6

In any writing project, or in writing life in general, we're going to hit slumps.  We'll be writing merrily along when suddenly we are flies caught in amber.  We feel stuck, sluggish, like we don't know what to do or where to go next.  We're tired, our brains are mush, we feel overwhelmed.  When that happens, stop writing!

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Sometimes when you hit those sticky spots it means you need a break (a break, not quitting, so decide when you'll go back to work).  Check in with yourself and see if that's what you need.  If so, go take a nap, take a walk, bake a cake.  Step away.

Sometimes it's not about needing a break, though.  Sometimes we hit these spots because we've been all about the output and not enough about the intake.  If that's what's going on with you, there are some writerly things you can do to get unstuck.

When we're in the middle of writing, especially if we're under a tight deadline or pushing toward some hefty goals, we forget that we still need to fill the well, feed our creativity, keep the fun in our writing.  We start to become all about the word count and forget everything else until we find ourselves stuck.

So what do you do?  First, stop writing.  We've covered that one.  Next, do writing-adjacent things, things that will keep you involved in your story or keep you connected to writing and storytelling in general.  This is my list of writing-related activities.  You may think of more to add that work even better for you, but this is a starting point in getting unstuck.  Pick one or two, or try them all.

Writing-adjacent activities:

  • Immerse yourself in narrative (thanks to Lani Diane Rich of Story Wonk for this phrase)--watch movies and TV shows, read books, listen to audio books.  Watch or read things in your own genre and in others.  Something with great characters is best, because all of these things teach us about storytelling even when we aren't actively trying to learn, so we want to pick good quality teachers
  • Plan your book cover
  • Write your back-cover copy
  • Write lists of events, dialogue snippets, descriptions, and any other things that you might want to put in your story
  • Make a Pinterest board or a collage for your characters, your setting, anything about your story
  • Create some mindmaps
  • Read inspirational books on writing (I love Natalie Goldberg, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King for this)
  • Chat with some writer friends and find out what they do when they're stuck

Most of all, give yourself the time you need to really feel like you are ready to get back to your story.  If you need to, adjust your goals.  Take the time you need to reconnect to your story and get interested in it again.  You'll be a happier writer, and your story will be better because you're enthused about it.

Happy writing!

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6

Listen

Listen Up is a new addition to the blog.  I listen to a lot of podcasts as well as recordings of interviews and other tasty tidbits people share around the internet, and I want to share the good stuff I find. The Listen Up posts are going to be short posts with a link recommending something I think is really good, helpful, or simply fascinating.  Enjoy!

Odyssey Podcasts are short excerpts from various guest lecturers at the prestigious Odyssey Workshop held every year in New Hampshire.  While the workshop is for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, the information shared in these podcasts will benefit any writer.

You get Nancy Kress talking about writing in scenes, Jack Ketchum talking about powerful openings, Patricia McKillip on turning real landscapes into fantasy worlds.  And there's so much more!  Too much for me to try to pick out a smattering of standouts.  Go have a look for yourself instead.

Each episode is nice and short, too, so they're easy to fit in on your commute or while you're doing dishes, etc.  Click below to check out the episodes.

Odyssey Podcasts main page

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2

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Do you take writing classes?  Do you do exercises or tutorials from books and websites?

If you've been around the writing life for a while it might seem like you've found all the information you really need.  It might feel like a class on dialogue or setting is just going to be repetition of things you've already heard.  A class on basic creative writing?  You're so far beyond that!

Or maybe not.  Taking classes isn't all about learning something new (although that's great, too, so do if if you can).  It's about immersing yourself in your writing.  It's about setting aside time and attention solely for your writing.  It's about getting focused, maybe hearing a new take on an old subject, and building connections with fellow writers.

Why Take Classes:

  • External deadlines--class assignments will help keep you moving forward
  • Community--you'll meet other writers, including the teacher, either in person or virtually, and being around other writers is great for motivation
  • Focus--when you've paid for a class, you're more likely to actually put in the time and focus on your writing, at least during the duration of the course
  • Fresh ideas--you can always learn new things, even about something you already know a lot about; classes will let you hear ideas from others and maybe spark new ideas of your own

Why Use Tutorials and Exercises:

  • New ideas--someone else's questions may spark new ideas in you
  • Break through a block--questions and exercises can give you an entry point into your writing that can help you get past the blank page
  • New understanding--someone else's phrasing of something you already know can give you clearer understanding of the subject
  • Build a cushion--doing exercises can help you build up a stash of story ideas, story starters, scenes, and dialogue for later use which is especially helpful when you feel stuck

Obviously I'm a fan of taking classes to keep your writing flowing.  It's a great way to keep connected to your writing and to the writing community.  And tutorials, exercises, etc. are a great way to get your brain out of your personal grooves and into different thought patterns. So, especially if you're feeling stuck or sluggish in your writing lately, try out a class and see if it gets things going again. I think it will be worth your time.

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