Stop Writing by Kim Switzer

In any writing challenge, 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. When that happens, stop writing!

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Sometimes when you hit those sticky spots it just means you need a break. 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. But 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!

~*~

Kim Switzer

3 comments

  1. My favorite is to look on Pinterest at art for images that most capture my characters. Being able to picture the character about whom I’m writing helps me capture feelings much better. Currently I have an image for my MMC, but not one for my FMC. You can tell the difference in how I portray them; he is much more likable and has much more depth than she. Next time I get in a slump, I’ll try finding a good face for her, and see if I can’t turn her around!

  2. Great suggestions, Kim! It’s so easy to beat ourselves up for falling behind on word count (especially in the midst of NaNoWriMo!). I really like the idea of looking for inspiration on Pinterest. Also sometimes it really helps me to just take a step back from my story and take stock of what’s happened and where I’m going. I often like to make a timeline, or other kinds of lists to organize my story so I don’t feel so scattered.

  3. The point about “writing-adjacent” things cannot be stressed enough. We all need a break at one point or another; we all deplete ourselves when we just focus on output all the time… But we shouldn’t jut throw our hands up and say “I can’t do this”…. because that’s not enough. We need to add that “…at this moment” because we deserve better than to say “I can’t do this at all”.

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