Getting stuck while writing is the worst. Nothing is more frustrating than those days where you actually want to write, you have time, you have energy, but the ideas or words won’t come no matter how hard you try. So what do you do?
Sometimes… if you think it’s going to help, but truthfully, this advice isn’t that far off. Sometimes you have a mental block. There is an emotion or thought that is clogging the pipes, and until you get rid of it, there will be no way to go forward. If you do need a good cry, embrace it, or if you think that will tank your ability to write afterward, you might consider writing about it in a journal or spending ten minutes to just dump whatever is in your head. Another version of this is that you’re ruminating on something you’re worried about with your story. Whether it’s a plot hole you need to fill or imposter syndrome, freewriting for a few minutes can eliminate that block.
One of the most common things for me when I get stuck is that I screwed up somewhere a few pages back, and somehow, my subconscious knows it but I don’t. Reread your story and see if you can figure out what went wrong. Sometimes it’s someone acting out of character, a missing beat/plot point, emotions that just aren’t ringing true, or an imbalance of action to introspection. Once you edit that bit and recalibrate, the words should start flowing again. Most commonly, this tends to be a character issue. We’ve written ourselves into a corner or in such a way that moving in the direction we want doesn’t make any sense. Using a reverse outline can help you avoid this sort of thing, though it does still happen.
I can already hear my past self hissing at this suggestion, but sometimes it’s because you are fried and need a rest. Yes, I know you’re on deadline. Yes, I know you’re behind. Yes, I know you need to write like that song from Hamilton, but if the words aren’t flowing and you’re just getting more and more stressed, sometimes you need a mental timeout. Therefore, it is time to refill the well. Play some video games, go for a walk, watch a movie or favorite show, do some crafts (my personal favorite/go-to). Do something that recharges you and makes you feel more inspired without draining you.
Work on something else.
This has the biggest caveat because if you have shiny idea syndrome, you will never complete anything, but sometimes you started working on something too early or you have another story that is loudly knocking at your brain, making it difficult to focus on your main project. I had this happen with The Reanimator’s Soul. I had a Valentine’s Day short story that sprung fully formed in my head, so I told myself that I get a week to write that, and then I must go back to my main project. I did it, got it out of my system, and when I went back to my main project, things flowed more smoothly. You may want to give yourself a smaller amount of time to work on the other thing. Once you vent it out, you’ll probably have an easier time. If you worry you’re going to run with it and abandon your first project, then don’t do that.
Hopefully, these ideas will help you get unstuck and be able to work on your project. Above all, remember to be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up for needing to rest or having to go back and rework something.