In episode 5, Jeni and Melissa discuss a common dilemma for writers: how to get "un-stuck." Listen in...EPISODE 5 Getting Un-stuck.
Welcome to the Indie Chicks show! I’m Melissa Koberlein, an author and professor of publishing, and she’s Jeni Chappelle, a freelance novel editor.
Indie Chicks celebrates and supports independent women in publishing. We’re a place for writers at all stages of the publishing process. So, whether you’re on the traditional route to publication or self-publishing, you’ve come to the right place for advice.
On this episode:
We’re talking about how to get "un-stuck"
End with an author tip of the week
This week we are manning the podcast on our own! Here's the discussion from the episode:
What does it mean to get ‘stuck’ or ‘write yourself into a corner’?
Melissa: This is the worst feeling. Fingers stop tapping keys, eyes shift back and forth in horror as you slowly close your laptop. Oh crap. Now what? Getting stuck is scary. This is especially true for first time writers. You may feel sad, angry, insecure, or that you have no business writing a novel. Trust me, all writers go through something like this.
Jeni: I totally agree. I’ve worked with and spoken to writers along the whole spectrum, from brand new writers just starting their first story to authors who’ve published fifty or more books, and every single one of them has dealt with this at some point. Really, it’s part of the creative process. I think it’s about the expectations we have around what we create: we believe what we want should happen in a certain way, within a specific timeframe, and when it doesn’t, we assume we’re doing something wrong.
What are our experiences with this?
Jeni: Other than blogging, I’m not really a writer, and I never used to consider what I do creative. But I recently read Art & Fear, which I highly recommend by the way, and I found myself nodding along with the descriptions. It really got me thinking about how creative my business actually is, both in terms of the daily work and in terms of how starting a business--editing or writing!--is a hugely creative process. For me, getting stuck looks like feeling like things aren’t moving as fast as I want. The parallel is that it’s about the expectations. It can be easy to blame yourself, but it’s all part of the process. The really not fun part.
Melissa: I’ve experienced that stuck feeling with timelines. In my Fireflies trilogy I had to maintain the tricky balance between the ages of humans and hosts. For every three human years, a host ages only one year.
An editor’s advice for getting ‘un-stuck’
Jeni: I know you’re tired of hearing me say it’s part of the process. But it is! And the reason I keep saying that is because adjusting your expectations can make a huge difference in how you handle that stuck feeling. The difference is that when we expect to sometimes feel stuck, we don’t have to blame ourselves or try to figure out why we are stuck. We can just recognize--oh right, this is the crappy part of the process--and then focus on steps to get unstuck.
OK. Enough about that. What always works like a charm for me: I promise myself I only have to do whatever it is for 15 minutes and I can be terrible at it for those 15 minutes and go back and change it later. But for those 15 minutes, dang it, I’m going to Do The Thing. And then I can take a break if I need to. What I find is that allowing myself to be terrible at Doing The Thing lets me get back into a more relaxed, creative headspace. Most of the time, it gets me back into the zone. Sometimes it doesn’t and I take my break and then come back to it. I think the trick is to take some of the pressure off of yourself so you can get back up faster when you get knocked down.
A writer’s advice for getting ‘unstuck’
Melissa: Think about getting stuck as a challenge, not a problem. You’re creative, aren’t you? That’s why you started writing in the first place, right? So, now you’ve got a challenging writing prompt. Here’s what I do first: I like to take breaks from writing to play out ‘what if’ scenarios. Go for a drive, work out, ride a bike, or some other relaxing activity. Think about all the scenarios and ways that your character(s) could get themselves out of the predicament you don’t want them in. An idea usually forms at some point. AND, most importantly, don’t forget to write it down!
Then, if the break hasn’t helped and you’re truly stuck, call your critique partner or editor. Sometimes brainstorming with someone else can lead you to the solution.
Tip of the week
There’s this great quote by Louis L’Amour: “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” So if nothing else is working, just write something. Skip to the next scene. Write a poem. Write a rant about how much you hate feeling stuck. Just write something. Have faith that the words will flow again because they will. It’s all part of the process. lol
On our next podcast, author K.J. Harrowick will be joining us. We will also have another Tip of the Week. And don’t forget where to find us! Find our podcast at indiechicks.net or follow us on Spotify or subscribe to Indie Chicks on iTunes. Please rate us! You can follow us on Twitter @Indie_Chicks or Facebook.com/TheIndieChicks.
So, remember, we’re all part of a publishing community, be kind and review your fellow authors’ books. Thanks for listening!
Indie Chicks out.