Part 1 – Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Usually I write my blog every night, but occasionally something happens. It could be something great like seeing my adult kids, but usually, it’s not. It’s more like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. The words just won’t come.
When I thought of this idea, on a night when I was stuck, I thought the words would flow. They’re NOT! I’m struggling to write about my writing struggles. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it feels like that rock and hard place.
I write a sentence. Stop, delete it, and try again. Sometimes that breaks the blank page, but sometimes it doesn’t.
I moved onto this image, finally. Then I second guessed myself and went back and forth between them.
I feel stuck, flailing at my keyboard. Trying to write something that makes sense. I’m weighing every word, which makes it worse.
I want the words to fly off my fingertips, but they would rather hold my head and comfort myself.
Some nights the more you push, the more you wear yourself out.
The last time this happened, I looked like this fox. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, but I refused to quit.
I pushed and pushed, and it just got worse. Sometimes you have to know when to call it a night, and that’s what I’m doing now.
The last time it worked, but I’ll let you know tomorrow night when I try my luck at this post again. Good night . . .
Part 2 – Let Me Sleep on It
That was two nights ago. I had a good night’s sleep, and I was ready to write – till last night’s writing disaster. My new book is delayed a couple weeks, till the end of the month.
I couldn’t focus to write. I had to come up with Plan C. Don’t worry! I’ll tell you about it soon, in another post.
But there’s something about sleeping on your problems.
When you hit a problem, it’s like hitting a yellow caution light. Sometimes it’s even that darn red stop light.
But there’s a bright side. I took freshman psychology back in 1977. I forgot the name of the concept, but not the principle. Our brains work in circles to go from problem to solution. If you’re stuck, your brain will keep working on that problem until it’s solved. It works whether you’re sleeping or doing anything else.
This picture made me think what that process looks like, whether you’re sleeping or not.
Usually if I stop and come back to my writing the next day, my fingers fly across the keyboard and the ideas pour out. It’s lovely!
Warning – it’s not perfect! First drafts never are. I used to tell my classes that they were sloppy copies. They’re meant to get your ideas down at top speed.
This is what it feels like when you get that answer. Your wheels are spinning. You’re back on green, and you can go, go, go!
Once those ideas are down, go back and proofread them. How? Read them out loud. You can use the narrator on your computer. That lets you listen and focus on how the words sound. I go over each paragraph, again and again until it sounds just right.
Another way – have someone read it out loud to you. Have a pen/keyboard ready. Whenever they stop and stumble, mark it down. Those are the places you want to edit and polish.
This is what it feels like when you’re in the groove with your writing. You’re sitting, typing, and the thoughts flow.
It’s also a great place to be when you’re editing and polishing your work.
It’s nothing like that first picture with you hands on your head. That’s when writing feels FRUSTRATING!
Tomorrow – some writing tips to help you. Please use what makes sense to you and ignore the rest.
Part 3 – My Favorite Writing Tips
These are the things I do when I’m stuck. Use the ones that make sense to you, and ignore the rest.
1. Give yourself the gift of time. If you have a week to do an essay, try doing a little each night. It’s easier on you, on your brain too.
If you miss a night, don’t worry! Things happen, and time is a gift, for you too. Other nights you might be in the groove and work longer. Nothing is worse than stopping when you’re on a roll.
2. Outline your writing. I always do this, one way or another.
Sometimes I use a checklist like the one to the left. It helps me take care of all the little pieces that move my work from keyboard to publication.
When I write blogs, I outline with pictures. I pick out the ones that tell my story in images. When I write stories, I outline a beginning, middle, and an end, in words.
Warning – you don’t have to stick to an outline. It’s a road to guide your writing, but you may find a better path as you travel along. Take it! You’ll have a better story.
Look ahead when you change your road map. You may need to change some plot points. Then enjoy! Writing magic happens when the story guides you along. It happens every time I turn on my laptop.
3. Stuck again? Reread a paragraph or two.
It’s like taking a running start. As you read along, you listen to the words. Your brain will automatically predict what’s next. It’s like breathing.
DO NOT – reread and edit those words. It will stall your writing. Focus on what’s happening in those words, and they will flow onto the page.
You can edit your words later. Not on that first draft! Every writer I know pushes the words out of their head and onto the page. Then they rework, analyze, and have it critiqued. They repeat as many times as needed.
4. If you’re stuck, take another break.
Do something else – Take a nap. Get a snack. Whatever! You can come back to your problem tomorrow. You’ll find it sitting and waiting for you.
When words sit, the next ones, better ones, come along.
If you give yourself time, you’ll work your way to the finish line. Magic!
5. When you’re stuck, talk it out.
To a friend, a parent, a teacher. It will help!
Those people will see what you don’t. They’ll also see how to get you moving again. You’re too close to see your own mistakes, or, your own solutions.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!