Blogger: Mary Keeley
You know the feeling: Your brain seems dull, and you’re overwhelmed, confused, and just can’t come up with that great solution to a manuscript problem. Here are three ways to help you get unstuck:
- Visit the Scene. For a novelist, take a virtual—or better yet, physical—trip to the setting of your story with no agenda in mind, but simply for personal pleasure and enrichment. Take time to “smell the roses.” You may be surprised at nuances you missed about the history, economy, weather, and changes in social mores that affect people in that particular area. Write those observations down for later. When you get back to your manuscript, they can provide insights that lead to ramping up the protagonist’s conflicts, adding depth to the plot, or filling in gaps in his or her personal journey. For the nonfiction writer, revisit your research or reinterview someone whose story is integral to your message.
- Step Back. The solution simply may be a matter of giving yourself permission to step away from your computer and to spend extra time with God, your family, and friends. Surprise your spouse with a romantic dinner or watch a game on TV together. Set aside time with your children, one-to-one if possible, doing something they like and catching up with what’s going on in their lives. Spend time in devotions and Bible reading until you feel Christ’s presence with you. When you come back to your computer, your brain will be rested, and your heart will be full, knowing you blessed your important people and pleased God with your time. He will surely return a blessing. One of my clients is reworking backstory and character development in her manuscript. This process can be overwhelming and lead to confusion unless you maintain organized notes about the characters. Fortunately, she does. And it has helped her to step away from the project for a day or two at a time to regroup and pray when she becomes discouraged.
- Work on Another Project. Another client has little children who need a lot of her time. Her husband travels for business and often isn’t home to help in the evenings. She’s tired and has been frustrated that she can’t spend more time on her manuscript. We’ve been praying, and she realized this isn’t a season she can work effectively on a full-length book project. Recently though, she was approached with an opportunity to contribute to an anthology. She can handle a project of that length. Her creative juices won’t stagnate, and her writing career won’t be stalled. It’s a perfect short-term solution for her. If you are in such a season of life’s interruptions, your career needn’t be stunted. Continue with the standard alternatives: submit articles to magazines; look for opportunities for shorter projects; read books on the craft and others in the genre you write in as well as others; attend writers conferences or order tapes of the sessions. I blogged on these ideas in a previous post.
What have you done when you’re stuck? What about when life interrupted your writing?
This most important day and weekend of the year for Christians compels us to put all else aside and devote ourselves to worship and praise, thanking Jesus for his ultimate sacrifice and resurrection. I pray you have a blessed Easter and are refreshed spiritually, mentally, and physically come Monday.
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