gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

How to survive a SLUMP


When I started blogging, I made a deal with myself that Mondays would be my blog day – even if it just meant finding an “old” piece of work to share with you. But recently, I have been hit by the most terrible illness: Monday Morning Blues.

Now I hear you say that there is nothing unusual about Monday Blues – everybody has them. The thing is, since I’ve had kids, I’ve LOVED Mondays. What’s not love? Kids go to school, domestic help arrives (for non South Africans, domestic help is a very normal thing in SA. Most people have domestic help and child care help. We are very lucky, and it makes Mondays lovely). So I am most distressed that suddenly, every Monday, I feel blah.
“Blah” is, I think, the main symptom of a bigger problem. A slump. A slump is not a depression – it’s smaller than a depression. But it’s not a bad mood either, it’s more soul permeating than a bad mood. It’s. . . blah.

So on Mondays, I feel blah. I feel blah about my day job, I feel blah about my children, and I feel blah about writing and even reading. Which brings me to a whole different sort of slump: a reading slump. Oh these are the worst! They often follow a bout of really good books – and suddenly you hit a wall. You don’t feel like another all-obsessing book, but you also don’t feel like reading crap. So you don’t know what to read. Double blah!
Last week, I managed to cure – or alleviate – both my life slump and my reading slump. So I thought I’d share the cures with you, in case you’re in a slump too.

The life slump:
• I got dressed up like a person who means business. I work from home, so the temptation to wear pyjamas is great. But by dressing as if you have a meeting with a CEO, you also work as if you have a meeting with a CEO.
• I made a list of the tasks that I had to do. And stuck to it. Ticking off a list is probably one of the most life affirming exercises available.
• I rewarded myself for doing my tasks with a bit of fiction writing, which is the business that feeds my soul.

I felt great. I wish I could tell you it lasted forever, but yesterday (Monday) found me sitting in a slump staring at my computer thinking about how pointless my life is. . .
I guess we have to keep trying. Waking up each morning, and faking the cheer and the coping and the efficiency, until its true.

Now, the reading slump:
• I read an Agatha Christie. For me, these are exactly the right pitch to break a slump. Competent writing but neither deep nor all consuming. I got very excited because for the first time ever I sort of predicted the outcome – until I read an essay at the end that explained that the particular book that I chose (Nemesis) was written when Agatha Christie was in her 80s, and her plotting abilities were waning. Hmm.
• From there, I could read properly again, and I read, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” which I will do a review of, because I loved it and felt the book is far better than the title or cover imply. It is by Maria Semple, and you should read it.
• Now I am reading The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and am love, love, loving.

So I hope if you’re in a slump – be it a life slump or a reading slump – this might help you a bit. And if it doesn’t, I am so sorry, and offer you the comfort of knowing that you are not alone and slumps, like most things, pass.


5 thoughts on “How to survive a SLUMP

  1. I really get this. Now that my kids are in college I sometimes think why cook or clean? I have always been an avid reader but I`ve been having a hard time getting through really good books. I feel distracted and definitely in a slump.

  2. Oh, I agree so completely and have been feeling the same way lately. I have all these sample chapters downloaded and I keep thinking I will find the next book that I will love reading but alas no luck so far. That’s so funny about the Agatha Christie one – I used to do the same thing with P.D. James when I couldn’t find something else I wanted to read. I loved Where’d You Go Bernadette too. I laughed and cried. It’s so much better than the clunky title and chick lit cover imply. I’ve also recently enjoyed Mudbound and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. Happy reading (and writing).

    • It’s so strange – I actually considered PD James as a solution too – but decided her books are more of a “commitment” than Agatha Christie’s. Okay – that sounds mad – especially from someone who has just decided to read Luminaries next. You and I are obviously reading kindred spirits, so I will definitely try the books you mention. There are quite a few reviews on my blog if you want to see others I’ve enjoyed. . .

  3. Pingback: Crawling my way out of a funk… | ms julia b

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