If you’re a journal writer, maybe you’ve been writing about the same issues, over and over and over. When you read past journal entries, you’re struck by either the consistent whining tone or by the way you seem to limit your entries to what you did that day, skipping over anything meaningful like a rock skipping over the surface of a pond. You begin to wonder if there’s any value in journaling.
If you write fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction, maybe you’re starting to doubt yourself as a writer, wondering who would ever want to read anything you’ve written — even if you’ve been successful in the past.
I know all this because I’ve coached many writers out of their ruts, and also because it’s happened to me more often than I’d like to admit. In addition, because I’m a writing teacher and coach, I have the added pressure of feeling as though I (and my writing) should always be on top of my game, always an example for others. Yes, I know … silly me, I’m human. Luckily, I’ve helped enough writers through this phase to know not only that it passes but how to get unstuck much sooner.
Have you ever gotten your car stuck in the mud? You know how if you keep spinning the wheels, the rut only gets deeper? Getting stuck in a writing rut is like that; if you keep metaphorically spinning your wheels by doing the same things over and over, you’re only succeeding in deepening your “stuckness.” The key is to provide a firm surface for the wheels to gain traction.
[tweetthis]If you repeatedly spin your wheels, you’ll only deepen the rut.[/tweetthis]
Here’s how to provide traction for your writing:
- Shake it up — literally. Get up and do something so silly that you wouldn’t want anyone to see you: make strange shapes with your arms and legs, make faces, hang upside down over the back of the couch (this is just an example; don’t hurt yourself). Do this for at least 2 minutes (set a timer).
- Mix up your writing style. If you normally write nonfiction, write a short fairytale in poem form; write a news story if you normally write fiction; if you’re tend to stick to poetry, write a few paragraphs of academic-style prose. Then come back to your regular writing style.
- Write in a different location or at a different time of day, or both. If you’re in a rut, it could just be that you’re used to writing in the same place and at the same time every day. Change it up for a fresh perspective.
- Practice being someone else. Pick a passage by an author you admire and whose style is not like yours. Write a short piece copying that author’s sentence structure, cadence, and pace exactly (or as exactly as you can).
There it is: when you find yourself in a writing rut, put one or more of these methods under your “treads.” You’ll be surprised by the results.
P.S. Be on the lookout for a special message this week about a new journal writing class starting in January!