Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IWSG: Ideas for When You're Stuck

I have the amazing privilege of co-hosting this month's IWSG along with CD Coffelt, Isis Rushdan, and Michelle Wallace!

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Today I'd like to offer some ideas for when you're feeling stuck, out of ideas, in a slump, and just plain discouraged. These have worked for me, and maybe they will for you, too. We all have different writing processes, but maybe at least one of these “tricks” will fit your style.

As writers, we've all probably heard the “just write” admonishment. I firmly believe in it. Writing is a solitary endeavor, and it takes discipline. It takes constant practice. It takes doing it even when you just don't wanna. But how do you "just write" when it ain't flowing?

I just open up a word document and start typing. Literally. Anything that pops into my head. I jot down what I'm thinking, what I'm worried about, what I did the day before, and most of the time, something clicks and I have an idea for a post, and I'm off.

My recent post "The Fog Stole My Feet" happened that way. I was sitting there, idea-less, and I wrote, "We had weird fog this morning", and that led to Carl Sandberg's line “the fog comes on little cat feet”, which I'd memorized in high school, and I realized that I couldn't even see my feet, so off I went.

On the days that a post doesn't come to me with this method, I turn back the clock. I start typing out childhood memories, identifying them by a phrase, and most of the time something will spark and I'll write a post about young Tina and her weird antics, or accidents, or invented games.

When I'm really stuck I read. I have the luxury of a Kindle, a LOT of writer friends, and an impossibly long to-be-read list. I usually have three books going at a time, and I'll “pick one of them up” and read a few pages. Sometimes what I read makes a light-bulb go off and I have a post idea. If that doesn't work, at least I'm procrastinating in a useful way ;-)

Some days, a post just doesn't come with any of these methods, so I turn to my kids. “What should I write about today?” They usually offer some pretty weird ideas, and sometimes nothing useful, but again, a spark can come from that. However, a lot of their suggestions are about embarrassing incidents, and so that's where my series of unfortunate event posts have come from: desperation and the encouragement of my teens.

Being stuck for a post is different from being stuck in your WIP, though, but I'll save those suggestions for next month. I hope at least one of these ideas might help you next time you need a little boost for your blog.

~Tina


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Alex “Ninja Captain” Cavanaugh  is our leader for this wonderful, supportive group. Don't forget we even have our own website now.  Be sure to check it out if you haven't already, and "like" our facebook page, too. I'm so impressed with what these talented folks are doing to promote this group! Encouragement month long is now just a click away! 

57 comments:

Laura said...

These are some pretty useful ideas for how to come up with an interesting blog post - thanks for sharing! :)

Lexa Cain said...

You're the first blogger I've ever heard of who asks her kids for story/post ideas. That's so funny! And what the heck -- anything that'll work, use it! :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Johanna asks her kids for ideas as well. Sometimes they are really funny.
While I struggle for manuscript ideas, I'm never at a loss for blog posts. Look around to the news - there is always something happening that will strike your fancy.
Thanks again for co-hosting!

writermummy said...

I quite often ask hubbie or kids what to write about, when I'm struggling to come up with something new. I don't use their ideas very often, mind you! :)
I also walk the dog. Sometimes the rhythm of walking, plus being outside, can generate something. Blogging every day makes it tough, but it is amazing what comes into the mind under pressure!

M.L. Swift said...

Hey Tina,

Very good suggestion: Just write. I call it free writing and do the same. Except I do it with pen and paper and write without punctuation, or worry about spelling...just let it flow. And it does. It unlocks the gates and unleashes the waters of creativity.

Great post, and thanks for helping out Alex today!
M.L. Swift, Writer

Andrea said...

I was kind of stumped for NaNo today. Sometimes the blank screen is intimidating,but sometimes less so than thinking about the blank screen!

JoJo said...

Or you could write about nothing....it worked for Seinfeld for 10 years!

Brian Miller said...

def a fall back for me is the mmories of childhood or telling a life story....inspiration is all around us too...just look...what is out of the ordinary....what story is behind that?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Since I'm a photographer by trade, I have only to look at my own photos for inspiration.

Hart Johnson said...

It's so funny. I sometimes have trouble with a scene because I have a vague idea what needs to happen but it isn't coming to me. I NEVER have trouble with a blank document though. I always have a story that is nagging at me. Usually I have pages of notes that practically wrote themselves to refer to, too.

When I DO need that scene help: a walk with no reading or music.

My IDEAS come from ALL OVER... dreams, TV, other books, real situations, news stories, overheard stuff... blogs...

I strangely go through life filtering my experiences for 'would that fit in a story?'.

