Do you ever have one of those projects that you just struggle and struggle with? The type that no matter what you seem to do, it just keeps falling apart?

When I’m working on a writing project, 95% of the time, it just flows. Pretty much effortlessly. (It’s okay, you can hate me now!) But I’ve come to realize that when a writing project DOESN’T flow, it usually mean that something isn’t working in the pre-work of the project.

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Here are my seven tips when a project isn’t working:

1. Do you have all your research compiled?

A lot of the time, when I’m fighting the words, it’s because I haven’t researched my material enough to know where I’m going. This research may be the typical type: Googling facts, reading articles, blogs, magazines, and books, interviewing experts. Or it may be the thought exercises of thinking, outlining, and planning.

2. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired?

Seriously, this matters! There is one chapter in “Pitch Your Tent: A Family’s Guide To Tent Camping” that I just struggled and struggled with. Then I realized I was trying to write this long, technical chapter late in the evening, night after night. I dedicated an afternoon to it and BOOM! Written. The same goes for when you’re brain isn’t functioning at peak because you’re hungry or thirsty. Brain snacks and plenty of water!

3. Take a break & walk away.

Sometimes we need to get away from the project to gain some perspective. This may be as simple as watching a couple funny online videos. Often times, I actually need to leave the computer and do something different for a while and let my brain re-charge. I always get great ideas around water so I’ll do the dishes, take a shower or chase my dog, Lily with the hose. (No, I’m serious, she LOVES it!)

4. Write it out long-hand.

Still stuck? Writing a portion of the project out long-hand with pen and paper can really get the brain juices flowing. There’s something about how the brain hemispheres connect to your hand to the act of moving it across the paper. Frankly, I don’t care about the science behind it. All I know is that it works.

5. Sleep on it.

Like taking a break, sleeping on where you’re stuck can give your subconscious a chance to work on the problem. I’ve lost count of how many breakthroughs and moments of inspiration I’ve had while “sleeping”. Jot the idea down as soon as you have it so you don’t lose it in your sleep addled state!

6. Try a different approach.

I hate writing introductions. Remember the 5-paragraph essay from college? How am I supposed to know what I’m going to talk about BEFORE I write the paper?! So I used to write the whole paper and THEN write the introduction. A lot of times, I’ll start in the middle and write to the end then go back and write to the middle.

7. Trash it!

I give you permission to just throw it away. Like I said, 95% of the time I DON’T fight with my writing projects. But sometimes, I just can’t get the words out on paper. I ramble, I say nothing, I repeat myself. There’s a point where you can’t “work through it” and you just have to give it up as a bad job and try something completely different.

Here’s a real life example of this this week:

I use an editorial calendar for my blog writing. I had a great idea for this week’s article. I was so excited to write it. And then I wrote for a solid hour and just COULD NOT organize my thoughts. I did a bit more research. Still no dice.

Loaded the dishwasher. Nothing.

Had dinner. A snack. Ice cream. And I realized I’d just written myself into a corner and I wasn’t making any sense even to me!

Jotted ideas in my business journal. Tried a paragraph or two. Resisted the urge to BITE the notebook. Or throw it.

Went to bed. And this morning, I woke up with a different approach: it’s a GREAT idea but the format is all wrong for a blog post. And I came up with writing an article about what to do when the article just won’t work.

BTW: I am trashing most of what I wrote! I’m keeping the idea and completely modifying it.

I think that part of my challenge is that I have another project in my life that just isn’t flowing. I’ve been trying for two weeks to get my video studio set up and some videos recorded and edited. I’ve pulled out all my tricks and I STILL can’t get this project off dead-center.

So what’s my plan? Radically changing the part that’s making me crazy. If I can’t get the background to work, maybe I just need a new background!

What about you? What do you do when you can’t figure out how to write an article or chapter?

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Kimberly Eldredge

Kimberly is an author, illustrator, and entrepreneur. She helps coaches, speakers, and authors take the content they already have and FINALLY get their book written and published.
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13 Responses to 7 Tips When You’re Stuck

  • I envy you … you always have those creative juices flowing huh? 😀 Personally, when struggling with a writing task, I often leave it and my pc and get on with another activity to, like you said, gain another perspective of the subject. It usually works for me.
    Luchie C. recently posted…GMail attachments boostedMy Profile

    • Luchie, I totally understand! It’s not that I don’t ever struggle with the project in front of me, just that I can ALWAYS write something!

  • That was a great post, I am going to stick with what you said…!!
    Amritt Rukhaiyaar recently posted…Jail House Rock [1957]: Typical Elvis PresleyMy Profile

  • Glad to see I am not the only one who has interesting ways to get past the occasional stick in the road, when writing. When I get stuck on a scene, I work on another chapter out of sequence or time or even another set of characters from another book. This gives my creative mind a time out to stew the information over without me getting in the way. Sounds kooky but it works for me. :)

  • Adorable picture! I think the world is divided into 2 groups — those that write with ease & the rest of us! 😉

    The tedious part, without a doubt, is item 1 – researching your topic. This is, probably, where many of us lose a bunch of steam! It’s a time consuming, but necessary, part of the writing process. Whenever I experience writer’s block, I find taking a break works best for me. Usually, inspiration hits me when I’m doing something “mindless” — like, as you say, taking a shower. I guess when I allow my mind to rest, it’s not so congested with millions of other thoughts & the juices start flowing.

    But, as you say, if all else fails and I find myself struggling & struggling…it’s, obviously, not worth the effort & is time to move on!

    Thanks for sharing your writing tips!
    Christine Alejandro recently posted…ALREADY BROKEN YOUR RESOLUTIONS?My Profile

    • Christine, You’re absolutely right: research can be tedious. But it’s really necessary! Your readers can always tell when you didn’t spend enough time to do your research, or ENOUGH research.

      And thanks for the comment about the pic! I think too often (business) bloggers are worried about putting themselves in front of the camera and on the blog — especially making a pouty face. But I want people to be able to see and know me.

  • I love your ideas; but it’s not always that easy to ‘scrap something.’ I had to do that last year with one of my books. It just wasn’t going anywhere!
    Sophie Bowns recently posted…Azure- Chapter 2My Profile

    • Sophie, you’re absolutely right it’s NOT easy to scrap something. I should have made that clear that it is a hard choice. Thanks for pointing it out!

  • Love the picture and the post! I’ve used all of these techniques at one time or another. Normally, writing flows pretty easily for me, but I have had moments where it doesn’t. My About page is one such instance right now. I’m reworking my site from the ground up and it is time to write a new About page for the new site. Everything I’ve written has either sounded way too corporate or way too light. So, I’ve stepped away from it for a week and decided to talk to friends, colleagues, clients, etc. on what they think I should share on my About page. The responses have been really interesting. Now, I’ve scheduled time to just free-association-write. Wish me luck!
    Stephanie LH Calahan (@StephCalahan) recently posted…Visibility Blocks that Keep You From Having a Great PodcastMy Profile

  • Great tips, Kim! When I’m stuck on a project, I usually walk away for a few hours, or even a day or two. It seems when I walk away, it gives me time to get those creative juices flowing again and it takes the pressure off.

  • Thanks for a terrific article. I do #2, #3 and #6 most often when I’m having trouble writing. All these tips are great ones and I have used them all at one point or another. One thing I’ve learned is if something is too hard to get into or accomplish, it probably isn’t what I should be writing about right now. Then, I move on to something else.
    Tandy Elisala recently posted…7 part series~ Drop the Rules: 5 ways to connect with nature 5/7My Profile