Monday, April 14, 2014


Calling all writers, artists and others who must dip daily into the well of creativity. What happens when the well goes dry? What happens when you get stuck? I’m not talking about writers’ block. In my opinion, getting stuck is a whole different thing.

I recently started a new book and, since I fly by the seat of my pants, I had main characters in mind and a vague idea of the plot line. I’d learned to trust my process. In the past, the act of writing stimulated the creative part of my brain, resulting in forward progress. Sure, once in a while, I’d write myself into a corner and have to backtrack, but it was usually an easy fix and I considered it a learning experience. Six chapters flew by and then my fingers froze on the keyboard. I was stuck. Here’s what happened next:

I brooded and indulged in a lot of negative self-talk. What the heck’s wrong with you? Yikes! After eight books are you out of juice?
I forced myself to write. As the saying goes, you can’t edit a blank page. When it took me an hour to write two sentences, I knew it wasn’t working. This was followed by………..
More brooding.
I tried writing in long hand, a technique that sometimes works for me. Not this time.
I comforted myself with junk food which, in turn, led me to……..
The Solution. Concerned about putting on weight from the aforementioned junk food, I hit the elliptical machine at our local fitness club. Something about music feeding directly into my brain via ear buds, mindless repetition as I sweat and pedaled, plus the oxygenated blood surging through my body did the trick.

Remember my term, “vague idea of the plot line?” I realized it was a little too vague. I’m writing romantic suspense, for Pete’s sake! There are dead bodies, nasty villains, stolen babies and human trafficking involved. Way too many moving parts for an author flying by the seat of her pants. I needed details. I needed more characters. I needed more plot lines. OMG, was I becoming a plotter? Were my pantser days over?

Happily, I’m back on track after taking some time to answer the obvious questions. Who? What? Why? Where? When? Apparently I am now part plotter, part pantser. Works for me. And, if I get stuck again, I know what to do.

 Eat junk food. 




  1. My "unsticking" cure is driving. There's something about it that gets the creative juices moving. My husband even bought me a voice-activated tape recorder so I don't kill myself or fellow motorists while trying to write down my ideas. I just set it on the dashboard and talk when an idea strikes me. Works like a charm.

  2. Great post, Marilee! I'm also part planner part into the mist. I get stuck all the time. Two things that can help--showers. I don't know why but something about the running water works for me. Driving--especially on a familiar route. Of course, you run the risk of continuing to drive long past your destination!

  3. Driving and showers, huh? I'll give it a try next time I get stuck. Appreciate the suggestions, ladies!

  4. Oh I know all about writing myself up a dead end. Sometimes I try changing the POV or bringing a secondary character into the arena. I like the idea of junk food, though!

  5. Love the blog post. When I get stuck, I usually call up one or both of my critique partners. One of them can usually help unstick me. :-)

  6. LOL, Marilee, welcome to the darkside -- part plotter, part pantster. I think everyone gets stuck now and then. I'm blessed with great brainstorming partners, plus since I write romantic suspense and deal with law enforcement, that sometimes makes me sink into a quagmire of uncertainty because I do my best to get it right. Love Elizabeth's and Eve's suggestions -- except mine involve long bubble baths. I think the one place I can't take a notebook, and the one place I really can unwind frees your muse. The problem is I only have so much skin and Colorado water is expensive :)

  7. Great Post. Makes me feel like I'm truly one of the club. Eve and I have at last one thing in common - great ideas often come to me in the shower. Unfortunately it's not always MY answers that come in the shower. Sometimes it's an idea for a critique partner. But showers are a definite idea generator. My other solution is go to for a nice long walk, preferably on the beach. I mull over the characters and come up with all kinds of dialog scenes, some of which end up in the book, some just generate new ideas and directions. I am a pantser, though and the idea of plotting out a whole book before I start is daunting. I just hope the beach continues to get me over whatever humps my pantser method presents me with.

  8. Great suggestions, ladies. I like bubble baths too but I usually spend my time in the tub reading (I've had to pay for more than one library book but that's another story). I'm so envious of you gals who have critique partners. That would be invaluable.

  9. So glad you unstuck yourself. My solution is to read a book on craft. For some reason it always gets me all riled up to prove "I can do that!"

  10. I really love Writing Down the Bones (Freeing the Writer Within) by Natalie Goldberg. But sometimes my mind gets too cluttered and I have to figure out a way to clear it. Trying too hard makes it worse.Fortunately, boring, repetitive exercise works for me. My mind goes into sort of a fugue state, free-floating and then - boom - a new idea pops up.

  11. Marilee,
    I, too, have become part pantser and part plotter thanks to my recent new series (coming out Dec 2014!!). But when I'm stuck, I do one of three things: go outside and weed/garden, go walking a mile or two, or sit on the backporch and bounce ideas off my husband, a marvelous sounding board. It takes stepping away from the keyboard and thinking hard in a new environment.

  12. I hear you. My husband is a master listener. I always say, "Can I run something by you?" We're usually in the car (captive audience) so he says, "Sure." It helps to articulate the problem and sometimes he sees an angle that has completely eluded me. So, maybe I have a critique partner after all..

  13. We all get stuck now and then. Sometimes I think it’s just a momentary loss of self-confidence because of accumulated doubts.
    Whenever Albert Einstein got stumped, he picked up his violin, which somehow helped him thread his way through a complex maze of logic to a solution. He said, “The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition.” I, too, play the fiddle, although nowhere near as well as Einstein did, and scratching my way through “Faded Love” or “Waltz Across Texas” has never seemed to break my writer’s block, but whenever I have a writing problem I take a long walk. I think it oxygenates my brain. I don’t really focus on the problem, but by the time I get back there’s more often than not a glimmer of a solution.
    I invite all struggling authors to visit and explore point of view, plotting, choice of tense, and other writing-related thoughts. Phil Bowie