Today’s Ask Inkitt Question: I’m feeling really stuck and uninspired with my writing. Please help!
Have you lost the plot, mate? My sister, who lived in Australia for many years, was fond of this expression. Now, whenever I discuss the topic of writer’s block, I hear her voice in my head, complete with the Aussie accent! But seriously, we writers do lose the plot sometimes, and it can be truly debilitating to our productivity and to our psyches.
Maybe you’re starting a new project and feel completely uninspired, or you’re staring at the computer screen in utter panic because suddenly a plot feels stale, or you’ve written your characters into a corner and can’t extricate them, or the brilliant twist at the end simply doesn’t work. Whatever the case, the feeling can be paralyzing. Here are a few tricks of the trade to help you get un-stuck and back on track.
Go back to your outline.
Wait, you don’t have an outline? Here are some thoughts on why you might want to consider using one: Ask Inkitt: Should I Outline My Novel. I’m definitely an outliner, but just for the basics, so when I’m really stuck, I take a step back and work through the plot tangle. Then I create a more detailed outline for that section. When I come back to my draft, the new notes provide a scaffolding over which I can continue to build.
Clear your head.
Step away from your project. Not for months – especially if you’re on a deadline, but maybe just for a few hours, or even a whole day. Take a walk, work in the garden, go to a yoga class. Even when you aren’t putting pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, your story is still on your mind. Sometimes it takes a little space to let your thoughts percolate. If you sleep on it, a fresh idea may present itself in the morning.
Feed your imagination with other stories.
When my own ideas feel stale, I will sometimes binge watch a new television series or read. I pay attention to what’s working in those storylines, how the characters are evolving, or what clever way the plot tangle has been resolved. Often, I’m able to see my story from a fresh angle, or consider solutions for a problem that I might not have thought of otherwise. Other writers can provide creative inspiration.
Talk out the plot.
Writer friends are great sounding boards. Sometimes an outside perspective is just what you need to help stop your mind from spinning or stalling. When I wrote my last book, I actually turned the draft in to my editor with a section I knew was pretty weak. I told her I was open to ideas. While it was in her hands, I had a conversation over lunch with one of my kids who’s a screenwriter. I explained the scenario, and he said simply, “Money moves. Have the characters follow the money trail.” When I reworked that section of the story, everything fell into place creating a much more compelling scene.
Write something else.
This one is similar to watching or reading someone else’s work, except you are using your own stories as inspiration. When you are in a creative space, the ideas tend to flow more easily. That muscle is working, so to speak. So, let the ideas flow on another project for a little while. Maybe your original story will get the nudge it needs.
My personal experience with writer’s block has never been lack of story ideas, it’s been dealing with those moments when I feel like I’ve lost my way. The first time this happened I thought, “I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just posing as a writer. I’ll never finish writing this book.” But once you’ve faced down the moment, and come out on the other side, you’ll realize you do have what it takes to keep going. Good luck!