Getting Unstuck: Easy fixes to get back to writing

getting unstuck

Every writer gets stuck at some point. These sticky points can develop into major writer’s block. Before that happens, give these options a try! I’ve amassed some advice seen and heard around the interwebs for those moments when the words don’t want to flow. These are all methods I’ve tried that have worked for me – maybe they will also work for you!

1. change your font

I found this advice over on Tumblr. The original post suggests that using Comic Sans (I know, I know – the horror!) can help you crank out the words. Comic Sans is one font known to be easier to read for dyslexics, and that visual ease might well cause the effect of helping you write.

Seriously (in Comic Sans font)

But simply changing the font your using to any other font can help you see your words in a new way, especially if you can find a font that fits the tone of your story. Writing historical fiction? Try Blackadder or Old English. Writing horror? Use Chiller. How about an epistolary novel? Ink Free is one of many handwriting fonts available.

In addition to helping set a tone, using a different font is just plain fun!

2. change your scenery

I have a very comfortable writing spot in my living room. I’m within reach of a hard surface for my coffee cups and I get some nice afternoon/evening light. Sometimes, though, my couch is a little too comfortable. Plus, there’s a TV right there.

Moving my laptop into the kitchen gives me that tiny bit of motivation I sometimes need, with fewer distractions. Being less comfortable definitely helps, too!

For a bigger boost, you can leave your house and head to a cafe. I personally enjoy the bookish atmosphere of Barnes & Noble (plus, Starbucks), as well as the table in front of the fireplace at Panera. There’s a small coffee shop near where I work that has a great atmosphere. Libraries are also good spaces to get some writing done, and most of them allow coffee (some even have Keurigs) and have small study rooms if the main library space is too hectic for you.

3. go back about 10 lines

Another bit of advice from Tumblr: if you get stuck, try going back about 10 sentences. Sometimes you get stuck in a scene because you’ve missed something, or your character did something out of character. Here’s a hiking metaphor: the trail you’re on diverges, and you don’t see the markers telling you which way to go. So you try one trail, but quickly you find your path blocked. When you go back to the split, you’ll find that the other path is the correct one.

4. don’t be afraid to skip a transition

Instead of getting stuck figuring out how to get from one scene to the next, try typing in [transition] where you need to transition. I use this technique often during Nanowrimo, when I don’t have time to get stuck. Usually, when I go back, I’ll find I don’t need a transition at all.

5. make a playlist

Remember the days when spending hours selecting and recording a mix tape was a perfectly acceptable thing?

I swear, this isn’t an excuse to waste several hours. I think of my writing playlists as soundtracks for my stories. They help me find both mood and tone for what I’m writing. You can find some of my writing playlists over on Spotify, which is the easiest way to create a playlist online, in my opinion. Another solid choice is 8tracks, which I’ve also used. You can also make playlists in iTunes and many other apps and programs.

If you don’t have time for creating your own playlist, try some of these (all links will open in Spotify):

These are just a few of the many, many playlists that are out there. A quick search can find a playlist with just the right mood for what you’re writing, without any of the hours upon hours of effort that mix tapes once required.

6. make a moodboard

If you’re more of a visual person, creating a moodboard can help you find the mood or tone to inspire your writing. You can create moodboards for each character or for settings, too. An old-fashioned magazine-clipping collage works just as well as a digital collage. For more about creating aesthetics for your story, check out this blog post.

7. go for a drive

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve solved a plot problem while listening to music on my commute into work. I’ll be bopping along to the radio and suddenly – bam! That’s what needs to happen!

Commutes can suck, so try driving back roads at night. It could give you that spark you need. A walk or bike ride could give you the same effect.

Road through forest

8. write something else

This sounds counter-intuitive. Why waste your time writing something else when you’re already stuck? A simple writing exercise can rev up your creativity and help you get unstuck in other writing projects.

If you’re working on a novel, try a poetry exercise, or a journal-writing prompt. Getting your mind away from where you’re stuck might just help you find the path around the blockage.

Do you have any tips to help get unstuck? Comment below!

2 thoughts on “getting unstuck

  1. sarahheturadny says:

    Kate I love how your tips keep me thinking about horror… driving back roads… instrumental horror music… I was kind of surprised the picture of your kitchen looks fairly normal! Haha! I like going for a walk when I get stuck. For picture books I like putting them in a drawer… and brainstorming a solution to one problem at a time while driving.

    • Kate says:

      Haha writing horror is my first love… and you can’t see how in the kitchen photo, my laptop is hiding the candlesticks which are black and one has a raven on it! (There’s another raven in my kitchen, actually, and a Beware of Zombies sign…)

      I wish I didn’t have to drive somewhere to have a peaceful place to walk, walking sounds like such a lovely way to get unstuck!

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