Happy New Year! I know the New Year is an arbitrary date on the calendar, but I love having a reason to stop and reassess my work processes and personal habits in order to maybe make an adjustment or try something new.
With that in mind, this January, I am going to be focused on writers who feel stuck.
Is that you?
I know it’s often me. That’s why I focus my coaching work on helping writers through their version of stuck. I’ve been there and I can help shine the flashlight on the way out.
Each week in January, here on the blog and Instagram, I will take a deep dive into what it feels like to be “stuck,” what it may look like for a writer at various stages of the process, and tips to get unstuck whether it’s getting started, the murky middle, or during revisions.
This week, I want to talk about what stuck might look like in your writing.
Stuck can feel like writer’s block. You are sitting at the page with time to focus on your writing but the words won’t come. You have no ideas. You don’t know what comes next. Inspiration feels far away. This can lead to feelings of frustration, doubt, and even anger since this is likely the moment you look at other writers you know or follow online who are seemingly cranking out content at a brisk pace and may fear your muse has jumped the fence to greener pastures.
Stuck can feel like stale writing. Something isn’t working but you aren’t sure what. The scene or the writing feels forced. You are cramming a scene/character/subplot into place to make something else work and yet it’s not solving the problem and chances are isn’t fun to write either.
Stuck can feel like procrastination. You’d rather straighten your desk or reorganize your closets than sit down at the page. The call to a social media dopamine hit can be irresistible in those moments and you find yourself frittering away the hours on Instagram instead of working on your manuscript.
Stuck can feel like frustration that you’ve taken this story as far as you can. You’re getting form letter rejections and you are the begging the universe to simply tell you how to fix the story because you know you’re capable you just aren’t sure what to do anymore make it stronger.
Stuck can feel like giving up.
The good news is that you don’t have to give up! If writing and telling this story is truly what you want to do, all of these versions of stuck have a solution. However, there is no easy way out of stuck. Freeing yourself might require learning craft, taking a hard look at a darling that isn’t serving your story, or even tearing apart a polished manuscript and fixing a major structural problem in revision. It might be a lot of things, but it will definitely be work.
Work you can do.
I know because I have been there. I am there often. Stuck. Wishing for an easy road. Only making progress when I commit to doing the work.
But, writing is in my blood and so I do the work. And I know writing is in your blood, too, or you wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t still be looking for answers. Take heart in the frustration and the angst. It means you still care. Probably a lot. That passion is what will carry you through.
So, Monica, I hear you asking, I’m ready to do the work–what do I do?
Well, before we walk this journey of getting unstuck together this month, I want you to pull out a journal and do some exploring. Answer these questions:
- Are you stuck in your writing? Where?
- When else have you felt stuck in your writing life?
- What does stuck feel like or look like for you?
- What things have worked in the past to help free you from the bind?
- What things did you try that didn’t work?
- What things have you always wanted to try or been curious about but haven’t tried yet for whatever reason?
I get stuck when I let the inner critic into my process too early. Even now, during the revision I expressly started as a “play” version so I could be free in my writing, I find myself slowing down as I near the end. Not because I’ve run out of ideas or that I’m not looking forward to writing the next scene (because oh boy, it’s actually gonna be a super fun scene to write!) or that I don’t know what comes next. No, I’m resisting the work because the closer I get to the end (and not just the end but “The End”), the closer I am to sending it to my critique partner. In other words, I’m getting closer to outside eyes. And no matter how kind and supportive I know those eyes are going to be, they are still no longer mine. In order to protect me, my inner critic is attempting to find new problems before I’m done solving old ones. It’s creating a protective wall around my sensitive little creative heart in advance, when I still need it to be open and vulnerable to what’s happening on the page.
It’s important that I know and recognize this so when I feel the laundry becoming more important than my writing time I can remind myself this is to be expected as part of my process. I can politely ask my inner critic to take a back seat for a little longer while I finish playing on the page.
Figure out what stuck looks and feels like for you. And next week, we’ll start with being stuck at the beginning. Seems like a natural place to start! But don’t skip out if starting isn’t typically your issue. The tips we’ll talk about this month could help you at any part of your own process. My goal is to arm you with as many tools as possible so the next time stuck rears its ugly head, you’ll be ready!
As always, if you’d like to chat about how I can help you specifically get unstuck, you can always contact me here or come join the conversation this month on Instagram.
Feel free to share in the comments below what you learned about your writing process from the journal prompts.
Featured photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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