- Distance yourself from your manuscript when you’re stuck.
For me, leaving my apartment completely for a couple of hours removes the disgust I face when I look at the mess I’ve created — and long to finish. Once those couple of hours have elapsed, I’ve eaten the ice cream and taken a walk, the book (or whatever I’m writing) is manageable again. Even the big chunks of text that I decided to delete are good decisions, and not overwhelming mistakes.
For example, my characters had quite a few complications in their lives, and after a break, I saw that the dialogue I’d written was almost human-sounding, but not really. It still had traces of woodenness. I decided to remove some of my characters’ distractions and see what happened.
What happened was that the dialogue was easier to write and people sounded ‘normal.’ Also, the flow of the composition was natural; my changes brought it back to the original outline.
The day following your mini-holiday is even better. I haven’t had very good results for picking up exactly where I’d left off if I take a big trip, though the decisions I make about the manuscript are often good ones.
Incidentally, Thomas Mann’s rather bleak story, “A Weary Hour,” reminded me of how valuable it is to simply take a walk. Take a little break. The story’s main character is a writer who’s stuck and I followed his advice.
2. Remember what you’re all about. Do what makes you ‘you’, other than write. If fitness is a big part of what you like about yourself, then put on your trainers and go outdoors. If outdoors is out of the question, turn on YouTube and exercise. If YouTube isn’t an option, do what you’ve done in the past (e.g., jump rope in the parking lot, do lunges down the hall, do yoga at home, do barre work on the deck. Even remember bits of dance that you love and do them wherever you can. I once got my grip on writing again in the sunscreen aisle of Walmart. The music was great to dance to).
I like this site, and hope it helps you. It’s the Library of Congress site, much of it for digitized dances by professionals and recorded music by important artists. Spend a few minutes on the site for other things you’re interested in. You can download and play the digital files at home. One use I put them to is to learn ancient dances, so the time period makes more sense, for my historical novels. For instance, Queen Elizabeth practiced ‘galliards’ every day, to keep fit. In later times, the government banned dancing.
Or if you’ve neglected your friends for awhile, send them a fast text. Learn what they’re interested in and what they’re doing. If you love to bake, get out the flour and go for it. Make somebody (or youself) a cake.
If you like to gad, go see what’s happening around town. Whatever your interests are, pay attention and honor yourself.
3. Another idea, though it’s a mental, or ‘in your head’ one (and that’s similar to writing), is to look at how you’re doing. That is: re-think your plans for when you finish your manuscript. Cast a fast glance at your finances, too.
Don’t spend a lot of time on it, but gently notice what you’re up to. Maybe the state of your manuscript reflects your own chaos.
4. Get a good night’s rest. Naps don’t seem to do the same thing. It’s good, solid sleep. (This might not be the same for you, though.) Write down your decisions and enjoy your new life.
It’s time to get back to work — my deadline’s in six weeks! Take care, and write me any questions.