by Stephen Buehler

On a typical day I sit down to write. Well, I intend to write but I don’t. I ask myself, why not? Ahhhh. It’s because of the creative hump. Something we all experience.

For me the creative hump is fear of the unknown. Fear of not being able to write the next scene. Fear that I don’t know where it’s going. Fear my writers group won’t like it so it has to be excellent. Fear of what I’m writing is no good. Fear created by comparing myself to other  published authors.

Hump sign

(double hump day)

You all see what’s wrong with that kind of thinking. It’s quite obvious.

Smart Stephen should say…

  • Just write the next scene, you’ve been able to finish every scene so far. Why should the next scene be any different?
  • A first draft is just that, a first draft. There will be multiple drafts in your near future. Don’t worry you will be addressing that passage again.
  • The writers group is a forgiving bunch. They’ll tell you what they like and don’t like about the scene. Then you get to rewrite it again. And again.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect until you actually send it out to agents or publishers.
  • You’ve received positive feedback in your writing life so far, you must be doing something right.
  • Accept that you’re at the level where you are right now. Published authors didn’t start out writing brilliantly.

It’s the kind of advice you’d give to someone else but it’s the kind of advice that’s hard to give yourself and even harder for you to believe in. Some times it’s easier to listen to Smart Stephen than other days.

The creative hump can vary. The hump is huge when beginning a new project and continues through the first draft. The second draft is easier, I already have my words to play with. If I’m inspired for a flash fiction piece or a short story I can sit down and the piece pours out of me.

brain - what is the word

One trick I discovered to help battle that creative hump applies to when I’m rewriting a scene or sometimes even a new scene. When I begin to work on the existing chapter I tend to make small changes leaving a lot the same. I end up tinkering with it, not rebuilding it. I think to myself, if I delete it, what if the new scene doesn’t work? Yes, I have it saved from a previous draft but it’s hard for to get past the feeling that a really bad chapter will wreck the present draft.

What I’ve learned to do is copy the part I want to work on and place it in a new file. Just that scene. I give myself permission to start over and create it as it organically pertains to the story. The new scene might work. I may only like part of what I’ve just written. Maybe it ends up being a lead into what’s already there. Whatever happens, I feel the freedom of it not being part of the big draft I’m working on so I can really turn on the creative juices.

diving man

This I know, the creative hump is not going away. What counts is how I learn to handle it.

BTW, I had no creative hump writing this blog. It was one of my inspired moments.

Do you encounter the creative hump? How do you overcome it?


Stephen Buehler’s short fiction has been published in numerous on-line publications including, Akashic Books. His story, Not My Day appeared in the Last Exit to Murder anthology and was a Derringer Finalist. He is currently seeking a home for his novella, The Mindreading Murders. He is completing a rewrite of his mystery/comedy P.I. novel, Detective Rules. By day he is also a script/story consultant, magician and a nice guy.



  1. You’ve addressed a problem we all have at one time or another. I definitely like your way of taking a scene, looking at it with a practiced eye, and being unafraid to change things up that may or may not work. These “humps” can last only for awhile or a long time. The answer, I think, is to recognize them for what they are and jump in with both feet. Procrastination (my worst habit) won’t get you anywhere. Thank you for the great post, Stephen.


  2. That writing group of yours sounds like a bunch of jerks. You should get a new group. 😉 Ha! You better not. Everything you said rings true for me too. My problem is procrastination and of course, the longer you procrastinate, the harder it is to get back into the world of the story. I like your exercise of moving the new scene away to work on it individually so you don’t feel like you’re wrecking the whole story. Thanks for a post that I think most every writer will relate to.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The only creative hump I run into is not knowing what to write. Once I get past that, it’s pretty smooth sailing. If it’s not good enough for one publisher, maybe it’s a better fit for another. If worse comes to worse, I can always self-publish.In any case, a creative hump is not worth getting your blood pressure up.


  4. My hump is more of a series of curves. My solution recently has been write everything that comes to mind. Get my thoughts down and then go back organize and accent them, tweak a bit and move on.


  5. Perhaps because I also work as an actor, and do improvisation, I don’t have the ‘hump’ problem often. When you have learned to ‘think on your feet’ you learn to trust your instincts. For that reason, and the improv writing group, most days when I sit to write I trust myself and what happens. It also keeps me honest, for I don’t overthink. Still, there are some very valid points you make, and I believe very helpful. For that, I thank you. Doris


  6. Perhaps because I also work as an actor, and do improvisation, I don’t have the ‘hump’ problem often. When you have learned to ‘think on your feet’ you learn to trust your instincts. For that reason, and the improv writing group, most days when I sit to write I trust myself and what happens. It also keeps me honest, for I don’t overthink. Still, there are some very valid points you make, and I believe very helpful. For that, I thank you. Doris


  7. The creative hump. It’s horrible. I wrote two stories, and they were published in an anthology, and the publisher said they were good, and my high school English teacher said they were good, and life was good, and now I have to write something else. And I cannot remember how I made those stories out of nothing, even though they’re right here in front of me. I stumbled across this quotation, and it describes exactly how I feel between projects, and sometimes during projects: “The more I write, the more I think that everything you’ve done up to the point that you’re writing isn’t much help. You always start out in the dark.” ~ Charles Baxter, quoted in The Mindful Writer by Dinty W. Moore.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah, the Creative Hump. Makes me think of World War II and what’s called ‘The Hump.’ An explanation: “The Hump was the name given by Allied pilots in the Second World War to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains over which they flew military transport aircraft from India to China to resupply the Chinese war effort of Chiang Kai-shek and the units of the United States Army Air Forces based in China.” Just like struggling over a scene, once you get ‘Over the Hump,’ it’s smooth sailing — as long as you don’t run out of gas.


  9. Like your definition Mike. I find getting past or over the hump is easier if I question “What if?” to my characters and scenes and come up with something totally opposite of what I thought should happen. Sometimes it takes me in a new direction that is profitable. Good post.


  10. Love the photos. Your advice is spot on and helpful. Sometimes I have to tear things apart to put them back together. It is hard. I don’t get over the hump until I write my final, the END. LOL Thanks. Cher’ley


  11. I felt like I was facing a hump the size of Mount Everest before I started my latest WIP. The first three novels and the novella were just there for me. I had a clear picture of the whole story arc every time, but this one wasn’t like that, so it took me forever to start writing it. It’s slowly coming around, but I still don’t feel it quite like I did with the previous ones. I hope I get there.


  12. Great post, Stephen! I feel like I’ve been in a creative hump for a couple of years, but actually, I’ve just been focusing too much on the writing that makes money and neglecting my own, individual creative side. I plan to get over that hump very soon! 🙂 Best to you and your future writing endeavors!


  13. Good post.

    My creative hump tends to come when I’m close to finishing a novel. I’ll have it 3/4’s done and simply stop writing. Three times now! I’ve got a good excuse right now due to our move, but that’s all it really is, an excuse. All my time hasn’t been filled, although my attention has definitely been elsewhere. But if I really wanted to finish it I would have by now. Guess I’m afraid. Once I’m done then I’ll have to publish it and, horrors, what if no one likes it?

    Butt in the chair time!


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