Get Unstuck and Start Writing Again

Feeling stuck? Love to write but aren’t sure how to get back to it? As the year draws to a close, ask yourself whether writing is one of your goals for 2016. If so, now is a great time to reaffirm your intention to write more.

Many of my students mistakenly assume that “real” writers don’t get writers’ block. But getting stuck is a normal part of the writing process. Inspiration comes and goes. The trick is to keep writing even when it’s not flowing easily. In my years of teaching, I’ve found that the key to Getting Unstuck is the ability to Begin Again. No matter how long you’ve been away from the page, you can always start anew.

Just as a runner might be a bit rusty if she hasn’t put on her running shoes in a few months, the practice of writing requires routine, patience, and warm-ups before diving back in. Sometimes all you need is to start.

If you haven’t written in months, or perhaps years, it might not be pretty the first time you sit down to write. Let go of your expectation that it has to be perfect, or even good, and let yourself enjoy the act of writing itself. Remember, we write because we want to, or we feel we need to—how it turns out is out of our hands. Like the weather, some writing days will be sunny, others cloudy, others downright stormy. In order to get unstuck, we have to let go of trying to control the outcome.

When my students are stuck, I advise them to set the bar low. Try writing for 15 minutes or filling a quarter of a page to build your writing muscles back up. You might want to get off the computer and grab a pen and a favorite notebook, curl up on your couch with a cup of tea, and have some fun!

As is true with any creative practice, you can’t be a productive writer without having an understanding of your own habits. Thus, knowing where we like to write, when we are most inspired, and how to create a routine is just as important as having something to say.

If you feel stuck, here are some questions to ask yourself to find out what kind of writer you are:

  • Where do you like to write? (at home? at a cafè?)
  • When do you like to write? (morning, night, mid-afternoon?)
  • How do you like to write? (pen and paper, computer, old-fashioned typewriter?)

At its core, my method comes down to the Buddhist approach of letting go of perfection—looking at writing practice as you would a yoga or meditation practice. The real work starts when we can be okay if the writing doesn’t show up exactly as we want it to, and still keep coming back to the page day after day.

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