Do you ever have one of those days where no matter how hard you try, the words just don’t come? Maybe you’ve discovered a major plot hole and don’t know how to fix it. Maybe your characters are refusing to talk to you. Maybe you haven’t been getting enough sleep and your brain is working in slow motion, but you have a deadline approaching. Here’s some of my favorite ways to break through when I just feel stuck.
1. Make notes by hand.
If you’re like me, you do most of your writing on the computer. Whenever I get stuck, I love pulling out a blank sheet of paper and jotting down ideas by hand. I don’t know if it’s the ability to make doodles around the edges or if it’s just the enjoyment of holding a good pen, but it often unleashes creativity that gets stuck when I sit at the computer too long.
2. Talk to yourself.
I talk to myself. Like a lot. I’ve found the best place to do this is in the car. There’s something about hearing ideas out loud and talking through them. I have whole in-depth conversations working out plot points and generating new ideas.
3. Talk to your characters.
Along the same lines, pretend your characters are in the car with you, or in your kitchen, or surrounding your writing desk, or wherever you’re having your conversations with yourself. Ask them what they want to do next. Sometimes their answers will surprise you. Sometimes they’ll tell you what they want to do next, and it will give you the idea to do the exact opposite. Just remember, if you’re doing this at home and you don’t live alone, this step can lead to a lot of, “I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to my characters,” conversations.
4. Take a break.
Everyone, this is a risky one to try. It’s probably best to set a timer. Maybe 15-20 minutes. I’ve gotten up for “short” breaks before and suddenly it’s five hours later because I realized the great importance of dusting the back of every drawer in the house. I’ve recently found a new trick. My husband got a rowing machine. If I tell myself I can take a break only to use the rowing machine, I’m guaranteed to limit my breaks to 5-10 minutes (or less, if we’re being honest) because that thing is hard! After I use it, muscles I didn’t even know I had are sore. But stepping away from your writing, even for a few minutes can reset our minds.
5. Make a list of 10 things that can happen next.
Whatever you do, don’t overthink this one. Grab a blank piece of paper (Or sticky notes. I love sticky notes!) and make a list of 10 things. They could be things that could happen next. Maybe it seems really far fetched. A long lost sister returns? But maybe that will turn into a major plot twist in your story. Maybe you list some items that could appear in the story. An old red stocking hat? A 20 year old TV Guide? Maybe the ideas will sit on the list until the next book, or maybe they’ll sit on the list forever. But it’s a great way to get your mind open and free. Just make sure you don’t edit yourself while you make the list!
What are your favorite things to do when you feel stuck? Please share in the comments below!