What to Do When You’re Stuck

What do you do when the ideas don’t come?  When you stare at a blank page, and there is nothing inside your heart or your brain to put on it?  This is something that every writer must face at least sometimes.
What’s worse, for me at least, is when I’m looking at a story, and I just have no idea what to do with it.  The parts that are there are good, they are so good!  But they don’t click together, they don’t make sense, they don’t mesh.  I hate that so much more.
One way or another, if you’re stuck, you’ve got to get unstuck.  I can think of nothing worse.  It’s like all the color goes right out of my life.  Now, I know there are a lot of home remedies for curing writers block.  It’s kind of like hiccups, everyone’s got their own weird thing that works for them.  (Mine’s sugar, pured right on the tip of my toung, then drunk down with warm water.)  So I’m going to try to avoid the cliches like go take a walk or wash your hands.  Not that those things don’t work, I just bet you’ve probably heard them enough.  In fact, if your like me, the next person who tells you to take a walk while suffering writers block is likely to get knocked in the jaw.
Read through your idea book
That’s always my step one, and why I have an idea book to start with.  I don’t need to think of something new, I’ve already thought of a whole little purple moleskin book full of ideas!  I just have to start from there, and see where they take me.  This only works if I’m stuck for a short fiction idea, though. If I’m stuck in the middle of a book, I have a different tool.
Read your story notes
Because you forgot about something.  Some sub plot that you wanted to explore and you haven’t gotten to yet.  Maybe there’s a character that you meant to expand on, a relationship that was supposed to go north or south but instead has broken even.  At very least, your first notes represent your first splash of inspiration for your story.  Don’t discount that.
Go somewhere else
I like coffee shops, personally because sometimes I’m Captain Cliche.  But usually the first sign that I’m suffering from writers block is when I start cleaning during my writing time.  When the call of the dishes is louder than the call of my pen, I need to get out of the house.  It doesn’t matter where, but I need to get out.
Plot Bunnies
A plot bunny, if you don’t know, is an event in your story line that spawns other events by necessity.  Like if a character gets pregnant, or dies, or there’s a natural disaster.  Anything that causes other things to then happen.  Just don’t forget the first law of plot bunnies; just because you write it doesn’t mean it has to stay.  If it’s a dumb plot line that doesn’t fit with the rest of your story but it did get your pen moving again, then it served it’s purpose and it’s time for it to die.  Better one plot bunny than the whole story.
Free write
Alright, so I know this is my cure for everything, but there’s a reason.  It really does cure everything.  I think it works because I know I’m going to throw it away.  There’s no pressure with free writing.  I don’t even put it in a book, except for my morning pages.  Usually I scratch it out onto a loose leaf page and toss it when I’m done.  So if you’re stuck, just get your pen moving, and thow it away later.
Find a contest with a theme
When I look onto a blank page, the possibilities are endless.  Thats…frustrating.  There are so many directions to go, and I sometimes can not make a decision.  If I have a theme to work with, I have a starting point.  I have a direction.  Some of my best work has been inspired by theme contests.  I didnt’ win the contest, but I got the story published elsewhere.  So, I won in the end.
Read writing forums
I love talking shop.  You could probably tell that, what with the writing blog and all.  But I love listening to other people talk shop too.  Sometimes I just need to feel like a writer, surounded by other writers, talking shop like it’s just any other job.  I think sometimes I get caught up in the whole ‘artist’ mindset.  I’m creating!  I’m inventing!  That’s super and all, but sometimes it’s crippling to think like that.  Sometimes I need to see it as a job that needs done, so that my Western Pennsylvania blue collar ‘you go to work with a broken arm because that’s what you do’ mentality kicks in.  Childhood conditoning to the rescue.
Read in general
Okay, this one might be a cliche, but it bears repeating.  If I can’t write, I read.  My tastes vary, but I usually find myself reading young adult fiction or horror.  Short story collections are another favorite of mine.  Anything that reminds me how good a good story feels will do.
Take a day off
Go explore a cave, or walk the dog, or visit the zoo, or sit at the park by the fountain.  Take your bullet journal, but don’t feel compelled to write.  If you haven’t take a break for awhile, that could be why your stuck.  Your brain needs a break just like any other part of your body.
Think about what might be blocking you
Here’s what it comes down to for me.  Usually, writers block means the story isn’t working for me.  If it doesn’t work for me, it’s not going to work for anyone else, so that’s a problem.  I need to figure out why it isn’t working.  More times than one, that has lead me to toss out whole quarters of my books, whole rough drafts of short stories, and once a whole half of a manuscript.  But if it’s not working, it’s not working, and it’s better to scrap the whole thing and start over than to try to make a square peg fit into a circular hole.
I hope that you are never faced with writers block, but you probably will be.  Hopefully, you aren’t stuck there too long.
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