Feeling stuck? Love to write but aren't sure how to get back to it?
That's okay! 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.
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.
If you're stuck, try something manageable like writing for 10 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 or a café?)
- When do you like to write? (Morning, afternoon, or night?)
- How do you like to write? (Pen and paper or computer?)
Restarting your writing can align with the Buddhist approach of letting go of perfection—and you 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.
Jennifer Mattson is a writer, speaker, and journalist. She leads writing retreats throughout the country and teaches at NYU.