What I Do When The Writing Stalls

I’ve been stalling on writing this blog post for about two weeks. 

Don’t worry, it’s not bad news or anything. I just couldn’t write it.

You know the feeling, right? You want to work on a project, but every time you sit down, something is wrong. You can’t find your way into the story, or you are seized with a sudden urge to research the perfect lamp for your desk…

My Favorite Productivity Hack

To get this post going, I used one of my favorite, sure-fire tricks:

Writing sprints.

If you’ve never “sprinted” here’s how it works: you hook up with some other writers and someone sets a timer. Everyone works on whatever they’re trying to write, for 15 minutes (or another time you agree upon). The rule is: focused work. No distractions. 

Then you take a break and chit-chat, before sprinting again.

Usually this results in everyone getting tons of work done, getting into that elusive flow state, making progress.

Only it wasn’t working for this post.

What Did I Do Next?

I whined.

In our five minute, between-sprint breaks, I confessed to my writing buddies that this beautifully-outlined blog post I had intended to write just wasn’t coming.

And because they were writers, they thought. And they asked me questions. Question like:

  • What are you trying to say?
  • Why do you think it’s not coming? 
  • Is now not the right time, or is it something else?
  • What does your heart tell you?

Answering their questions helped me formulate my thoughts, my objections to my outline, and the root problem with the post (which was, in case you’re interested, that I was trying to be clever, instead of simply Telling You A Thing)

The Point Of This Post

I have been experimenting with leaning on other writers for support, over the past year, and it has been transformative.

I formed the StoryADay Superstars group to try to help YOU write more, and be more fulfilled by your writing.

In the process, I had my own eyes opened to the power of a posse.

Ironic, huh? A writing group helped me figure out why I was having problems writing a post about writing groups!

We Don’t Have To Do This Alone

  • Yes, we need solitude at some point in the creative process.
  • Yes, we have to make ourselves do the work.
  • But it is good to connect with other people.

Writing Is All About Connection. 

Every story we tell is influenced by every story we’ve heard, every person we’ve met. 

So shouldn’t the act of writing allow some room for connection too?

If you’ve been struggling to write, all alone, I’m here to give you permission to reach out. 

If you think that you can’t have a posse because you’re an introvert, let me assure you that some of the best parties I’ve been to have been the ones where everyone slunk in reluctantly, nursing their inner introvert. But because we were all writers, somehow it was all ok.

Ways To Find Your Posse

  • You can start by lurking around writing blogs like StoryADay, commenting on other people’s comments, asking open-ended questions, asking for favors (fun fact: when someone does you one favor, they are more likely to help you out in future too. By helping out once, people feel personally invested in your success!)
  • You can search online for “#writingsprints” and join in with real-time writing sprints.
  • Go to a local writing group that meets in person (gasp! I know, really I do!). Remember that everyone there feels a little awkward, but that the best groups are full of people who are looking to raise each other up.
  • Seek out groups online.

In fact, why not come and experience a StoryADay Superstars video hangout and writing sprint this coming Monday, Feb 4? Sorry this event is passed

(This is part of the Superstars program. We sign in to Zoom, a video chat platform, chat for a few minutes, then do a few 15 minute writing sprints broken up by 5 minute chatting-and-stretching breaks, for about 90 minutes in total.)

I open up the Superstars program twice a year, in April and August, just in time for StoryADay May and StoryADay September. Superstars not only get you lifetime access to the Superstars Deep Content, but weekly video hangouts during the challenge, monthly video hangouts throughout the year, a private Slack group, and discounts on other programs like the critique groups and workshops. 

But I wanted to invite everyone to experience a hangout, no strings attached, right now to keep those New Year’s resolutions on track.

Pick a project you want to get some traction on, and register for the hangout (so I can send you a reminder when we’re about to start).

Register Now

Sorry this event is passed.

Where Do You Get Your Writing Support?

I’m really interested in hearing your experience with writing: alone or with groups. Have you ever been part of a writers’ group? What did you love/hate about it? 

Drop me a line here below and join the conversation.

18 thoughts on “What I Do When The Writing Stalls”

  1. I have just found this site and have spent the last couple of hours reading and listening and wondering and imagining being a part of your writing group. Signed up to try the challenge! Not sure how to join the hangout events, but will stay tuned.

    I am involved in 2 in person writing groups – one is gentle/positive reader’s responses and the other is a critique group – still supportive, but nudging each other along a bit more. Very interested to learn more about what is happening here!

  2. I write alone. And, I’ve never been in a writing group. I am still struggling with the thought that nobody will want to read what I write, even though people who have read the few pieces of my work that I’ve shared have said the opposite. Having the opportunity to talk to other writers and hear their experiences would probably help me be more confident.

    1. Oh Janet, It definitely has helped me.

      The voices in our heads are perfectionist bullies — good at times, because we want our work to be good, but devastating at other times.

