the day, you need to keep your mental health in check because this is a crazy roller-coaster of a business. The highs are mega-highs but the lows tend to be mega-lows. (Hence, the Pit of Despair.) We have to take care ourselves because that's the most important thing: our well-being. Our health. Our freakin' sanity!

So there you have it. My five tips for digging yourself out of the Pit of Despair. Hopefully, my next trip to the Pit won't be any time soon. I've seen enough of that place for now!


  1. Awesome tips, Caroline! And yes, I know the Pit well. :)

  2. I agree with all these tips!

    For exercise, I suggest Yoga, there easy workouts for couch potatoes.

  3. I'm a firm supporter of Tip #2. :)

  4. Oh, tip #2. Haha.

    As always, great post. I am with you in believing that the Pit is part of the process. I actually think it's impossible to complete any writing step (first draft, revisions, querying, etc, etc) without hitting the Pit at least once during each endeavor. Such is writing. No wonder us writers are slightly neurotic.

  5. Hugs! I hate being in the Pit, but I'm with you on thinking it is part of the process.

    And if you get stuck again we can plan Rome trips for THAT ice-cream :D

  6. I'm glad you're back I was just thinking about you today and wondering how you were.

    I love this post, and I love that you share the highs and lows of your journey, because a lot of the time you only hear about the highs and then it really does feel like you are in the pit alone!

    oh you forgot No 6 ~ Georgetown Cupcake! and if you're doing 4 too it doesn't even hurt :D

  7. Eek... I'm currently hanging out in the pit too. Why is it so hard to start a new manuscript? What are these feelings of I'LL NEVER BE ABLE TO DO THIS AGAIN? Why can't I just get my butt in a chair and get busy?

    Thanks for the tips, Caroline. Maybe we can drag ourselves out of the pit together? :)

  8. Wonderful post. And so true!

    I believe #2 and #2.5 (Eat cupcakes) are the best ways to fight despair. Or, um, so I've heard...

  9. How about Tip #6: Practice saying "The PIT OF DESPAIR" just like that albino dude in the Princess Bride. I've found it really takes the edge off. Great post, Caroline!

  10. Some great tips! I especially agree about the exercise part. It keeps me sane.

    The tip I'd add is to Read. It really helps!