writing

How Do You Get Unstuck?

cat in a tree
Climb the tree, they said. It’ll be easy, they said. There’s a tasty bird’s nest…Oh well. At least the view is nice from up here.

Stuck. Blocked. Out of juice. We’ve all found ourselves there, especially creative types (how we do like to get ourselves in trouble). How is sometimes, in the middle of being stuck, you can’t seem to remember how you ever got unstuck before? You think, I know I’ve gotten myself out of these situations somewhere along the line. Sure,  maybe it’s not the same exact situation, but there must have been something similar enough to help out now.

And, in your head, all you hear is crickets.

And maybe the occasional giggle.

Or maybe that last part is just me. *shrug*

Maybe the problem is we often approach creative problems haphazardly. We chip away at them or ignore them, hoping they’ll go away already. Eventually, something shakes loose, and we go on our merry way…until we hit the next wall.

Shouldn’t we have a standard protocol for creative blocks? Some kind of ten step process (where at least two of the steps will involve drinking copious amounts of coffee and/or whiskey)?

Or maybe a standard protocol is too one size fits all, but each block is its own kind of beast (or we like to imagine it is). And half the problem is just figuring out what’s causing the block in the first place. The reason recommends the solution and all that. So, perhaps a flowchart instead.

Something like this:

the only flow chart you will ever need

Only more expansive and with creative/writer stuff.

As you might’ve guessed, I’m a little bit stuck. For the last few months, I’ve been pulling together the first draft of my manuscript. A few scenes were skipped in the original write through. Other scenes need to be altered to fit changes made to the plot/characters later on in the writing process. A few times, it’s become apparent I need to add a scene here and there to make the story work. Some of the scenes need to be rewritten entirely.

I’m stuck in the middle of one such scene. It’s an exposition scene, which makes it tricky to begin with. And it has to take place in a rather confined space and with less action than the scenes before and after it. I could Pope in the Pool it (see Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat), but I’m not sure how to do that here.

Fortunately, things are beginning to shake loose. I decided to make one character extremely agitated (which fits the situation anyway) and let that drive much of the dialogue. That and a lot of cross talk between several characters regarding several different parts of the exposition.

But it’s still slow going.

Usually, I ask myself a bunch of questions when I’m stuck. What does this character want? What has to happen next? What’s the scene goal? All that jazz. I think I’ve asked myself all the questions I can here, but it hasn’t really helped.

Or I, if I know how the scene must absolutely end, I work it backwards. That might work here…I suppose I could try it.

I guess I do have an inner flow chart of sorts…I’m just not very organized about it.

At any rate, I’m working through the scene. It’ll get done eventually.

But maybe I’ll try my hand at coming up with a formal flowchart. If nothing else, it’ll be a good way to procrastinate on the writing.

***

How do you overcome being stuck?

Photo Credit
Stuck by Alison Benbow, on Flickr | CC BY 2.0
the only flow-chart you will ever need by Jeremy Holmes, on Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

 

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