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.
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?