What to Do When you Can’t Write

Lately I’ve had trouble writing. It’s not that I’m out of ideas or have hit writer’s block. It’s also not that I don’t have time to write – I have the same amount of time I’ve always had. But sometimes life just does things, and often it feels like everything happens at once. For example, I’m getting ready to move to another state, my car has been in the shop and needs to go back to the shop again, and I’ve been struggling with some health challenges.

I’m not trying to complain or air all my dirty laundry here, but because of these factors, my brain has not been letting me write the way I want to. The expected stress of packing and dealing with car repairs, along with the distraction caused by ongoing pain, has drained away all my creative energy.

So what do you do when you can’t write? I wrote a post some time ago about ideas to help you get past writer’s block, and here are some more thoughts about what to do when you can’t write: Continue reading


What to Do when You’re Stuck

I wrote a post some time ago about overcoming writer’s block, but this post is a little different. What do you do when want to write, you’ve got plenty of ideas, you’re excited about your WIP, but you just don’t know what to do next?

This is the position I’ve found myself in a lot lately with the historical fiction that I’m writing. What’s got me stuck is figuring out what the next few scenes should be and how to get my characters to the place they need to be by the end. As I was jotting down thoughts, I realized that I have come up with several ways of getting myself past these stuck points – and so I now want to share them with you. Continue reading

Story Prompts to Get Unstuck

I am not usually one who needs story prompts. I don’t mean for this to sound arrogant or bragging – it’s just that I’m usually so inundated by ideas that what I need is more time to write, not more ideas. But even us constantly-flooded-with-ideas folks get stuck now and then, or we want to take a break from current projects and try something new.

I’ve written a couple of posts in the past about generating ideas and breaking through writer’s block. I find that writing something else besides my current project can keep my mind in a writerly mode without it getting bogged down in whatever I’m stuck on.

I also started a Pinterest board with cool pictures and ideas for story prompts.

Another great source of inspiration for me is music. Sometimes ideas come to me while I’m listening to something, other times I purposefully play certain songs or tracks while I’m brainstorming. If you want to know what kinds of music get me going, here are some of my favorites.

I hope that some of these links can help you if you need prompts or brainstorming fodder. What are some of your favorite ways to get your creative juices flowing again?

Overcoming Writer’s Block

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yes, I believe that writers can get stuck, frustrated with, disillusioned by, and tired of their writing projects. I believe this because I’ve experienced all of these things.

However, “writer’s block” to me sounds permanent and insurmountable. And it is most certainly neither of these. So whether you’re experiencing writer’s block, writer’s pause, frustration with your characters, or uninspired by your plot, there is a way out. Here are three tips that I use when I get stuck.

Go for a walk.

Or a run, or a swim, or vacuum your house. In other words, do something besides sitting there staring at the blank page. Physical movement helps—it gets blood flowing, and distracts you. And if you haven’t cleaned in a while, well, then you’re killing two birds with one stone. Double your productivity! But seriously, I do some of my best thinking while I’m doing physical tasks that require very little conscious thought, such as vacuuming or talking a long walk.

Recently I’ve been stuck on my current WIP (work in progress). Not blocked, just not sure how to proceed. I know the ending of the story, and a few key events that I want to have happen—I just didn’t know what the next few scenes needed to be. Going for several longs walks helped me to sort out ideas; sometimes I purposefully brainstormed, other times I just let my mind wander.  But it helped, and I now have a clearer picture of where I need to go.

Write a future scene, or one that won’t be in the book.

If you’re stuck like I was, knowing some of the future of the book but just not where to go next, then write a scene out of order. I do this periodically, whether I’m stuck or not, usually if I’m hit with an idea for scene or event.

But it’s also a good exercise to try to keep your mind on your characters and your WIP, while letting your mind get away from that part that’s got you stuck. Whether the scene is a complete scene or not, or ends up in the final draft of the book or not, doesn’t matter. Sometimes, it’s the very act of writing that will loosen things up and get your creative juices going again.

Read a book or watch a movie.

Sometimes I read a favorite scene from a book or watch a favorite movie to get myself inspired, and sometimes just for a plain distraction. This is not to say that you should just spend all of your allotted writing time reading or vegging in front of the TV, but viewing someone else’s creativity can help you with your own.

For me, my go-to things to watch when I get stuck or am feeling particularly uninspired are the Lord of the Rings movies or The Chronicles of Narnia. These are my favorites in both the book and the movie realms, and—especially with Narnia—some of my greatest sources of inspiration ever since childhood.

I don’t take ideas right out of these works, but to me, Tolkien and Lewis were some of the greatest fantasy storytellers ever, and simply witnessing their genius gets me excited. I do have to exercise some discipline, though. I don’t want to spend three nights watching movies I’ve seen before, and feeling very inspired, only to realize that I’m way behind on my writing goals because I’ve been watching movies instead of writing.

Discipline and temperance are key, but don’t be afraid to use someone else’s ideas to break loose that block in your own mind.

Does anyone else have any tried and true techniques for getting past those blocks, getting unstuck, or getting re-inspired? Please share!