      Having a regular cohort of people who can buoy you up and who will highlight lines in your work that you thought were just ‘so-so’ but they think are amazing, and who will share submission and contest opportunities, it just makes everything seem so much more real.

      The business of writing is tough and chancy and can seem like a dreamworld. But when there are other people in that dreamworld, it starts to feel less like psychosis and more like something that real, sane people do!

  3. Julie did not ask for an ad for StoryADay but she’s going to get one anyway. We should all applaud and support people who create and nurture writing communities because they are fussy and messy and difficult to run. That goes double for an online community.

    But I believe it’s important. And here’s why:

    The legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight didn’t like writers. Mostly journalists, because they wrote things about him that weren’t particularly flattering. He once said, “All of us learn to write by the time we’re in third grade, and then most of us move on to something else.”

    Most people. But you are the few.

    The folks in this group have managed to keep their sense of third-grade wonder. You invent worlds. You create people who never existed and you breathe life into them. You illuminate the human condition. You find the significance in the common and the uncommon.

    Where most people see a blank page, you see possibilities. Then you put your stories out there for others to enjoy, to be inspired by, and sometimes to criticize.

    Not writing, as it turns out, is easy. Writing is hard. And the most profanity-inducing part about it is that the more you write, the more skilled you become; the more skilled you become, the greater your aspirations; the greater your aspirations, the harder writing becomes.

    It is a tiring and lonely creative task.

    And because of that, we should all be grateful that we have an organization like StoryADay. Here we can come together with people who share our drive, who understand our problems, who empathize with our neuroses. And even if it’s just a little nudge once in a while, we have a community that says, “It’s OK, I’ve been through this too. Go be a writer.”

  4. I’ll first say that I have never been a group person. My dad dropped me into the Girls Club and the Brownies, and I wanted to leave the moment I walked in. I tried to join clubs in high school, but that never worked out. I hated pep rallies and cheers and it is unlikely you’ll catch my husband and I wearing matching outfits.

    THEN, I gave NaNoWriMo a try. I went to a meet up, liked the people, went back. I found myself in a comic book store at midnight surrounded by a bunch of introverts all on laptops writing novels. There’d be breaks for chatter and laughs. I went to more write-ins, and at the end of the month, we went our separate ways. It was brilliant.

    The next year, I went again. Saw some of the same people and met new people, but it was just as much fun. I couldn’t get over how much I loved this weird tribe I’d fallen in with. There was no pressure, just support when you couldn’t write and cheers when you won a word war. And there was no pressure because we all knew we’d be free from it all at the end of the month. Everyone was a writer, but everyone wrote differently. It wasn’t a club where you had to be the same.

    Then came Story-a-Day. I haven’t been to real world write-ins for it, but I’ve been to virtual ones. And it hasn’t lasted a month, it has carried on into my regular life, checking in, sharing publishing news, rejection news, doubts and questions. When I feel stuck or convinced I’ll never be a real writer, I have the Superstars group to turn to. They’re clever, insightful, and supportive. It’s made a huge difference in how I feel about trying to be a writer.

    Writing is solitary, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.

  5. I think the real key to any writing group is finding the right fit, both in terms of the structure/activities and in terms of the people. I’m involved in a few.

    One of my groups is an informal group of friends who occasionally give feedback but mostly offer support and encouragement. Another meets regularly online for chatting and writing. The third is the Superstars group, which offers some of everything—support and encouragement, sprints, sharing articles and things we’ve learned. I was a little unsure about the Slack part at first—who needs another thing to keep track of? But it might really be the best part of Superstars. I would never have been able to push through my NaNo novel (85,000 words in a month plus two days) without it!

    1. You’re so right, the fit has to be good. I’m pleased there are so many options these days, even if it can be a bit overwhelming.

  6. The idea of connecting with other writers has been so motivating. I would not have been able to get through my 50,000 words if not for the Superstars group. It is not because I didn’t have it in me, or that I didn’t know I could do it but on those days I doubted everything they were there with an encouraging word. Some days someone else had a great writing day they shared and THAT was motivating for me to write. The sprinting and writing separately but together was amazing! Knowing the people a little better than just random people on Twitter is better for me personally.

    If someone else is having a bad day sending a funny picture or a quote or a llama makes them feel better!
    Never underestimate the power of support.

    The group also shares writing resources and recommendations which is good for and Amazon but not my checking account.

    One other superstar joined me for an editing class which added another leveled element to that class because I felt more comfortable. And we could chat outside that group to run through some things we were unsure of.

    The online group helps me to go once a month to the in real life group. If I post and know other people know I am going it helps my introverted self to get there – someone will ask me about it the next day!

    Being part of a writer group makes me a better writer and I am looking forward to all we do over the next year!

    1. The llama definitely helps. Tuesdays will never be the same!

      That’s interesting that being a part of the online group helps you get out to a real world group. I hadn’t thought about that before, but it makes complete sense. #IntrovertsUnite #FromTimeToTime

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