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What do you do when you feel stuck as a writer?

Below you’ll see some writing tricks that have worked for me when I can’t seem to make any headway or even get started.

What has worked for you?

Writing tricks for getting unstuck:

  1. Write with a timer. Just 5 minutes of committed writing time might get you in the flow enough that you want to continue beyond the timer going off. Just getting started can help you build momentum.
  2. Write knowing that you have the option to throw it all away and never show your writing to anyone else (you don’t even need to show it to yourself again!). Take the pressure off and just let those words flow without expectation.
  3. Pull inspiration from another author. Grab a book from your bookshelf and choose a piece of random text as a jumping off point. See David Menconi’s suggestion to jumpstart your writing here.
  4. Find an accountability partner or writing group. In these stay-at-home days, you might still reach out to friends to talk thru your story ideas and to gather the encouragement you need. Writing can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. 🙂
  5. ‘Go visual, aural, or physical’ — clip photos from a magazine, listen to music, or move your body for inspiration.
  6. Take a break. Come back to it tomorrow or another time when you feel your well has filled again. It’s ok to dream about your work away from the page. It’s ok to take a break and percolate for a bit.
  7. Construct boundaries or a list of required ingredients for yourself. Occasionally creating some restrictions around our work can help to free us up.
  8. Write for another medium or genre. If you are a playwright, try writing for audio or for video. If you write dramas, try your hand at comedy. An occasional switch up can be inspiring!
  9. Give yourself a deadline. I love a deadline as motivation, even if I’m the one setting it for myself!

Do any of those resonate with you?

Those tricks in practice:

This month, I’m feeling really grateful that the STUCK MONOLOGUES from PlayMakers Repertory Company allowed me to call on almost all of the items from the list above in order to get my contribution completed on time. 🙂

In particular, I want to point out #7 (list of required ingredients) and #8 (writing for another medium) from the list above.

As you’ll see below, the playwrights for the STUCK MONOLOGUE project were asked to adhere to a recipe of three ingredients when writing our short monologues. Those items gave my writing focus while still feeling expansive enough that I could follow my own voice. I was able to write more quickly than usual, and wow, during this time of corona-distraction and molasses-creativity, it was a balm to finish something.

And, as you’ll see/hear, each playwright developed a unique piece based on the same ingredients. So thrilling.

As a playwright who writes for the stage and for audio, it was also a fun challenge to write a short piece for pre-recorded video and to consider ways to use that visual element to tell the story. Check out LEVERAGING MR. BUMBLE and see if I succeeded.

Speaking of…

Have you watched the STUCK MONOLOGUES from PlayMakers Repertory

Hop on over and enjoy all of them. If you have a moment, please let the staff at PlayMakers know if you are eager for more of this type of project – I know they’d love to have that feedback and support.

Released over the course of July, these short monologues were written by local playwrights including: Jacqueline E. Lawton, Julia Gibson, Lynden Harris, Tamara Kissane (me!), Alejandro Rodriguez, Madeline Sunshine, Mark Perry, Michael Perlman, Khalil LeSaldo, and Mike Wiley.

Here’s the description from the PlayMakers site

As early quarantine days had us feeling “stuck,” we called upon some of our favorite local playwrights to turn that feeling into art. Then members of your favorite acting company, past and present, worked their magic in bringing those monologues to life.

We gave our playwright friends a “recipe” to turn our common moment of being stuck into something creative:

  • It must have at least one local reference
  • It must contain at least one joke.
  • It must fit well under the title of “stuck.”

An image from my piece performed by Gwendolyn Schwinke

Go directly to LEVERAGING MR. BUMBLE on YouTube here.


A couple more things….

#1: I was on the radio on July 24 to have a quick chat with Dr. B on WHUP (a local radio channel). We talked about Piedmont Laureate-ing, audio dramas, writing, and the pandemic. (Listen here starting at the 25 min mark.)

#2: The Durham Arts Council is delighted to be partnering with Alamance Arts, Orange County Arts Commission and Person County Arts Council to offer the new Artist Support Grant.  The grant program is funded by the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources, with additional funding from the Durham Arts Council and the partner counties.  The Artist Support Grant was created to provide direct support to individual artists during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative will fund professional and artistic development for emerging and established artists to enhance their skills and abilities to create work or to improve their business operations and capacity to bring their work to new audiences.

Eligible artist applicants: have lived in Durham, Orange, Person or Alamance Counties (NC) for at least one year, are at least 18 and are not enrolled in a degree program in their art form.  Projects in performing, visual, literary, traditional and media arts are eligible. Grants will range from $500-$1,500.

Information sessions are currently scheduled for 6PM on August 6 (co-hosted with Alamance Arts) and August 11 on Zoom. Email Margaret DeMott to register.

Guidelines and scheduled information sessions can be found here.

Applications are due on September 14.  Questions?  Email Margaret DeMott.


Thanks and happy writing,