Guest Post: 5 Ways to Get Out of a Writing Rut

Photo: Ponsulak, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo: Ponsulak, freedigitalphotos.net

Today’s guest post is from Hawaii-based freelance writer Brandi-Ann Uyemura. She specializes in self-help, spirituality, writing and small-business topics. Check out her bio at the end of this post. Thanks so much for contributing, Brandi!

In a writing slump? Go from rut to groove with a few unexpected ways to stir up excitement, enthusiasm and inspiration.

  1. Increase your vocabulary.

    Writing can become mundane even for the writing enthusiast. And when you’re bored, your readers are bored. Mix it up by expanding your vocab list. Check out This site, which teaches words like, “argute,” and “snudge.” You might not use every word you learn in your next manuscript, but the exercise will force you to spend time outside the box.

  2. Read voraciously.

    I’m reading a dozen different things right now, from a fiction book to a decorating magazine. Varying my reading list helps me grow as a writer. The more you read, the more inspired you’ll be to write uniquely.

  3. Return to children’s books.

    I am a children’s-book lover at heart. I still remember grabbing a chocolate bar when devouring Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and how my heart leapt from my chest as I read A Wrinkle in Time. Wonder and magic resides in all children’s books. When I’m feeling jaded, I return back to my first love.

  4. Make time to play.

    There’s nothing like overworking to kill the creative muse. I sometimes forget this when I have multiple deadlines vying for my attention. But eventually I’ll burn out. That doesn’t make for a very happy me. I need time for doing the fun stuff. Painting, playing with my son and biking are vital for my writing as well as my health and wellbeing.

  5. Write for fun.

    Sure writing is serious stuff! Clients are relying on you. Your editor is depending on you to produce consistently accurate and entertaining articles. There are a lot of people with a lot of opinions riding on your ability to create and produce. With that being said, if you only write for others, you’ll start to resent putting fingers to your keyboard or pen to paper. Spend a few days a week carving out time to write something just for you; a poem, a handwritten letter, an entry in a journal. Use writing as a healing tool, a chance to reconnect with your deepest desire, a way to write freely without a critic or editor. Do it and your writing as a whole will blossom as a result.

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Brandi-Ann Uyemura has been a columnist for The Writer magazine and Beliefnet. You can find her writing about psychology on Psych Central and her tips for small businesses on Intuit’s Web site. Visit her writing blog at brandi-annuyemura.com.

 

Not sure where to begin? Just get something down.

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Photo: Hyena Realty, freedigitalphotos.net

There’s a magic moment when good lede almost writes itself.

During the course of a great interview, a source will say something amazing, totally quotable and emotionally evocative and … ping! The story begins to unfold. Perhaps the lede comes during a telling exchange between the source and someone he is interacting with. Perhaps that opening sentence comes when you notice something the source does that aligns perfectly with the theme or message of the piece. These moments are amazing for writers because they make starting the story easy. And often, starting the story is the hardest part of writing the whole darn thing.

But what if that moment doesn’t happen?

What if you sit down to write and the beginning of the story just isn’t revealing itself? I’ve been there, and I can tell you there’s no real magic way out of this situation.

 In my experience, the only thing to do is to just sit down and start typing.

Even if it’s gibberish, begin somewhere. Start, maybe, by writing as if you were talking to a friend, and he or she has asked you, “What is this story about?” Stay informal and simply answer the question. Write as if you were chatting, not as if you were beginning a formulaic story. If that doesn’t work, ask yourself this question: “What’s the most interesting thing that occurred in the interview?” Or, “How does the source feel about his or her situation (in life, in work, at home … whatever the story touches on) right now?” Even if you have to turn the main events of your story into choppy sentences stating just the facts to begin, do that.

Do whatever it takes to get something, anything, down.

The idea is to start your fingers moving while, at the same time, wrestling with your story mentally in new ways, until something substantial, rhythmic and, well … right for the piece comes out. Doing this exercise helps you clear the clutter in your brain, gradually whittling the words down until you’re left with what matters most.

Writing is often like exercising: Our minds will try to override our bodies with all kinds of noisy messages about why we can’t do the thing. And the only way to break through the noise is to get up (in the case of exercising) or sit down (in the case of writing) and start something. View writing as an imperfect process and remember: We rarely end up with what we begin with. The point is to start, gather momentum, push through and then keep going.