Writing a book: What to do when you’re stuck

Aug 1, 2017 | Writing A Book

Writer’s block seems to get all the press, but that’s not the only way you can get stuck.

You can get stuck in the research phase, when you’re not sure where to go next or how to use what you’ve just learned. You can get stuck in the planning stage, too. Usually that happens when you can’t figure out what order you want to put things in. The fact is, you can get stuck in almost any stage of writing a book, from the original planning and research through the writing and editing to the publishing and promotion. Here’s what to do when that happens.

Get an Outside Perspective

Obviously, you need fresh thinking. But there’s no law that says you have to do that thinking yourself. Find someone else to talk to about your project.

Many of the authors I work with have a special person that fills that role much of the time. Sometimes it’s a best friend who’s interested in the author’s work. Many times, it’s the spouse. Sometimes it’s a group, like a writer’s group or a mastermind group.

Others reach out to find someone new. Sometimes they do that on social media. Sometimes they hire a writing coach.

One of my favorite techniques is to find an intelligent 15-year-old to explain things to. 15-year-olds are mature enough and smart enough to understand anything important you’ve got to say. If you’re writing a business book, they are truly “fresh eyes.” And, they’re fearless. They’ll tell you what they think, whether you like it or not.

Outside perspective can give you insights you won’t get on your own. Supplement that with your own fresh ideas.

Proven Ways to Get Good Ideas

Several years ago, I helped develop a course on innovation and creativity for a major corporation. I learned that there are proven ways to get insights and ideas. Since you’re a human being, you come up with good ideas all the time. You can intentionally create situations where that’s more likely to happen.

Do something that puts your body on autopilot and leaves your mind free to roam. That’s why so many people get good ideas in the shower or while they’re driving or exercising or walking.

My favorite activity is walking. When you take a walk, you get out and away from things that normally distract you. You don’t have to concentrate on how to walk, you probably mastered that skill decades ago. You don’t even have to start by thinking specifically about your project. Just let your mind roam, it will come back to the important stuff. Ideas will start to pop out of your brain. Now you have another challenge.

Capture the ideas that you get. Otherwise, they will flit away like butterflies on the wind. I suggest purchasing and carrying a small digital voice recorder. I use an Olympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-852. People who know me know that I have it with me all the time. My family has christened it “Wally’s Idea Catcher.”

Do Something!

I don’t know why, but a lot of authors spend time worrying about the fact that they’re stuck. That’s just wasted mental energy.

Your brain is a great thing, and it will come up with a solution. It will come up with a solution faster if you do something. You don’t have to do the things I’ve already suggested, maybe you prefer to just start writing and see what happens. Perhaps your way to get good ideas is to sit in a soaking tub for a half an hour or so. Whatever it is, get to it.

Bottom Line

Your brain is an amazing thing, and it will come up with the solution you need when you’re stuck. Try talking to someone else, taking a walk, or anything else that works for you. But do it.