11 Ways to Get Unstuck in Your Writing
I am guilty. I have been ignoring my writing for over half a year now. Other aspects of my life have taken over and shoved my creative inner being into a dark and dreary closet. If I don't make the effort now to bust her out...she may spend the rest of eternity peeping through the slats and naming dust bunnies. I know what I need to do. Like all major goals in life, it starts with a list.
1. THINK about writing -- This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is actually an important thing to realize if you want to get back to a life focused on writing. Understand that writing doesn't automatically happen, no matter how talented you may be. Writing must be a priority in your life if you want to have a writer's life - and that means understanding this and carving out sufficient time daily to remember this fact.
2. READ creative things -- Don't forget to read. This will help you continue to think about writing and bring the cadence of different voices and rhythms back into your thinking. Some writers will say to read things not in the genre you are working in, but I think it's important, if you are truly stuck, to read copious amounts of the genre you are trying to get back to. Notice what works and what does not work in the pieces you read.
3. WRITE -- It doesn't have to be perfect or even the piece you want to complete. Go back to your list of old ideas. Dust them off and see if you can twist them around for fun. If a new idea comes to you as you're drifting off to sleep, do not say "I'll remember that in the morning," because you won't, or at least, not exactly - take the time to write it down as it comes to you. Copy techniques that worked in the pieces you read above.
4. Get back inside your BODY -- Step away from the computer screen. Go for walks. Exercise (ugh, I know!). Get the blood flowing and the endorphins motivated to work for you. Too many sedentary days can catch up to even the best writers. Remember that your brain is connected to the rest of your body and has physical needs too.
5. OBSERVE your surroundings -- Sit at the mall food court and people watch. Catch a snippet of conversation, the tone, the manner it is said. What's being said, and what is being left out? When you go for your walk, leave your phone at home. Notice the happenings in your neighborhood. Don't forget the sounds, smells, and other senses. I guarantee that if you leave your phone at home, inspiration will hit mid-walk and you'll spend the remainder of the walk trying not to forget the phrasing.
6. RECONNECT with writing buddies -- We all do it; make friends that "get us" through a class or conference on writing and then lose touch. Call up a fellow writer and get together for coffee and to chat about all things writing. Remember what you love about the craft. Remember that as a writer you are part of a larger community of artists.
7. EDIT -- Almost all writers have drawers full of almost completed pieces. Go back and brush some of them off. Work on one that needs a few tweaks and move it to the complete pile. It might not be the same rush as when the creative juices are flowing...but it beats staring at a blank computer screen.
8. SUBMIT -- Admittedly, this is even farther away from writing than #7, however, it's an important part of the business of the writer's life. Publishing doesn't magically happen (unless you're J.K. Rowling). If you are completely stuck, at least keep moving forward in your writing by submitting the pieces that are finished. If you are new to writing and don't have any finished pieces, then read journals or other market vehicles that you might like to see your work in one day and get familiar with the market.
9. ORGANIZE your writing desk -- If all else fails, take the time to organize and declutter your writing space. Get your bookshelves in order, and remember the writing of others that inspires you. Open the windows. Spray a fresh scent. Writers tend to be messy, but sometimes a good cleaning can work wonders on our motivation.
10. Take a CLASS -- It's amazing what assignments with forced deadlines and a little bit of peer pressure can do. Both the give and take of classroom critique sessions can help your writing. Listen with an open mind. Dissecting your own and others' work will remind you that writing is a craft that can be applied.
11. REREAD your own finished work -- Go back and read some of your own pieces that you felt good about completing. All you really need to get back into the writing life is to remember that you have a voice and that you want to share it with an audience. You can do it!