Sometimes when I sit down to write, the words just flow. I’m funny or profound… whatever I want to be. Other times, nothing works. I can see the destination of the point I want to make, but have no way to get there. There is no path to follow…. just lots of mountains in front of me.
What do I do? Often, I put the writing away for a while. I’m not quitting… I’m just avoiding it for a little bit. That usually works to get me un-stuck. If the pause doesn’t work, then I know I have to dig a little deeper.
So, what do I do? Usually, I take a breath. I sit back from the computer, close my eyes and try to think of nothing. If I give myself a few minutes break from writing, the jam usually resolves itself. Another trick to get things flowing again is to brainstorm. Write the idea you are working with on a piece of paper and then write all the words and ideas you can think of related to it. Usually that little bit of creativity will get the ideas flowing for me.
Most of the time when I’m writing though, my brain is flying ahead and I don’t have problems with word or idea jams. In these cases, problems arise when I read what I’ve written. Do I want others to read it? How can I make it better? How can I get to the point quicker, smoother, with more punch? Often, I’m such a straight-forward writer, I feel as if my writing is not deep enough. Here are a few ways to get out of the struggle you’re in …
1. Read your work aloud and think of yourself as a coach who would tell that writer what he/she can do to make it better.
2. Look through your piece and see if you can identify non-specific words. Can you visualize what you’ve written? Sometimes all a piece needs is for you to use the most specific form of your chosen words and the piece will jump off the page. For example, instead of “dog” use “poodle”, instead of “move” use “lunge”, etc.
3. Have you done enough research? Do you know your topic well enough? Sometimes writing just doesn’t work because you haven’t dug deep enough into the topic to become the expert at it. Experts can talk about their topic for hours and can write about their topic for pages. Take a look at your notes and see if you need a bit more information.
4. Are you organized enough? I know that some people write fiction without an outline. I find it amazing that they just let the story flow and it really works for them. I find with non-fiction, I need a map of where I’m going. Outlining will often help me get unstuck. Try it and see if it doesn’t work for you.
What things do you do to dig a little deeper when your writing seems to be getting the best of you?