Writing ruts? Don’t you mean writer’s block?
Nope, not this time. My luck as an Anxious Author extends to never having suffered writer’s block before and as such, I’m woefully under-qualified to discuss it. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a big difference between writer’s block and a writing rut and here’s how:
Writer’s block is an absolute inability to write anything, temporarily. A writer’s rut is different in the sense that you are unable to make progress on your current project. However, you are highly motivated to work on all your other projects. Like the plan for that new series that’s been stewing in the back of your mind for days that you’re super excited about.
So how is this a writing rut? It boils down to this: when we’ve focused on one project ages (you know, a draft or six), sometimes we start to lose the plot a bit. Up becomes down, left becomes right and water becomes vodka. Daily.
Working on that particular book, especially if you’ve hit a lot of hurdles while writing it so far, gets harder and harder, sometimes impossible. But like writer’s block, ruts are entirely beatable and here are three tips to help you do it:
1. Work on your other projects
Sometimes, a rut comes about from a lack of enthusiasm and motivation. I find that this happens when writing books that have one or more than of the following:
- Big plot holes that need fixing
- Characters taking the wheel against your wishes
- Cutting awesome scenes that just don’t fit the plot
- Wanting to make a scene spectacular and freezing under the pressure
(Personally, if we manage all four in one book, we should get a new title or something, like a writer-style MBE award.)
When a rut strikes on a particular project, take a breather from it. Start that new, exciting project you’ve wanted to start and get stuck in. This may sound counter-productive but this isn’t to say that you should abandon your initial book completely. Take a few day to flex your creative muscles and get excited about writing again.
I’m a big believer in not waiting for inspiration to strike but giving your motivation a boost is a step in the direction of productivity.
2. Take part in some online writing exercises
If starting a new project sounds like a slippery slope that could mean you never finish the book you should be working on, here’s a safer alternative. Find some writing groups on Facebook or some appropriate hashtags on Twitter and join in on some of their writing sprints/exercises.
A great example of this is #vss365 on Twitter. Using this hashtag, write the shortest short story you can in 180 characters or less. Some Twitter writers do this exercise daily just to keep themselves limber.
If you’re more inclined to use Facebook, the groups/pages Writing Prompts and Challenges, Writing Prompts & Critiques and Writing Prompts are a good place to start. Groups and pages like these host writing sprints and writing prompts to get engaged with your writing again.
3. Do nothing
When was the last time you checked yourself for burnout?
So often in the life of a writer a rut or writer’s block is the symptom of not having had enough down time. It’s tough to discipline ourselves into being sensible with the amount of time we dedicate to our writing, especially if we have full-time jobs.
Take the time to make sure that your rut isn’t the consequence of working too hard and not taking enough time for yourself. Even if your writing is your hobby right now (until you start knocking people off bestseller charts with your latest hit), you still need to take breaks.
Have a day to yourself and see how you feel after that. Chances are you’ll do a cool activity you’ve been meaning to do for ages now and just haven’t had the time. Whatever recreation you dabble in during your time off, it could well give your motivation the boost it needs to get you hitting the ground running on your ongoing book.
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out other The Anxious Author posts here!