Stuck? Set yourself free with these ABCs.

Stuck? Set yourself free with these ABCs.
June 29, 2020 Beth Nyland

You have something to say.
Well, you’re supposed to have something to say.
“They” expect you to have something to say.

You sit down to write.
Nothing comes.

A few words finally trickle out.
They’re awful!


You are stuck. And being stuck sucks.

Being stuck sets off a cacophony of mental commentary. The harder you strain to hear faint whispers of something smart, witty, coherent, the more your brain fills with negativity. The sucky state of stuck-ness raises the volume on your inner critic: OMG! You’re such a loser! Give it up!

Whatever you call this unfortunate state of affairs—imposter syndrome, writer’s block, creative burnout, a slump, or Tuesday—you can’t stay stuck. You have to get stuff done.

Good news: you are not a loser, and you have what it takes to get unstuck. If you can read and count to 10, you can work your way through these 10 ways to obliterate writer’s block.

And if all 10 of those strategies leave you hungry for more, try my alphabet soup:

The ABCs of Getting Unstuck

Ask a question. Better yet, ask only questions. Stop trying to write declarative sentences and let yourself raise one question after another. What could you ask your audience? What would they ask you? Questions only. Go!

Break a rule. Write an entire page with no punctuation. Write only sentence fragments. Work profanity into every sentence. (This is a first draft; you will repair the damage when you edit.)

Change your scenery. Take your notebook or laptop and go outside, upstairs, downstairs, or across the room. If you have to stay put, face a different direction.

Describe the work. Instead of struggling to write the thing, write about the thing. “I need to write a proposal. It needs to be persuasive but not pushy, detailed but not long, and technically accurate but not boring. My target audience is worried about X, and I’m nervous that they’ll be put off by Y. Here’s how I can deal with that …”

Eat chocolate. Duh.

Fill a page with nonsense. Start writing and don’t stop until you’ve filled the entire page. You don’t have to write the thing, or even about the thing (see D). Just write whatever comes. The mere act of producing words may be all it takes to get you on track.

Get away from it, briefly. All my clients get this advice: “Set a timer for 3 minutes and write.” Short timers work (see P)—not just for writing, but for not writing, too. Put 10 minutes on the clock and let yourself focus elsewhere: a YouTube video, a yoga sequence, a squirrel in a tree. When the timer rings, get back to work.

Hum. Play whatever music gets you in the zone. I say: “Okay Google, play instrumental focus music.” My husband queues up metal guitarists on Spotify.

Want the rest?

I’ve assembled an entire alphabet’s worth of 26 ideas in this SlideShare deck:
(If you don’t see it, try refreshing this page.)

Please check it out, download the file, and turn to these strategies any time you feel that sucky state of stuck-ness coming on.


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