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


Tuesday Toss-Up

When is Getting Stuck the Best Thing?

I tend to write the way I live (or maybe I live the way I write), a sometimes-awkward hybrid between planning and winging it.

Writers often define themselves as either  plotter (planner) or pantser (that sometimes flaky person who considers herself spontaneous). While I’m no longer a die-hard pantser, I’m also not entirely a plotter. I’m somewhere between. A plantser, if you will. Continue reading “When is Getting Stuck the Best Thing?”

Tuesday Toss-Up

Are You Stuck in the Squishy Middle?

How to Get Over the Halfway Mark Hump in NaNoWriMo
(or any big writing project)


Sometimes they’re a cause for celebration. As in: “Yeehaw! We’re halfway through!” Or: “Whew! Thank goodness that’s half over already.”

Other times, they just suck. As in: “Oh man, I’ve come all this way and I still have so far to go.” *cue self-pity montage music*

I suppose it probably depends on whether you’re glass-half-full kinda folk or if you’re stuck in that middle.

We’re heading towards the halfway mark of NaNoWriMo. Some of you may just be picking up steam after a long, slow start. For others, the creative high of the first half of NaNo may be wearing off, leaving them stuck in that mushy, soggy, squishy middle.

Me, I’m aiming for denial. Continue reading “Are You Stuck in the Squishy Middle?”

Life List Club

Fear Not by Marcia Richards

 Welcome to another Life List Club Friday! Today, I’m guest blogging at Pam Hawely’s blog and we have the lovely Marcia Richards with us once more. Take it away, Marcia!


Thank you, Sonia, for being a gracious hostess. In keeping with your Fear Friday theme, I offer your readers a post about fear.

Fear Not

Fear will stop us in our tracks, no matter what we were planning to do. Fear can show up disguised as uncertainty or procrastination. Continue reading “Fear Not by Marcia Richards”

Tuesday Toss-Up

In a Flash

I’ve been hearing a little bit about flash fiction since I came back to my writing. I hadn’t tried it though because it seemed a little intimidating somehow. However, my experiences with the OneWord writing exercise made me brave enough to try. This morning (as a part of my new morning writing routine…yay me!), I looked up writing prompts on Writer’s Digest and discovered this gem: “Only two weeks into the New Year had passed and Tim had already broken his first resolution: Don’t kill anyone. Write this scene.” I gave it a whirl and was pleasantly surprised to find I was actually able to finish a whole story. It’s in very rough form but nothing a little editing won’t fix. It needs some cutting to really qualify for flash fiction (under 1000 words, I think) unless I decide to expand it into a short story. Either way, I am well pleased.

I’ll share the story here when I’m done editing and rewriting. Not sure when that will be because I think I want to try to write a few new short stories or flash fiction stories before I edit anything else, including my manuscripts. I think that would help build up a little confidence in my own productivity.

I’m also thinking that my renewed efforts with the Morning Pages (see Morning Pages Inspiration) is beginning to pay off. My muse is no longer giving me the silent treatment…even if she is still a little scary.

Tuesday Toss-Up

Trying to (Re)fomulate a Writing Routine

When I first got back into writing, the excitement of reconnecting with my storytelling fueled my writing. I had challenging days here and there. For the most part, though, I was excited to write and that excitement was enough to carry me through my lack of routine. Since the lack of consistent routine wasn’t hampering my productivity, I (wrongly, I now think) assumed that I could just seat-of-the-pants it all the time.

No problem. After all, isn’t that what I did when I was a kid? I wrote whenever the inspiration struck and inspiration struck virtually Continue reading “Trying to (Re)fomulate a Writing Routine”

Tuesday Toss-Up

My Muse is Giving Me the Silent Treatment

My muse (who looks a lot like Joan Crawford with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whisky in the other) is not pleased with me. Perhaps that is because I have yet to establish a consistent writing routine. I’m all over the map with my writing habits and the muse has finally had it with me (she never was very patient to begin with). So, although I’m now writing daily in this blog and tackling my Morning Pages first thing in the morning (more or less), I’m still struggling with establishing a ritual or routine for working on my manuscripts. I had a fairly consistent routine before the holidays but then I let it slide. And now my muse is on strike. She’s locked herself in her dressing room and is probably getting drunk and belligerent. Maybe I should threaten to hire Bette Davis instead.

Tuesday Toss-Up

Faster Makes it Go?

I’ve heard similar advice from several sources: put your pen to the paper or your fingers on the keyboard and just write. Write as fast as you can. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation or anything. Just write. Fast. The idea is that writing faster makes the creative side of the brain go while the critical side is left in the dust (probably standing there with torn, dirty jeans shaking its fist in fury).

I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of the idea. It sounds pretty good but it’s so hard for me to just let it flow without at least Continue reading “Faster Makes it Go?”

Tuesday Toss-Up

How I Got Here, Part 2

Right before I started college, I remember being told that I wasn’t really a writer because I didn’t “eat, sleep and breathe” writing. That was because I had declared a biochemistry major. And the decision to be a biochem major was in large part because I was convinced that I needed a “real” major so that I could get a “real job.” You know…”just in case.” (Wow, that’s a lot of quotes…but justified, I think). Those ideas solidified more and more as I went along in college (eventually switching from biochem to microbiology and adding psychology) until my personal creative writing efforts just petered out.

Clearly, I had some seriously mistaken ideas about writing in general. And those ideas clearly led to a major case of writer’s block. Realistically, I know that not everybody who writes a piece of fiction is going to get published. Yet, it’s just as clear that many writer’s do get published. At some point, everybody who is published at all is published for the first time. So, why not me? Why not even allow for the possibility? I’m pretty sure that book contracts and agents do not fall out of the sky or just show up on one’s doorstep. I’m guessing that the authors who do get published are often the ones who are persistent and seek to always be growing in their art.  Again…why not me?

That’s the question I began to ask myself very soon after starting this journey. It’s the question that drives me now. The possibilities…they are both terrifying and thrilling. Why not try? What have I really got to lose?

And another question: why make being a published novelist the only mark of being a “real” writer? Why not just write the way that I used to when I was a kid? I used to write because I couldn’t not write. I simply had to write. I was a writer then and I am a writer now. I want to write for the sake of writing and seek to be a published novelist.  Yet, in the end, the story is all that should matter. The story has to be told…whether to an audience of a few or many.