Curse of the Rudder

Getting unstuck while writing — 6 smart practical ways.

Queen’s Royal Guard. Photo by Kaz.

When the protagonist of this story wrote his first book in 2015, it was a mess.

For the target audience, the title - ‘Build Anything, Sustain It Forever’ was horridly long. The font was basic at best and had no emotion. The message was a great one…that was the intention. The points and focus had some great research backing it. The thoughts were original from a deep well of varied experiences but my words were okay. Just okay. And that was it.

When the book was done I was so ashamed of the work, I refused to let it go to print. I converted it to an ebook and published it in a controlled way within a limited community. Asking no one to help spread it, the care taken to not make that abomination go platinum was absolute.

I am my own worst critic.

I struggled with tense, I struggled with syntax. I wanted to edit every thought before it made it to paper. I fought with every layer. Every thought ended in a blur. I had poor knowledge at best of transition words. I used too many I’s.

I was the black plague who killed the green in that story.

But I learned two things — I was stuck all through writing that book. When I wasn’t stuck, I was sunk. Secondly, my suffering was needless.

2016 came and I wrote another book. 
This one was way better — and became a bestseller. A lot of things were done differently. This baby looked like he came from me. This book became a thing of pride and it achieved my desired download target within 24 hours.

These two experiences taught me some great lessons and I’ll waste no time sharing them with you. And as your project evolves, if you find yourself stuck, you‘ll know how to get unstuck.

Even better, you’ll know how to ride above the mud.

Let’s go with numbers.

  1. Ignore the rules — yes ensure that you largely ignore those ugly, drab rules that attempt to turn all your colour into some 50 shades of beige. Some rules are so stiff, even mud on that beige will resemble a sultan’s courtyard. 
    Recall all those rules, those boundaries you have to stick within as you try to conquer the world and do what? Ignore them. When it says “be silent”, bark loudly and rabidly bite a piece off the universe.

Write what you want, how you want, and pay little attention to those rules of writing. Save all that yuck for the editor. Your real life editor. They love that type of stuff.

Space might be large and boundless but if you be about those rules, your ship will not lift off.

Choose bracelets over anchors.

2. Muse — Stop looking for muse.
When you don’t feel like writing, write. 
When you feel like writing, write a lot. 
Keep writing about anything that comes to mind. Write untill your eyes and fingers hurt. Write without sleep and food and shoes. Write crappy, ill-fitting pieces.

And she will seek you out. When she does appear. Grab the thongs of that lady muse. Strip her off her sheer misty gown. Slip into her. Merge your essence with hers. Exhaust yourself in that intercourse. Pass out.

You’ll wake up to a beautiful baby.

3. Swear Freely — I’m sure you’re an advocate for family rated material but that’s not how to begin writing your script. This is no license to licentiousness. All I’m saying is in my experience, once I convinced myself that there was no word I could pen, I received freedom within myself to find many expressions of my art.

Give yourself the freedom to experience the liberation that comes from ‘F’ words, sh** and da**.
And if your editor bothers you about how much s/he has to decluster your warehouse of beautiful colourly yap.

Ask them “Are you gonna whine or are you gonna mine?”

Even gold hides beneath dirt.

4. Leave that niche nonsense — 1000 best selling authors have told you to read a lot of material in your niche areas. They use worlds like ‘diligence’, ‘dedication’ and ‘focus’ to intellectually and emotionally blackmail you. They must have noble intentions because I do not think any writer on planet earth wants to be the only great or greater name in his generation.

In fact, I’m almost sure every writer desires to be right up there in glory with all the others in the universe. Yawn.

Don’t get me wrong. I‘d love recognition for my work. But it’s just as fine if someone else gets recognition in this movement. The way I see it, they’re representing quite well this aspect of beautfying the universe.

So i’m weird.

5. The Puzzle strategy — What if you’d seen a peacock blueprint before it got created. Wouldn’t you have said, “what sort of color splash is this?”, “this is not orderly”, “let’s keep a particular colour theme”, “the feathers are disproportionately long.”

From one writer to another, try this approach instead. Write as many different aspects of that one piece as you can. Don’t bother about how unrelated they seem. All the better if you have a mix of confusing stuff. Only make sure that each piece is beautiful in itself. Feel it in your gut…and watch as volumes of chaff become a storyboard…and transformation turns patches into spell binding plots.

The most beautiful mosaic portaits can be made from 1000 pieces of the same colour shade. Alone, each piece is just a patch of skin-pink.

We often do not realize that chaos is in a sense order.

6. Crowd write — Here’s how crowd writing works. When you’re stuck, simply pass those mad paragraphs to friends or people in your space or community. Ask them how they would evolve the story. Be nice enough to acknowledge them in the finished work. Let them know you will. And when you can afford it, help them in a way that makes a difference for them.

Treat your writing like a piece that beautifies the universe and sell that vision to them.

People will help you if your project sells a worthwhile vision.

Nobody will steal your work.
If you give enough, you’ll create enough greatness
along the way to being great yourself.

The rudder is that mentality that holds you to a particular steer. Its a state of mind you don’t even know exists. A vice grip that seizes your brain in a freeze — bending you to a structured plot. Instead of thinking about writing, you’re thinking about how you’re writing. Truth is you don’t need that dark when you’re trying to birth a real earth shaking creative. All you need is a plot…better still, an acre.

It will come to you.

Write until you sense in your spirit that you’ve exhausted the inspiration for that piece.

Until then, just write.
- End -

PS: I realize this piece looks like I’m rooting for editors. I am and I’m not. The joy is in a writer being somehow helped on their journey.

At the Writing Cooperative, our mission is to help each other write better. We’ve teamed up with ProWritingAid to do just that.