Getting Unstuck in Writing

I was making steady and sure progress towards finishing my novel. Then, I stopped writing. For something like a week. Not a long time, mind you, but long when you’ve only got five more weeks to finish writing a novel.

I developed the habit that every morning I would write for 10 minutes.

About anything, except for my novel. Something to keep my mind fresh. I use Kicking In the Wall by Barbara Abercrombie if you’re interested. I do this by hand with a fountain pen, and it has sometimes yielded great results, and I write far longer than my 10 minutes. Sometimes I cheat and stop writing at 7 minutes and wait for the clock to run out. Either way, I highly recommend the practice of 10 minutes per day. Bonus points if you do longhand.

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I continued to write this way every day, but I couldn’t push myself to write my novel (I’ve been using a Neo by Alphasmart).

When I sat down and asked myself why, it was because I was scared.

Scared my novel won’t be good enough, long enough, that I’ll have plot holes and my editor will tear it apart and kill my darlings, dismantle my entire storyline that I’ve plotted for the series. It’s terrifying.

I procrastinated a lot. I drafted up this blog post while procrastinating. Finally, I decided to push forward. I was finally able to break through my resistance and sit down and do the work.

I decided to break away from the keyboard and do something that allowed me to be freer and make mistakes (because I make SO many more mistakes while writing longhand – things like switching between first and third person or horrendously misspelling something I KNOW how to spell). I bought some new ink (Diamine Shimmering Blue Lightning Ink) which is now my absolute favorite. I invested in a couple of new pens (I highly recommend the entry-level Pilot pens, or Lamy if you want to get really good entry-level pens). I also am committed to Moleskine notebooks in every size and color.

Well-armed with my quality writing arsenal, I decided to write. I sat down with my story beats, knowing where I was going to go. I was ready to turn my innocent, happy-go-lucky main character into something dark and sinister. She wouldn’t see it coming. Then I started writing. Prolifically (for me).

I’m not saying I turned out thousands of words per hour since I can only write so fast. But I wrote more in one sitting than I usually did. Hours went by, and I slogged along at about 1000 words an hour at best, which honestly isn’t far off from my typing pace.

The words flowed so smoothly, on the paper and in my mind.

I sought out writing. I couldn’t wait to put my pen to paper. I’ve now become a regular at my library in the last couple of weeks, and the security guards recognize me and greet me as they make their rounds, rousing the homeless who’ve decided to take advantage of the cozy library environment. I looked out at the water through the window during moments of deep thought and realized how much I truly love writing. It completes me.

I am not fully me without this body of work I’ve created.

Now, I’m procrastinating again. As I write this, I’m on Whidbey Island in Washington state on a writing retreat where so far, I’ve done no writing other than this blog post. I’m relaxing in the island environment, surrounded by trees, sheep, and beaches. But, it’s only Friday. I have two full days of writing ahead of me, and I plan on writing thousands of words longhand in the next few days. Sure, it would be faster to type. But right now, I just want to connect to my pen and feel the words pressed into the paper. Then, I’ll worry about the typing part later.

Don’t be afraid to question your writing process. Find a new place. A new method. Both. Just don’t stop.

What ways have you found to get unstuck in your writing? Let me know in the comments!

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