Sometimes we get stuck. The story we’re writing stops working, or the words don’t feel right (if they’re coming out at all). There’s many ways to counter that miasma, and get us producing words again.
When you’re committed to telling a story, switching to another piece of work can feel like you’re giving up, but there’s a series of valid Somethings that you can write instead, that can help to clear out your head and get your writing cogs working together again. Almost everything you work on will be one of these four Somethings, so switching between them shouldn’t feel like the guilt-ridden escape that it sometimes does.
You know that feeling, don’t tell me you don’t. You’re all cosy in your writing nook, writing the finest story that’s ever been written, and an errant thought pops in. This time it’s not a character acting out, or even a type of inspiration that could make its way into your current project, but something different. Something new. It’s exciting where your current piece isn’t, and begs to be put on paper when the words in the actual project are slow and arduous. Things is, you can’t write everything you think up, and you definitely can’t write them all at once. If your current project is going well, and you don’t feel you’re at a blockage in the story, then do nothing more than jot the new idea down in a notebook (and hey, put all your ideas in the one place), and then go back to what you were doing.
Ahhh, but if it’s not going so well…
That’s when a new story might help. Something you’re not already invested in, and that’s nothing more than an idea at the time. We get our writerly urges from time to time, and all analogies aside (because going with something new in the proferred analogy will break it), it’s okay to indulge them.
Why a new story?
Your muse needs room to breath, to dance around and throw ideas into the mix that don’t always fit what you’re working on. A blank page can be scary when you’re trying to construct the magnificent, but when you have no obligations to any story and can write whatever you want, the freedom is invigorating. Nothing stops you from doing the same with your current project, but it’s sometimes difficult to ignore the responsibility one feels to do justice to a great story – even when everything has gone well, you can over-analyse, think too much, and then freeze up.
It needn’t be a huge epic story, either. Writing exercises can stimulate your creativity, but so too can just writing whatever comes to mind. You don’t need to worry about what fits into your project, and can just write. I’m really advocating the pants approach – no plan, just start writing the first thing you think of. It’s not the same as working with a new story, though it could be that too. If you treat it as a side-project, it’s a great way to experiment with the way you construct your words, and truly try something different.
One such experiment for me, was the creation of a setting in which to tell varied stories. Those stories mightn’t ever go beyond this blog, but it was basically a “Reality-on-the-Norm” approach – in which a town exists, and short pieces of story occur within that town. So far there’s only two short pieces, between 300-400 words a piece. It’s nice to try on a different type of expression, or point of view. It could be something later, but I don’t know. May just end up a jumbled mess of story fragments, but it’s not intended as more than that yet.
There’s a possibility it will lead to more – an actual new story . If that one ends up flailing, you need discipline – it’s imperative that you continue to treat it as your ‘something new’, otherwise you run the risk of ‘story du jour’ syndrome, where every fortnight, you find a brand new idea to jump into that ultimately fizzles out into nothing. Yeah, you’re stuck with it, until you can rightfully consider it a ‘Something old’.
It’s not just a forward movement to give your gears a clean run, but an upward one too.