Wednesday Writing: Once More Over the Hump, Dear Friends!

A stall in the booksellers' market in Madrid.

A stall in the booksellers’ market in Madrid.

It is a sad truth I’m learning about writing: stuck-ness happens. At every stage, debut work or not, there are long periods of “writing” where little or no writing happens.

I’m bad at these. Though, ideologically, I agree completely with Jerry Spinelli and Clare Vanderpool that writer’s block is a self-indulgence allowed by writers that no other profession will tolerate and thus should not exist, I am often one of those self-indulgent writers. The key, as with any long-term process, is to get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible.

I have not perfected any one process, nor am I a model of consistency that anyone should look to… but, in order to get over my most recent hump (which I did! I’m writing again!) here are some of the techniques I tried:

  1. A poor workman blames his tools.
    So… switch tools. Tired of staring at a blank screen? Try a blank piece of paper. Ideally, arrange it so that you just miss a bus outside of a hospital in Madrid and you have nothing in your bag but a notebook and a pen. You will then use these tools and this time to write something. And, because it feels so different, you will end up moving your story forward, just a little, so that when you do get around to your computer again, you will have something to un-stick yourself with.
  2. Repeat yourself.
  3. Repeat yourself.
    No, seriously. If you find yourself stuck, go back, take the first line of the paragraph (or page, or chapter if you’re really bold) that led you down a dark alley, type it over again, and then take it somewhere different. … Just make sure to go back and delete at least one of these two before you send it to your writer’s group for critique!
  4. “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” -Elmore Leonard 
    No better advice has ever been given. If you’re bored writing it, I guarantee you, your reader will be bored reading it. Now is the time to deploy the much-maligned super-summary! In a first draft there is NOTHING wrong with saying “and then some stuff happened…” and get to the good part. The part you’re dying to write. The part that will suck your readers in again and make them want to keep reading. You can always go back, in the second-draft phase of life, once you have a better sense of what matters and where everything is going, and add in the “stuff” that happened.

So that’s what I did. Leave me a comment and let me know:
What do you do to get un-stuck?


About Tara Sullivan

Author of GOLDEN BOY (2013), THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET (2016), and TREASURE OF THE WORLD (2021). Published by Penguin Books for Young Readers Find out more at Or, follow me on Twitter: @SullivanStories
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5 Responses to Wednesday Writing: Once More Over the Hump, Dear Friends!

  1. To help get un-stuck I take any old idea that I have sitting around and start working on it. My kids or husband will look over my shoulder and say, “You’re working on that again?” And I laugh because I’m always working on “that” when I can’t think of anything good to write. Writing through periods where nothing good comes to me is better than not writing at all. When the good ideas start flowing – I’m ready for them!

  2. I’d like to offer a comment but I am currently stuck…

  3. I like that… though sometimes I find writing other things can be a bit of a trap for me. It makes me feel like I’m making progress when really I’m avoiding my primary manuscript’s responsibility! Glad it works for you.

  4. Ha ha ha.
    True, so true. 🙂

  5. Wendy Jarvis says:

    Hi thannks for sharing this

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