Coming Unstuck without Coming Unglued

Yesterday, I had a fairly good day writing. Edited the previous day's work, piled into the next chapter, and then somehow wandered...



La Brea Tar Pits.

It happens to every writer at times. Things are grooving right along, and then you realize, hey, there's no bridge between Point A and Point C. So you have to slam on the brakes and somehow figure out a way to build one.

So what do you do to come unstuck? I've developed several techniques to deal with it. I might take a walk or run the vacuum. I'll drive over to the bank or grocery store to take care of some errands. I will pick up my laptop and move to another location, either in the house or over at the library or a coffee joint. Sometimes (shockingly) I even resort to pen and paper because using another modality seems to break loose mental logjams.

Today, however, I've chosen the time-honored Griping About It strategy. I'm blogging about the problem, talking to my husband about it (even though he's rarely all that helpful, the process of articulating my conundrum often is enough to get me moving in the right direction) and maybe even calling a critique partner and asking, "Can I bounce something off your head for a few minutes? I'm stuck and need a few extra brain cells."

Here's what isn't helpful. Watching a movie, TV, or reading someone else's novel just sends my brain on vacation. Going out for fun activities, too, is a bad move, since I'm rewarding my subconscious for stalling. I try to reserve these treats for when I've actually accomplished something. Playing mindless Internet games (Bejeweled is an addiction!) sometimes helps to ease anxiety, but unless I limit myself to under five minutes, it just becomes a work-avoidance technique.

And coming unstuck is work. It requires tenacity and discipline.

Now that I've shared my techniques, I'm starting to get a glimmer or a mental image... I think I'm about ready to attempt to build my bridge. While I'm hard at it, can you tell me, did I miss any of your favorite ways to get yourself unstuck?


Great topic, Colleen! I don't read blogs or post comments unless I'm finished with a good day's writing--tah dah! :) (Yes, I've noticed your bejeweled scores. I've joined "Bejeweled Anonymous" today!)

My number one, all time favorite way to get unstuck works for me every single time: I forbid myself to write. I tell myself I will not, can not, ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT write. (And no reading anything allowed--because it's a link to writing! No movies because they started out as scripts!) I turn off the computer and put away anything I've printed out... notes or pages...and I put myself to work with boring tasks. Or call a friend and (try to) go out to lunch. Best if she's a writer and my call interrupts her writing, I get very competitive and feel guilty. But wait--no writing allowed! I start to get frustrated... Before I know it, my sneaky inner-self has put a pencil in my hand and to-do's in my head... lists...must write down... must remember to buy bread... before I know it the scribbles turn into--uh oh--I know how to fix that! And I RUN to the computer and turn it back on...and the wait for it to boot up is maddening!

I guess the number one truth about me is I'm rebellious. :)
Ha, love it, Nancy.

And in that case, I absolutely FORBID you to write a huge bestseller!

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Btw, I finished my proposal today. (And there was great rejoicing.)
jessica Scott said…
I get stuck usually around half way through every book. I have to stop and reread, sometimes more than once, to figure out my way forward. Another thing that helps is getting pulled away from the current project and having to do revisions or something else. Then, a few weeks later, I get a chance to reread and get right back into the groove of it. Everyone has their own method for unsticking but the important thing is not to give up when you do get stuck! Find a way to muddle through!
Great post!
Thanks for stopping by. I agree. We get a lot of interruptions throwing us off track, and rereading is definitely a great way of getting back into the story.

Rereading my well-worn copy of THE WAR OF ART is another great impetus. It's light a kick in the pants between two covers. :)
Nancy J. Parra said…
This was a fabulous post. I usually get stuck at the 2/3 mark. Like you I learned to forbid myself from writing. Works every time! LOL Thanks for sharing.
Nikole Hahn said…
Funny post! Blogging, yes, avoidance of work as well as vaccuming, but I have to disagree with movie watching. If I watch a movie in my genre, somehow I get inspired (and distracted), then the mood comes in. You forgot to mention how husbands hanging over your shoulder to read while you write is a hinderance, too. lol.
Oh, my gosh, Nikole, that's practically grounds for divorce (or spousicide) at my house. LOL. I can't write a word with anyone watching me. Even from across the room. :)

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