Bob Milne said...

When I'm really stuck I read.

That's me. It's hard, because I'm compelled to do such much reading already as a reviewer, but when I get really stuck I push the review pile away, forget about those commitments, and enjoy a guilty pleasure kind of read.

Melissa said...

Great post, Tina. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for hosting. :)

Cathrina Constantine said...

Thanks for the great tips, Tina!!

Isis Rushdan said...

Thanks for the tips. I could use them. For now, if I'm not sure what to post, I simply don't. Time is too limited and I have so many other things to do.

Great to meet you. Also, I plan to sign up for your Food Drive blogfest.

Quanie Miller said...

I think your suggestions are spot on. I do the same thing when I'm stuck; just sit there and type whatever pops into my head! Thanks for sharing and hosting.

Diane Burton said...

What a great post. I'd forgotten about free writing. Something that has helped me when I'm stuck is to "interview" my character then write as if I'm the character answering the questions. You'd be surprised what s/he tells you. Best wishes and thanks for hosting today.

M. J. Joachim said...

Great tips, Tina. Wonderful post.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Little cat legs? Really. LOL. I love your examples and I can see how they would clearly work, once you're out of the fog, that is. LOL.

MollyMom103 said...

Thanks for the ideas and thanks for hosting IWSG!

Shah Wharton said...

Thanks for hosting and for these little gem ideas! I usually have blog posts planned months ahead and struggle to fit other's in. Most of them are about books and authors, or updates for memes, like today's IWSG though, so none require much creative effort on my part. I save the for my WIPS or poems. :)

shahwharton.com

J Q Rose said...

Thanks for sharing your tips.I have learned when I discover an idea for my blog, I quickly open up my new blog screen and type it in before I forget about it. I can always come back later. Or if I'm not by my laptop, make a note in my phone or scribble on a piece of paper. (Finding the paper may be a problem though!) I like free writing too, but I do it in a spiral notebook.Thanks for hosting today!!

Heather M. Gardner said...

Whatever works! Whatever gets those words flowing.

Great post.

Heather

worddreams said...

I love that you read so many books at once. Me too--it doesn't feel difficult, does it?

Love your ideas, too, on getting unstuck. You didn't mention chocolate.

Lisa said...

This was a great post and not only because the content was useful. I do, actually, use some of your ideas already. I also use music. I can't write while I listen, but sometimes listening will give me the spark I need to get going. Thanks for the encouragement, and for hosting this month!

N. R. Williams said...

Greetings
All great ideas. Sometimes when I'm stuck it's because the character has come to a point where they need to turn left or right. I don't have a set way to deal with this, but one thing is for sure. I hate that I struggle all day only to have the solution arrive just when I put my head down on the pillow.
Nancy

Suzanne Furness said...

I've done that 'open a word document and start typing' route. It's amazing how it works. I like to think of it as tapping into my sub- concious self!

Melissa Marsh said...

Great ideas, Tina! I've experienced that, too, where I'll be staring at the blank blog post and have no idea what to write about. Then something will "click" and off I go.

Coincidentally, I also wrote about self-discipline today, too. ;)

Beverly Fox said...

These are super useful- thanks Tina! And thanks for co-hosting this month!

M.J. Fifield said...

When I'm really stuck, I read, too.

I love the suggestion of asking kids for story/post ideas. I don't have kids of my own, but I can just imagine what my niece would come up with.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Oh, yes, teens can offer some weird, funny, and even poignant posts. Well done.

Jo said...

Lots of good ideas there Tina. I find the 'just getting on with it' method works quite often even though I have no idea what I am going to write.

I think you mean discipline in the 2nd paragraph.

worddreams said...

I rarely run out of things to say. Where I get stuck is second guessing whether it's worth my reader's time. I shouldn't do that--they'll decide. Some of the posts I thought were great are rarely visited, so what makes me think I know my reader's mind!

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

If I'm stuck, I go back to the paper tablet and pen. Writing long-hand really brings out my writerly self.

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, man, I never have problems with ideas for posts. I have over a dozen drafts started with notes for posts, some of them series ideas. If I only wrote from those drafts, I'd be going a couple of months before I ran out of stuff.

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, and I completely agree with the "just write" philosophy. Just write anything. I tell my kid that -all- the time, and, even at 12, he has recognized the validity of it.

sydneyaaliyah.com said...

Great advice. My post was similar to this in I discovered that even when I don't feel like writing, if I open the document and start writing, I end up writing past my goal. Some times you just have to show up.

DAVID WALSTON said...

