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  • Writer's pictureDebra Stang

Getting Stuck on Your Writing Projects? Try Taking a Break!

Have you come across a problem with plotting or writing one of your articles that you just can't seem to resolve? Are you determined to power through it, no matter what? That may not be such a good idea.

Instead, it's a better idea to take a break. Here's why:

1. Your brain can be overtaxed, just like a muscle. When you lift weights at the gym, what do you do when your muscles start to get tired? Do you pile on more weights and force yourself to keep going, or do you take a break, switch to a different type of exercise, and allow the tired muscles a chance to rest and rejuvenate? Your brain is a little like those tired muscles. The more you try to force it beyond its capacity, the weaker it will become and the less effective you'll be as a writer. Give your mind a little R & R when you first start to feel fatigued, and you'll soon be able to return to your project with new enthusiasm and ideas.

2. Shifting perspective is a great way to come up with answers. I love to work jigsaw puzzles. Sometimes, though, I get disgusted when I can't figure out where a particular piece fits. I've learned long ago that the harder I look, the less success I'll have. My best bet is to walk away, focus my attention on something else like reading a book or working a logic puzzle, and return to the jigsaw in about thirty minutes. Nine times out of ten, I immediately find a place for the troublesome piece. The same is true with writing. If I give myself permission to walk away and work on something else when I get stuck, I almost always come back to the troublesome project with a new batch of workable solutions.

3. You may need to deal with more pressing problems first. Sometimes when I run face-first into the wall, it's because I'm worried about another matter that feels more urgent than the one I'm currently dealing with. If the other matter won't take much time to deal with–say, less than an hour, I just stop what I'm doing and attend to it. If it will take longer, I schedule a time to do it. Either way, it's off my plate, off my mind, and I can turn my full attention back to the original piece of work.

4. "Mindless" activities actually promote a lot of thinking. Agatha Christie once said that one of the best times to plot a novel is while one is doing the dishes. While I don't share Christie's passion for dishes, I have noticed that my imagination becomes incredibly fertile when I'm engaged in tasks like vacuuming, dusting, or paying bills. In fact, I often find myself stopping in the middle of these diversions to rush back to my writing project and scribble down a can't-wait idea.

True, there are times when my writing trickles to a stop that I need to take a kick-in-the-pants drill sergeant approach with myself. More often, though, what works better is a 15 to 30 minute break to allow myself to re-charge, re-energize, and come back twice as strong.

How do you handle roadblocks when you're working on a project?

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