6 Things to Write When You Get Stuck

6 Things to Write When You Get Stuck

One part of my morning routine involves writing. I set a timer for fifty-five minutes and I write. Sometimes I write blog posts, sometimes I write content for my weekly eZines, but sometimes I just write a list or an outline.

Many of my coaching clients struggle with the idea of a focused block of time to write. One reason they struggle, though, isn’t because they can’t carve out the time (although that can be a struggle for some) but, because they don’t know what to write about. They have a desire to be productive and a vision of themselves hard at work, but to sit down without any clear idea of what to write bothers them.

If you want to create a daily writing routine, you might be interested in this blog post on creating the habit of writing. Once you’ve created the habit, you’ll need some ideas of things to write about. The following 6 ideas are quick and can be done in less than an hour.

1. Write a list
Whenever I’m stuck and can’t think of anything to write I set a timer and make list. Sometimes it’s a list of projects I need to complete around the house, sometimes it’s a list of the flowers I want to plant in the garden. Recently, it was a list of landscaping ideas and ways to incorporate more native plants into our yard. If you want to get closer to writing a book or cookbook, write a list of major topics or recipes you want to include. I find value in collecting my thoughts in a free-form list. And these lists are never a waste of time.

2. Craft a fake rant
Sometimes we’re more prolific on the telephone, Twitter or Facebook , or with online comments, than we are with our writing. Plus, when we rant on Facebook, Twitter, or in a letter to the editor or on the phone to a friend, it’s usually because we feel disturbed or really passionate about something.

Pretend for a moment that you’re upset. Maybe your favorite basketball team lost to a bad referee call or that someone said something untrue about you, your spouse, or one of your children. Or maybe that dern politician on TV that makes you so angry that he or she needs to hear what you have to say.  Write a fake rant or letter about this topic. Let or passion or disgust for the topic show. Be honest and tell how you feel. Save the file if you want to, and maybe it will spark some other action outside of the fake rant, but I don’t encourage you to post this on Facebook, Twitter, or send the letter unless you work on a second and final draft. Sleep on it first. Better yet, delete the file, but remember how it feels to write about something you believe in.

3. Write a letter to your future self
I have sending letters to my future self with the site Future Me. Here’s the premise – go to the Future Me website and write a letter. (It’s free.) I like to send reminders about habits I’m trying to create or a list of goals I want to accomplish. Sometimes I just write a nice, feel-good letter. After you finish the letter set a date in the future to send the letter to your email address. You can send it to arrive one day, one week, one month, or one year from now. On the date you selected, the letter will arrive in your email box. I felt startled when my first letter arrived, because I picked it to arrive a year later and I had forgotten that I wrote it. But, it’s fun to see what I was thinking when I wrote the letter and to see if I’ve met my goals, created that habit, or leaned into the love I sent.

4. Quit in writing
Write a letter to yourself that you quit the writing project you’re working on. Maybe it’s a cookbook proposal, or maybe you’re building your platform for food writing, but you’re sick of it and you quit. Explain the reasons you quit and give details about why you can’t do this any longer. Explain the challenges you face and why you can’t over come them. Give notice that this dream is over.

5. Create affirmations
Use the letter you wrote that stated that you quit to make a list of all the reasons you quit. Turn each reason into an opposite action. For example, if you say that you quit because you fear that everyone will hate your book, then write an affirmation that goes something like this: “I am writing a cookbook that everyone who buys it will love.”  If you quit because you don’t think anyone will buy your book , then write, “My book will be a best seller and they won’t be able to print enough copies to keep up with the demand.” If you quit because you can’t find the time to write, then say, “I schedule blocks of time to write every week and I won’t schedule anything else to do during that time.” Read these affirmations every day. Or, print them out and post them in your work area.

6. Type a book passage
There are many cookbook author’s whose work makes me feel inspired. Read any passage of Marcella Hazen’s for example and you’ll see what I mean. When I get stuck, I have been known to select a favorite food writer, or even a favorite fiction author, and type or hand-write a passage of their words. I’m not doing this for publication, that would be plagiarism. But, I do this to get in touch with their flow, verbs, and sentence structure. The simple act of reproducing a passage that has been published can be a source of inspiration for me. Delete the file. And then remind yourself that this final book passage isn’t their first draft. It’s a final, polished version of their first draft. Don’t get stuck in the I-can’t-think-of-cute-stories-to-go-along-with-my-recipes rut unless you promise to remember that even your favorite author started with a first draft too. 

Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”. 

  1. Dear Maggie, I “discovered” you when looking for Chex Mix’s original oven-baked Party Mix recipe, which I recall from my childhood and young adult years, but I continued with you for your encouragement of writers! I never knew cookbook writers could possibly suffer as much as the rest of us “currently unpublished” but aspiring first-time writers! The book The War of Art helped. I now wear the English medal I got in the ninth grade which I should not have received and would not have received if I had not had a teacher who saw my writing capabilities! I did not have the highest grade point average in English of the all the ninth graders. I got the award on the basis of three book reports(!) which I had written on my parents’ back porch, sitting in the over-sized rocking chair, gazing at the beauty and quiet of our back yard, while petting the dog, who couldn’t understand what I was doing but refused to go away! I am now 65. My mother’s words to me in my early 20s (“What Would You Know About That!”) stopped me dead in my tracks for all of those years. Even her eventual death did not spark me to become more interested in writing… It came out of my spiritual journey, and the knowledge that I do have “something” to share… So in addition to picking up a few great recipes (!), I have also received encouragement for my writing journey! I’m looking up the “Future Me” site in just a few minutes. But wanted to take the time to say THANKS!!! You are an encouragement to all writers — not just of the cookbook variety either!!! Many thanks!

    1. Hi Lynn,

      Thanks for your comments and I love that Chex Mix got you here. Writers of all kinds struggle with the same challenges. I do believe we all have something to share. Don’t let your mom’s words stop you from writing. Our fear that we’re not smart enough to write does stop us in our tracks at times, but you can’t let it stop you forever. Identify an audience of people who want to hear what you have to say and then share it with them. Not everyone will like it, but that’s ok. What important is that you’ve shared your writing with the people who do care. Keep in touch. ~Maggie

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