In Minnesota winter consists of two things. Cold and snow. So, naturally, when I have to drive out in that snowy, wintery yucky, boo-hoo-ness, I spend my ride trying to avoid two things. Death by car crash, and getting stuck! Fingers crossed I continue avoiding both this winter.
Though I’ve successfully avoided getting my car stuck, I have been feeling stuck in a ditch in my writing.
We’ve all been there right? Uninspired, not sure which way to go. Trying to plod forward but simply spinning our wheels.
If you’re stuck like me, here are some tips to get you moving again. Are you ready? Here comes your tow truck!
8 Ways to Get Out of Your Writing Rut
- Review: Our stories are big and complex, and holding all that information in your head at once is impossible. By the time you reach chapter 22 it can be hard to remember what went down in chapter 6. Instead of forcing yourself to struggle forward take some time to look back, and reorient yourself to your story. Then, when you return to chapter 22, you’ll have the traction you need to get moving forward.
- Take a break: Sometimes we work on a project for so long that it becomes boring, unexciting and a chore to keep writing it. We love it, but we don’t want to work on it. Just as in every relationship – absence makes the heart grow fonder. So take a break! No, not from writing entirely, but from your project. Pull out a short story you’ve put on the back burner. Play around with a fun writing prompt, write a book review, pen a dissertation on the medical benefits of eating snail slime. Whatever you choose, take a few days to give your story some space. Make it miss you, make it call you drunk at three in the morning begging for you to give it one more chance, it promises to be better this time.
- Skip it: Some scenes are hard to write. Maybe you don’t know how you want a certain scene to play out. Maybe you can’t write such a sad scene when you are feeling so happy right now, or maybe you have zero ideas for this scene and a million for one that happens two skips down your plot road. Whatever the reason, when you are feeling stuck you don’t have to stay put. Jump over the scene that is giving you trouble, and come back to it later. This strategy is particularly good during first drafts, and slightly less advisable the deeper into editing you get, but worth the risk if it gets your writing moving again.
- Get inspired: Has life been dull lately? Have you been in a rut with your routine as well as your story? Then you my friend need some inspiration. Read an epic book, watch a magical movie, visit a museum, or better yet go out into the world and have some adventure. You’ll come back with new ideas and new motivation to rock your novel.
- Create a deadline: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the secret to getting things done is deadlines. If you’ve got a story section that you have to work through, but desperately don’t want to, give yourself some external motivation. Create a deadline and stick to it. If you have to reward yourself with a shopping spree when you finish so be it. Desperate times, desperate measures.
- Bring in a friend: Authors are often so close to their stories, they can drive themselves into a writing ditch without even realizing they have. In times like this, writing buddies and beta readers are actual lifesavers. Readers will have insights into what still needs tweaking and will have a fresh perspective a to fill your brain with new ideas. Plus, nothing motivates you to make sure your writing is top notch like the threat of somebody else reading it, am I right?
- Consider why you are stuck: Sometimes we lose our creative mojo because life is handing us a whole grove of lemon trees. Are you stressed, grieving, depressed, lonely, angry, hurt, ill, anxious, all of the above? As much as we wish to, we cannot always turn those emotions off when we’re writing. Sometimes we are in a life stage where it takes all our energy just to get through our days, and there is nothing left over for our writing. That’s okay. You need to give yourself some grace and take care of your body and your soul first. Then, once you’re thriving again, your writing will be too.
- Push Through: Sometimes there is no magic answer to getting you out of the writing ditch, you just need to floor the gas pedal and hope you can pull yourself out. Take away the distractions. That’s right, your phone, internet connection, pets, windows, people, food, books….basically lock yourself in a dark room with no wifi and tell the person with the key not to let you out or feed you until you’ve finished with the scene/chapter/section you’re stuck on. Nothing like a personal prison to stir up those creative juices.
If you’ve been feeling stuck in your writing, believe me, I feel ya. Just like everything else in life, writing has seasons. There will be seasons where the words pour easily onto the page and others where you’re stuck in a snowbank. The good news, at the end of the day, when that book is finished and sitting on the shelves of bookstores around the globe, readers won’t see which parts you struggled with, and which came easily. They will only see the amazing story you’ve written.
I hope one of these tips helps you pull out of your writing ditch. Do you have any tips for getting out of a writers slump? Let us know in the comments below.
Stay amazing my friends,