I’m about to tell you something really embarrassing.
For the last few months, I’ve been stalled on my manuscript. Yep, the book coach was floundering. I had 70,000 words written but couldn’t figure out what the next 10,000 or so had to be in order to get to the last 10,000.
I knew what was causing it: a concern about living/writing up to the story; so much travel it’s been hard to keep hold of the story threads; and a couple of key characters that needed more development along with a previously important key element that needed to be minimized.
All of that required some concentrated time to catch up threads, unsnarl a few others, and get weaving the story again.
But time was hard to find so I stayed stalled. And whether the reason for your stall is time, fear or confusion, when you get stalled, avoidance, procrastination, and frustration result. And that creates more stalling and the cycle continues.
To break the cycle and get moving again, it helps to have more than one tool or trick in your bag. Here are five of my favorites because even when you are an experienced dream worker and tarot reader (ahem!), you can still get stalled in your writing and discover the need for a few other tricks of the trade.
- Dreams, both sleeping and conscious. Of course, this is my number one go-to tool for breaking through creative blocks. Try incubating a dream by writing down a story question on a piece of paper, stick it under your pillow and think about the question as you fall asleep. See what dreams come to you during the night. Play a recording of repetitive trance drumming and do a conscious dream on a story question. The dream work didn’t work for me this time so I tried…
- Tarot and other oracle decks. I consider a tarot reading to be equivalent to a conscious dream. And very useful for writers in all aspects of writing, whether developing plot or character, laying out a scene, or increasing tension. Tarot or other oracle decks work, but choose decks that are rich with visual detail. Even though I’ve successfully used tarot for my story, this time my muddled mind needed something else so I turned to…
- Visual maps and cues. If, like me, you are visual as well as verbal, you might consider creating visual story maps of places and people and events. Or try drawing a time line. Or cut out pictures of key characters or elements. See what draws your eyes, what emotions are evoked and what new questions are initiated. Writers often use visual material when working in order to provide detailed descriptions, but try using it for brainstorming and block busting. I used several varieties of visual aids to get the gears cranking again, but if this doesn’t do it for you then try…
- Mind maps. Mind mapping is both verbal and visual, because you write a word and then just free associate words from that first word like spokes off a wheel hub. And then you can free associate off of one or more or all of those words. There is a variety of mind mapping software out there, some free like Freemind, that you can use or just get a paper and pen, or a large sheet of newsprint and markers and start mind mapping. And finally, try…
- Books, television and movies. Have you experienced the magic of being stalled so you pick up a book, tune to a TV show, or watch a movie and discover something that sparks a new story idea or offers a new approach to your own story problem? Not to use in the same way as that author or movie producer but in your own unique way. It’s all grist for our mills as writers so don’t forget to make use of all the source material around you.
That’s it. My five favorite ways to break through blocks. Because all those tools or tricks instigate new questions for my characters and my story. And new questions mean new answers. New answers provide a new path for my writing.
I’m happily out of stall.
How about you? What one or two of the above tools would be fun for you to try to get you moving again?