original image by Myndi Shafer, accessed at WANA Commons
original image by Myndi Shafer, accessed at WANA Commons

A few weeks ago, I suddenly found myself stuck on the project I was working on, revisions on a novella. I was, of course, incredibly frustrated with myself for my lack of progress. Now that the wheels are turning, my perspective has changed. I see I actually made quite a bit of progress during that time. It just wasn’t easily measured.

I suspect many writers have these “slow periods,” and that they are, in fact, a healthy part of the writing process. When we’re stuck on one project, there are plenty of ways to keep our momentum:

1.) Read a book about the craft of writing. This can help us understand why we’re stuck and helps us keep growing in our craft.

2.) “Morning pages”: In her book “The Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron recommends three handwritten pages of free-writing or journaling every morning. These pages allow us to sweep the cobwebs from our minds. I’ve even found some story ideas in mine.

3.) The Ping-Pong method: When I realized I was stuck, I went into planning mode on another story. I did some plotting and some character work for a story I want to work on later this year. That meant I was still working, even if I didn’t have any progress on my WIP to report.

4.) Remember that thinking is part of the process: It’s hard to see thinking as writing, but thinking about our stories is vital to the creative process. Since I’m in revision mode with this story, I was mentally examining my story for weak points. I realized the dialogue needs to be strengthened. I realized the grand finale scene goes too smoothly for the good guys. And I realized there are places in the middle where the tension can be upped. During my so-called slow period, I was in fact mapping out potential solutions in my head. I see now that I came up with some solid solutions over the last few weeks, and now that the wheels are turning again, it’s time to put those ideas into action.

In short, I’ve learned that just because we can’t always measure our progress, that doesn’t mean we’re not making any. These times can serve as a sort of incubator for ideas. When we slow down, we discover solutions and possibilities that might not have occurred to us when we were zooming along. Now, I can approach these times with a sense of gratitude and patience.

ROW80 check-in:

1.) Writing:

  • Goal: To finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Revised two chapters this week and planned out additional changes.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing.

  • 4 of 4 books read. Goal met for this round.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Met for every day except Wednesday.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Goal met.
  • Blog 2 times a week. Goal met.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

When you find yourself spinning your wheels on a story, what do you do? Your comments brighten my day. I’d love to hear from you.