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The Rut, and Some Tips to Get Out Of It

(source: four4dots)

Up until a few months ago, I was in an epic rut. All writers get in ruts every once in awhile, I think, but mine lasted for quite some time-- quite some time of me dragging my feet and forcing myself to squeeze out as many words as I could without relishing any of them. But recently I have found myself pulling out of it at last, because I accidentally stumbled into some things that helped me.

So, some potentially helpful tips for getting yourself out of The Rut:

1. Fill in a schedule.

I don't know why this helps, but it does. Every week I sit down in front of a spreadsheet and I decide when I'm going to write each day. Because I write full time, my hours vary, but I try to alternate mornings and afternoons, intense writing days and lax writing days, to keep things interesting and to keep the momentum going. Somehow, just the act of filling in the spreadsheet helped me to stick to my plans, and also to realize how much time I was devoting to my work every day. I was more conscious of my goals and of my habits, and able to find a schedule that worked for me, and it helped quite a bit with my rut.

2. Leave your usual spot.

When you work from home, it's easy to let home time and work time, home space and work space, sort of smear together so that you never feel like you're at work and you never feel like you're at home, you never feel relaxed and you never feel motivated. What can help with this leave! Leave your usual writing space behind and seek another one. Find a place where a lot of people are also working, whether it's a coffee shop or a library or a restaurant or whatever, and see how writing in that space goes. (I found it most helpful to go to a place with no or limited Internet.)

3. Give yourself a treat.

Every day when I sit down to write, that is chai latte time. I have done this for so long that even when I taste chai latte, I get this strange desire to write, because I have paired them together in my mind. It can be a little uncomfortable to know that you can train yourself like a dog, but it works. So if you're really struggling, try classical conditioning-- find something you like, and only experience that thing during writing time, and I think eventually a little part of you (even a very tiny part) will start to look forward to writing time like never before. It's like magic.

4.  Start off the day with some words.

No matter what I have to do in the morning, I try to put down a few words right after breakfast, just to get the juices flowing. On days when I don't do this, I have trouble getting started. On days when I do, even if I only wrote a sentence or two, I find it a lot easier to get into the groove. It's definitely worth a try!

5. Share with friends.

Sometimes a little cheerleading is what you need to get out of that rut. Get a friend or two, even if they aren't writers, and share some bits and pieces of what you're working on with them. If you're a little sensitive to criticism in those early stages, ask your friends not to give you any-- instead, tell them to just point out things they like and want to know more about. It can be a great motivator to know that actual people are curious about the goings on of your story.

Well, there you have it-- my recently discovered tips for getting you out of your writing rut. But different things work for different people-- what are your tips for getting out of writing ruts? The more suggestions the better, I say.
Veronica Roth

Veronica is the author of the NYT bestselling YA dystopian thriller series Divergent, published by Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books. She's also a graduate of Northwestern University, a Christian, and A Tall Person, among other things.

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  1. I, too, find myself getting into a rut from time to time. Typically it happens for me right after I've finished a story and am in the planning mode for the next one. It's hard to get my writing juices re-started after going through edits mode. Not to mention querying as well. These are some very helpful hints to getting through those in-between times for me. Thanks for the great post!!!

  2. These are some good ideas. I especially liked the whole idea about moving to another spot. I'll have to give that a try next time I hit a wall.

  3. While writing a novel, when I get into a rut, I'll write a short story- something totally off topic and from a different POV, just to break my focus and give my brain something else to ponder. Usually, after a short hiatus, I'm looking at my book with fresh perspective. It is a great way to both switch things up and keep writing.

  4. I've been in a three year rut. Hopefully these tips will help.

  5. Great advice there, especially #1 and #4. Every advice column or book I've read stresses the importance of writing every day, on a set schedule if possible. The trouble a lot of us have is when we stop writing, even for a few days b/c that momentum is very important. Maybe it's because other things fill our minds in the meantime or because writing is like being on a diet - much easier to not do it than to stick with it every day.

    Which leads me to #5 on your list - there's no better way to re-energize than to have someone read an excerpt or two. Especially if they can give you thoughtful, unbiased feedback. A pat on the back is nice, but a new outlook or a piece of advice is even better!

  6. I already practice number 1 and 5, but I'm definately going to try 3 and 4! Ah, all the sweet possibilities of number 3...

  7. Great ideas! Great post - thanks so much, going to bookmark this page!


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Item Reviewed: The Rut, and Some Tips to Get Out Of It Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Veronica Roth