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

For A Good Time by Kim Switzer

Do you remember the first time you had a great story idea?  Remember how exciting it was imagining character names, daydreaming what would happen next, writing it all down?  Wasn’t it fun?  Are you still having fun with your writing?

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I love setting goals and keeping track of things, counting my words and pages, having something that shows me I’m making progress.  I think goals and accountability are important in our creative lives.  It’s often hard to let ourselves fit in our creative work when there’s so much else we feel we should be doing, and goals and progress reports can help us give our writing the time it deserves.

Sometimes, though, we can get really caught up in setting goals, meeting goals, reporting our progress.  Our writing becomes another “have to do,” and we can lose the joy.

If you’re finding yourself trudging forward, thinking you have to get to your writing, if you aren’t feeling the thrill of creating your new words, here are some ideas on how to get the fun and joy back:

  • Ask yourself, “How can I make this more fun?”  and “How can I make this easier for myself?”  Write those questions down in your journal or put them on sticky notes where you’ll see them often.  You don’t need answers.  Just let your mind percolate the questions, and you’ll find yourself finding ways to fit in more fun and ease.
  • Write yourself a letter or a list about why you started writing—include what drew you in, what you love most about it, why you want to write.  Keep this someplace where you can see it and read it often to remind yourself that you love this work.
  • Write a scene where your characters go out and have a great time. Take them bowling, surfing, to an amusement park, out dancing.  It doesn’t matter if this will get cut later.  Let your characters have fun and enjoy yourself alongside them.  Let yourself write things that are fun to write.
  • Make a list of the writing activities you love the most (for example, I love writing dialogue), and include at least one of them in your daily writing as often as you can.
  • Get yourself a writing buddy, a little toy or trinket that you keep with you when you write.  It can be an action figure, a stuffed animal—pick something that makes you smile.
  • Try some writing games and toys to liven things up and make it fun.  Try out Story Cubes, tarot cards (Tarot for Writers for example), or I Ching (like I Ching for Writers)
  • Collect writing prompts and links to writing prompt websites (my favorite is Toasted Cheese).  When things are a little to serious and stuffy, make a game of picking a random prompt and working it into your story

Most of all, let yourself relax.  Let your goals and plans guide you, not rule you.  Happy writing!

~*~

Kim Switzer