If you’re stuck, clean your desk. I like to throw away every precious note and scrap of paper w/out glancing at it. The more valuable I believe it is, the faster it gets tossed. I figure I’m stuck for a reason and part of that reason is the debris in front of me. How can my characters talk with all that paper in their mouths?
Next to Godliness
I’d like to hear what other writers do when they get bogged down.
Take a walk. It's finally sunny here. It's not just writing papers that can bog one down, I say, as I stare at my piles of tax receipts.
I too clean, although I don't really have a desk so I am forced to clean the house.
Oh, I really find hitting my head against the cluttered desk much more enjoyable, Ron.
Seriously, though, I have to stop thinking. When I worked with Lisa, she taught me to stare blankly at the ceiling, which I find very effective. Meditation and naps work, too.
I like starting at the ceiling, Danette. That is an idea I haven't tried. My writing prof in college had us observe other people writing for thirty minutes and record all their actions: looking up, rereading, biting their pencil, sitting up straighter etc. This was very enlightening because someone also observed me and told me what I do.
As for getting stuck, I like talking about it with someone else. Even if I don't like thier idea that will tell me what I do like and where to go next.
Ron, I could never throw away precious bits of paper on my desk unless I was sure I had recorded it somewhere or taped it down in my notebook. Handwritten notes seem to contain a thousand layers of meaning in just one word even.:)
But then, if I cleaned all the jelly off the table from the kids lunch before I sat down to write, I'd never get any done. I need some kind of computer licking dog . . .
I like grinding my head on the floor (a variation of Danette's hitting her head against the desk).
Or I run or bike.
Or, when everything I write really stinks and I'm not taking the story anywhere interesting, I freewrite a large number of words, like 4,000 or 5,000, and if I can't come up with anything good in that many words, then at least my fingers got a workout.
I like cleaning, tossing crap, walking the dog, napping, swimming (not necessarily at the same time). Also recommend that writers have a "secondary" art form they can do and not take as seriously–like painting, dance, music, theatre, gardening–something JUST FOR FUN can help get one out of her own way.
But Danette is right. I am a huge fan of lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. Works every time.
Wow – I'll have to try the ceiling trick. Gets one away from the cluttered desk mode. I too can't throw away precious papers either. Try to type of some note about them first. But maybe I should try. My desk is not inviting free thoughts at the moment.
For me the most important thing is to do something DIFFERENT from what I have been doing–change the pace.
This may mean getting out paper and pen and switching to handwriting. It may be sketching plot-trees on paper with "branches" representing different possible plots, until I see which one intrigues me most. It may mean revisiting a character sketch to see what aspects of a character I have let drop out of the story for a while. Sometimes I get out index cards and sketch scene ideas, then shuffle the pile to look at different ways I could order them. I also go to my journal and just brainstorm "what if?" ideas. Sometimes I need to close my office door to shut out the rest of the world. Sometimes I just need to get up from my desk and find a different place to write.
Maybe these are just "tricks," but I think we need a lot of ways to redirect our creative minds when we are stuck.
Debra, Any trick or game you use to get good writing out of yourself is a-ok. The tricks can be the funnest part! Writing is a game after all — with rules, a place to begin, a goal to reach by the end, and even ways to cheat–though cheating is not always advisable. Think Chutes and Ladders! Or Candyland, Risk, and so on…
I wait and stare and write three-syllable poems about Jane Yolen, mostly variations on "Butt in Chair." Or, I'll dig out my Stevie Nicks Greatest Hits CDs and ballet slippers and pretend I'm a gypsy (kinda joking.) Or, I'll hang out with my four-year-old and wait for her to say something inspiring like, "I'm gonna catch the rain with all heart-shaped cups, and then I'll catch the thunder, to find out who made that noise." She's my muse.
Cleaning off my desk would take too long.
There's a lift bridge a block from my house, off of which, in a pinch, I could fling myself. So far, though, I've found that running across it does the trick. That or tequila shots.
I check Facebook or The Storyteller's Inkpot or switch projects, like picture book to novel, or the other way around. Shopping is good too, even if you don't buy anything, just staring at things in the store and listening to people is good. And that way you can ask strangers questions. Also coloring helps, like Lisa said. Or I sew. I'd never clean or cook. That just pisses me off.
I've just started writing really bad sonnets. Nothing like the promise of a sonnet to get one back on task.
Like Andy, I run or bike. Definitely. That aerobic activity does wonders for both clearing and organizing thoughts.
I like Lisa's idea, too–having a second artistic outlet. Maybe I need to dust off that guitar…
Funny that I am running across this post now, after JUST cleaning off my desk. And yes, I threw out all of those little clever notes you think you might use later. I also enjoy photography quite a bit, and I find working with photos (during and after taking them) really gets the creative mind reset. Some people (my wife) don't get that.