You have been on a roll in writing your book. The ideas and words have been flowing and you feel like you could write all night … then …. Nothing.
Your mind’s a blank. Some passages don’t “sound” right and you just can’t get passed it. You close your computer in disgust. Still the problem keeps nagging you. What to do?
Below are 10 hints for moving past the stumbling block and getting your writing flowing again.
- Give it a rest! Put away the material for a day or two at most. Schedule a time to return to the material. You will experience a fresh look at what you have written and how you need to revise it.
- Be flexible. Be willing to throw out ideas or sections of text that are causing problems or just don’t work.
- Plunge Into the Scary Parts. What are you afraid of? Spelling poorly? Weak transitions? Go ahead and deliberately spell every word incorrectly, write without transitions, don’t use any punctuation–do everything you’re not supposed to do, and have fun doing it! Draw caricatures of your writing demons, put the dreaded failure behind you, and move on.
- Loosen Your Standards. There’s really no reason to worry about critics or evaluators and what they think until the last stage of revising. Until that time, indulge yourself. Don’t correct anything; write in slang; work for 15 minutes; leave notes to yourself, like ADD DETAILS HERE or FIX THIS LATER, throughout your work–anything that makes it easier to write.
- Continue with whatever part is easiest or most exciting for you. Don’t let one part of your material stump you for long. If it’s bugging you, just skip it and move on to an easier, more appealing part. Skip along to the next part and let your unconscious work on the hard stuff for a while. Continue writing at whatever point you like. If you want to begin in the middle, fine. Leave the first sections until later. The reader will never know that you wrote the material backward. Some writers routinely save the introduction until later when they have a clearer idea of what the main idea and purpose will be.
- Use the buddy system. Work with a writing coach or someone who can help get you “unstuck” and keep you on track. Using a friend or family member doesn’t usually work, since there is a need to be totally objective and professional in the approach to identifying and removing the stumbling block. Another writer or a critique group can be helpful.
- Research other material. Reread related books, articles, blogs, etc.and jot down ideas while reading. Add new ideas, re-sequence ideas, and eliminate sentences.
- Follow a routine. Follow a routine to get into the mood to work on your book. Try activities like wearing comfortable clothing, or listening to a particular type of music. Plan to write nonstop for a minimum of 15 minutes.
- Take a break. Physically move around, stretch, or walk. Get a snack or drink, talk to someone, or just relax for five minutes before starting to work on your book again.
- Stop when you’re on a roll. When writing becomes a struggle, try sticking with it–and quit when you’re on a roll, so that next time you’ll be eager to return to the work. Or start jotting down ideas when you know you have to do something else in 45 minutes–as soon as the pressure’s off, as soon as you say “well, I know I won’t get anything done in this little bit of time” you’re free to let your creative juices flow. Waves of inspiration will come and go. The trick is scheduling your work to take full advantage of the tides.