Ideas to Get You Unstuck
Are you struggling to make progress in your writing? Are you spending more time hitting the backspace button than any other key on your keyboard? Have you gone down from twelve chapters, to ten, to six, to rewriting your introduction? Does your epilogue about your daughter’s birth need an addendum about her wedding?
Trust me, you are not alone. In fact, maybe you can relate to this writer:
I've been working on this manuscript for years now (if that sounds intentionally vague it's because I'm embarrassed by the number). The truth is, I don't know if I'll ever finish. My progress is stilted—if not going in the opposite direction. I'm not sure I’m cut out to be a writer. Life creeps in and my writing time gets squeezed out. I've lost any sense of calling or vision for writing this book. It's just been so hard, and I feel so alone.
Wow. Have you been there, too? When the blur of letters and years swarms into a tornado of self-doubt, it’s time to hit reset on your manuscript. Here are a few things you can do to jump-start your writing today and a few ideas to keep you motivated over time.
Identify Your Motivation
Open your Bible. Find a scripture verse that speaks to the theme/purpose of your book. Post it above your desk.
Discover your mission. Ask yourself what readers will learn/gain by reading your book, and turn that answer into a mission statement. Post it on your monitor and read it every time you sit down to write and/or when you get discouraged.
Put things in perspective. Need a little encouragement? Read this blog post to remind yourself of The Heart of the Matter.
Visit a library. Stroll down the aisles and remind yourself that every book there has an author who has been in your shoes. They persevered and finished their manuscript, and you can do it, too!
Reignite Your Passion
Put down the writing books. While there are lots of helpful resources to help you hone your skills, it’s easy to suffer analysis paralysis if you spend too much time critiquing each sentence as you go. Move your English grammar book to the top shelf, and gently tell yourself you don’t need it right now.
Get out of your head. Go for a walk and take in the beauty of your surroundings. (Or if you're reading this during a cold winter’s day, find a house plant to appreciate.) To get the creative juices flowing, write a haiku (or two, or three) about what you’ve seen.
Play a writing game. If your manuscript has ground to a halt, try writing something completely different to stretch your writing muscles. For example,
- Ask a friend to write a dozen words on separate slips of paper. Pull one out of a hat and write a paragraph (or scene for fiction) where you use that word at some point in the paragraph.
- Pick a colour, and write down everything that you can think of that is that colour. Write 150 words describing one of those objects using the five senses as a guide. Want a bigger challenge? Pick a sound and describe what it looks like in your imagination.
- Pull your favourite book off the shelf. Open to a random page and read one paragraph. Write the next paragraph, a reflection on that paragraph, or, for fiction, a twist that takes the story in a different direction.
Make progress somewhere... anywhere. So often we get stuck in a particularly difficult section and that grinds our progress to a halt. However, you don't have to write your book in order. Ask yourself which section of your manuscript you are most excited to work on. Start there.
Create a Plan for Success
Schedule writing time. Try to find a regular time slot that is dedicated to writing. And, if that seems challenging try Writing in the Cracks of Time.
Create bite-sized victories. Nothing builds momentum better than setting and exceeding small goals. Try using a technique to motivate yourself to stay on track, such as the excellent one described in Sometimes It Pays to Keep Score.
Hit pause on feedback. Feedback can be one of the most important tools in becoming a great writer, but in some seasons it can become a paralyzing burden. If you are asking for multiple opinions on each paragraph that you write, it’s difficult to gain momentum and make progress. Consider blocking outside voices for a period, and focus on finding your voice.
Try a change of scenery. If your current workspace has fewer words than dry spells associated with it, try writing in a different spot in your house, or finding a writing space outside your walls. Read this post on Awesome Writing Spaces for ideas.
Call in the Reinforcements
Join a writers' group. If you have not yet done so, check out The Word Guild and InScribe. In addition to inspiring conferences and writing contests, there are also localized groups that meet to encourage one another.
Start your own. If you don’t have a Christian writers’ group in your vicinity, consider starting one (either in person or via Zoom). Put up a flyer at your local Christian bookstore or post about it on Facebook to find like-minded writers to connect with.
Call in the prayer support. Ask someone to commit to praying for your writing project. Maybe they could even pray for you during your designated writing time.
And maybe a friend, too. Grab an accountability partner to spur you on in your writing and encourage you to meet your targets.
Know when to reach out for help. If you’re still stuck, you might benefit from a one-on-one coaching session with one of our editors. A phone or video call with one of our editors is sure to leave you feeling equipped and inspired. We also have a mentorship program where an editor would walk alongside you throughout the writing process. See New WAP Services Offer Coaching for details or contact us for more information.
About this Contributor:
Jen Jandavs-Hedlin has worked in the publishing industry since 2003, and at Word Alive Press since 2009. She is passionate about reading, writing, and helping authors to share their stories.