I understand the just write mentality. Sometimes I just have a silly thought that leads to an idea that leads to a paragraph. My kids are always trying to help me with ideas!

Doreen McGettigan said...

These are great suggestions. I subscribe to the just write theory as well. I often ramble until something clicks. I love the reading idea as well. I really let my reading lapse and my pile grow while writing my first book. I made sure I did'nt allow that to happen with the second.
Thank you so much for co hosting this month!!
doreenmcgettigan.com

Toinette Thomas said...

Coming up with ideas to blog about used to be a struggle for me, but back then I think I was trying too hard. Once I grew to appreciate blogging and it purpose, ideas come much easier, but its always good to have tips to look back at if ever there is an issue down the road.
I'm an curious now to see what trips your have for working on that WIP.

lilicasplace.com said...

Hey Tina! Stopping by to thank you again for visiting my page today and to thank you for all your efforts as one of the co-hosts for this months IWSG. It's really appreciated by everyone. Lily

Samantha Geary Jones said...

Love Carl Sandberg! He lived near us, on a beautiful goat farm that's still running as a historic park:) When I get stuck, I listen to music *big surprise*. It's amazing the stories you can find hidden in the notes:)

WriterlySam

Debra McKellan said...

I usually let the bloghop creators steer my posts unless I have something valuable to say. Even my Fridays, which I keep as potpurri, tend to be random, so I try not to force them. lol

Thanks for co-hosting!

Michelle Wallace said...

Hey Tina!
Sorry I'm so late in getting here to your place...
Thanks for these tips to get us going when we're stuck for ideas.
I like the free writing exercises. As you mentioned, just write whatever comes to mind (for me it's usually from a one word prompt/photo/phrase).... it's amazing what ideas the unconscious mind can generate when you write without restriction...
Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG.
Writer In Transit

Jen Chandler said...

First of all, thanks for co-hosting this month :)

Great post! I have always struggled with blog post topics. My biggest struggle has been: do I focus on one, tight knit theme throughout my blog, or do I allow my willy-nilly brain to just let it all out and see what happens?

I believe I've settled on a loose theme...but one never knows!

Cheers,
Jen

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina .. why do I sit here with a million ideas bubbling around - ok for blog posts, not for books - so I'm mighty grateful I don't get stumped with a blank sheet.

My challenge is getting a reasonable length post up that's interesting from all the rabbiting in my head. I really could do with some help - better help myself though ..

Hope this post means you're feeling more normal .. emailing shortly .. cheers Hilary

Stephen Tremp said...

Why not as the kids? They have those imaginative minds not tainted by negative thoughts. Great post!

And love the Holiday Food Drive Blogfest! I'm signing up.

klahanie said...

Hey Tina,

Relax, I've arrived. Yay n'stuff! :)

Your ideas are notable, dear friend. Personally, if I ever got stuck, I know that Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar can take over.

Being stuck in a "WIP" sounds quite weird and somewhat kinky!

Be well, Tina.

Gary :)

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Thanks for co-hosting. Love the idea of just sitting down and starting to write about the first thing that comes to mind. Thanks for this post.

Mary Montague Sikes

Chemist Ken said...

usually, it doesn't take me too long to come up with ideas for blog posts. Then again I only do one a week. My problem comes when I try and write it down on paper. Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG.

J.L. Campbell said...

Thanks for hosting, Tina. Like you, I read a few books at a time. Some I never seem to finish. Thanks for that idea. I've never done any freestyle writing.

Gina Gao said...

This sounds like a really interesting idea!

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And today is the How I Miss You blogfest - guess who I would miss?

~Sia McKye~ said...

I've done this sort of free form writing for posts and for WIP. In my WIP I'll start writing something about my character or something that's happen to them and how they felt. It gets me going. Blogs? Sometimes a phrase will start the whole article.
:-)

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Crystal Collier said...

Awesome. I have many methods of overcoming the emptiness, one of which is chatting with my infinitely creative littles. Another is exercise. It's amazing how your mind clears when you use your body. Next music. The right mood music will get me going every time. And lastly, trolling Deviantart. Just pull up a few creative images and see if they don't get you grooving, eh?

P V Ariel said...

Hi Tina,
I am so late here, and don't know how I missed this!
Great and wonderful methods/tips for a writer who wait for his/her ideas, I am sure this will work.
Thanks Tina for sharing this, Hey I posted mine but so sad the response...LOL
This is another insecurity i mentioned in my post
Have a Happy and Blessed weekend.
Best Regards
Phil

Anna Nordeman said...

Useful suggestions!
Användbara förslag!
Kram,
Anna

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