If you’re stuck in your writing…

A modest suggestion on how to find inspiration on the page.

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Let’s say you’re stuck. You were writing a story. You hit an impasse. Or you got sick and couldn’t find your way back to your story for a few weeks. Maybe something came up at work and before you knew it, several months had passed since you last wrote something.

Now here you are. You know you should be writing. But you feel low, maybe even bad about how you’ve let your writing slip away.

Perhaps several times you’ve said to yourself, “Okay, today’s the day I get back to it.” Then by night’s end, when you remember that declaration, your drive to write dissipates amidst feelings of fear and discouragement.

Just getting your derriere on chair to actually do it can be the single hardest aspect of hitting the reset button on your writing.

Yet facts are facts: If you do not write… your story won’t get written.

What to do?

A modest proposal. Two simple steps.

Tonight when you’ve cleared away the day’s responsibilities, sit down in a quiet corner, pick up pen and paper…

Yes, pen and paper. You want that tactile experience. Fingers clasping pen. Ink on paper. Actual writing.

Shoo away the chatter in your mind — deep breathing can help — gaze at the paper, put the tip of your pen to it… and simply write.

One word. Two words. A sentence. A stream of words. It could be entirely gibberish. But you know what? You will have written something. No judgment. No criticism. Rather you will have just committed a tiny act of creative courage and quite literally made a mark for yourself.

Tomorrow, the same thing. Now you will have written something for consecutive days. At this point, it doesn’t matter what you write, rather that you have written.

Do this however many days you need to feel a sense of continuity building into momentum.

Today — morning, noon, night, whenever — you’re going to take pen to paper… and write.

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Isabel Allende: “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”

That’s step one. Step two is this.

Zero in on a story idea. If you have something in mind already, great. If not, why not begin with a character, someone you find interesting, who arouses your curiosity to get to know them better.

As you go about the business of your daily life, let your mind spend some time going in that story universe. Standing in line at the bank. Waiting at a red light in your car. Walking to or from your office. When the baby takes a nap. Take a few minutes and dip into your story or your character.

Listen. Imagine. Observe. What does this place or people look like? What do you hear going on? What impressions filter into your consciousness?

The next time you sit down with pen and paper, retrieve some of what you were thinking, feeling, seeing, and hearing in your story universe. Jot down images, character notes, lines of dialogue, bits of business, whatever, but at least something.

Now suddenly you are several days into a daily writing process and you are tapping into your story.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Billy Collins: “I sit in the dark and wait for a little flame to appear at the end of my pencil.”

This way you start to build momentum. And all you’re asking of yourself is simply to take a handful of minutes each day to ease into your story, then sit down and jot down some of what you’ve learned.

No judgment. No self-criticism. No expectations other than you will have written some words at each session.

No matter how many or few words you write, pages you produce with each session, if you put something down, you are moving forward.

If you keep doing that and trust the process, I’ll bet you’ll find yourself edging into your next story project.

In the process, you are staking out your writing time, claiming that as your own.

And finding inspiration on the page.

If you have advice for readers who may feel a bit stuck creatively, I encourage you to head to comments. I welcome your thoughts.

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