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Getting Unstuck

I’ve felt a stuck lately.  While I’ve been plugging along on the professional book I’m writing for Stenhouse (Craft Moves), my picture book manuscripts haven’t gone anywhere in a couple of weeks.  I could tell you that it’s because of the arm pain I’ve been experiencing when I sit at the computer.  And that would be true, but now that I have DragonSpeak software, I have to be honest, that’s not the whole truth.
Every time I set aside time to revise these two manuscripts, I can’t decide which one to tackle first.  One requires a major overhaul since it is too long for a picture book.  The second lacks depth. Each of them needs my attention, but I cannot seem to decide which one to tackle first.  So, I sit at my desk and jot #PiBoIdMo ideas or read blogs about writing.  You know what that means?  I’m not working on my picture book writing.

Some people might think I’m avoiding work because I’m still licking my wounds from the agent rejections I received for the last picture book manuscript I wrote.  (Those wounds have been sufficiently licked so I know it isn’t that.)  Other people might say I have a case of writer’s block.  I know that isn’t the case since I’m writing just fine with regard to Craft Moves.  In fact, I’m even slightly ahead of schedule on that book!

I heard about a free app, Unstuck, that was supposed to be good for writers.  I downloaded the app to my iPad on Monday.  I went through the questions, answering them honestly, and shortly received a characterization of the problem at-hand.  It told me:
My Unstuck App Diagnosis
My Unstuck App Diagnosis
Essentially, I need to “reignite the pilot light.”  Unstuck provided me with three suggestions to help me get my muse back. I’ve already started working on “Snap Inspiration,” which involves photographing anything that inspires, delights, or amuses me.  In addition, I made an action plan to rediscover my motivation.
With my new routine in place, I was stoked about writing when I went to bed on Monday night. On Tuesday morning I woke up to tragic news out of Jerusalem.  Between CNN’s televised coverage and the articles I was reading online, I could barely concentrate on anything else.  However, I gave myself two uninterrupted blocks of time to work on my picture book writing — once in the morning and again in the late afternoon.
First, I used Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s character graphic organizers to rethink the main characters in each of my manuscripts.  Next, I grabbed my iPad and spent some time in front of my fireplace (It was frigid outside yesterday!) thinking deeply about both of these characters and the stories I’m writing.   Afterwards, I picked ONE of the characters and made her more complex using more Sudipta’s layered cake analogy.  I thought more about the theme and conflict so the story had more depth.
I think it’s going to take several days — if not a couple of weeks — to truly get unstuck.  Yesterday’s work session went well and I’m hoping today’s will be even better.  I’ll keep forging ahead until I feel like I have my groove back.  Very soon, I imagine I’ll get my writing groove back so I will feel good about the fictional works I’m producing.

What do you do when you find yourself stuck as a writer?  How do you help kids who claim they have writer’s block?  Please share your suggestions below.



Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

4 thoughts on “Getting Unstuck Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for this article. Several students in my middle school classes have expressed similar feelings. I am happy I will have this article to share with them.


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