Break Out of Your Rut with Experimentation

Posted October 17, 2013 by Amanda Shofner in Writing / 10 Comments

experimentation

Ever had a writing rut? Blogging rut? A life rut?

It happens to the best of us. Me. You.

But whenever you land headfirst in a rut, how do you react?

…do you even react? Hint: whining and complaining (and even blaming) isn’t what I’m talking about.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve always got

That didn’t become a famous adage for nothing. If you’re stuck, clinging to your normal routine or behavior patterns won’t get you out of your rut. Ruts are life’s way of saying, “This isn’t working” or “It’s time to do something different.”

Embrace experimentation.

Write somewhere else. Use Microsoft Word instead of your blogging dashboard. Put headphones in. Change the music you’re listening to. Develop a new editorial calendar system. Write in the morning. Pour yourself a glass of wine. (Probably not in the morning, though.) Put different clothes on.

I’m not joking. Sometimes pants interfere with the word flow.

(Though let’s be honest. We’re reaching the point in Minnesota where “no pants” means “pajama pants” and that works too.)

I’ve used all of these tactics to shake off writer’s block. They’re minor changes, but they all operate like a slap to my face saying, “Wake UP, brain! Let’s DO this!”

When I hit a blogging rut, I created blog development time to renew my interest in my blog. When I hit an editing block *coughs*socialmedia*coughs*, I take my netbook and work in bed. Or on the couch. Or wherever the urge strikes. My netbook is awesome because it’s so slow I can only have one program open at a time. Instant work focuser.

Stop hiding in “But I’ve always done it this way” and “This is just fine” land

Bullshit. Life changes. So do you. You may have always done it the same way, but that doesn’t mean it’s efficient or effective or worth your time. And this is important: you’ll never know what works for you until you try.

Hey. Your parents were right when they said you couldn’t hate your vegetables until you tried them. It sucks when your parents are right. But you know how I found out I’m not a fan of artichokes? I ate one. And I’m not a beer drinker, either. I certainly tried; I studied in Germany for four months.

So you’re a night writer? Don’t go calling yourself that until you’ve written in the morning, afternoon, and evening too. You might find you write better at a different time. I write fiction better late at night, but I write non-fiction better during the day. Figured that out after getting stuck writing my thesis at night and deciding to write in the morning.

The next time you get stuck, don’t fight the rut with frustration and anger

Start experimenting.

You might learn something new about yourself in the process.

How do you shake yourself out of a blogging or writing rut?

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10 responses to “Break Out of Your Rut with Experimentation

  1. It’s like you knew I was going to need this today.

    But to answer your question, I usually make a switch between the stories I’m writing, or I’ll go from editing to writing (and vice versa). Lately I’m also trying to use positivity to get out of ruts. Because otherwise I get so frustrated and negative with myself that EVERYTHING, big or small, starts feeling like a rut. And it ruins my day. So I guess for me it’s mostly a mental change that needs to happen.

    • *buffs nails*

      I think switching activities is a great tactic. Sometimes a step away is a step forward.

      That negative to positive mental switch is hard. I think I’ve spent the last seven years working on it, and while I still have my negative moments, I’m still much better than I used to be. Like my netbook? Rather than being negative over how old and slow it is, I choose to look at it as a way to focus on one task at a time when I get distracted. And when it freezes, I usually choose to think that it means I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be (or that it was telling me to go do something else).

  2. I write the best blog posts during the day… when I’m supposed to be doing something else.

    It’s kind of a bitch.

    I need to figure out another time when I might write even BETTER blog posts.

    Most of the time, I just power through when I finally realize I’m so far behind I HAVE TO GET THIS DONE. And then I multi-task (hello Walking Dead marathon, nice to see you). Not really the best tactic.

    • Ha. Procrastination on one thing can lead to productivity on another.

      I’ve had blogging marathons while watching TV shows. Like the distraction helps me focus. Sounds weird, but sometimes it’s exactly what I need. But… it’s all about finding what works for YOU. If your tactic isn’t working, what else can you do?

  3. Jen

    Whenever I get stuck and can’t seem to get anything on the page, I get up and go outside. I’ll toss the ball around with the dog, go for a walk, anything. Part of it is about getting out of your own head. I do draw the line at pajama pants.

    • No pajama pants? More for me, then. 😉

      Getting outside is great. I actually came up with The Path of Least Revision while on a walk. (And then I spent the rest of the walk repeating it so I wouldn’t forget it.) I also find that showers are good for getting unstuck.

  4. I love the idea of just using little tricks to get out of a rut and to rewire your brain. I try to do this a bit, especially when I’m doing that whole long stare at the monitor thing and nothing’s coming out. My choice is actually usually a shower because that seems to break the ideas down, but also love going on walks as they help clear the mind. It’s actually something that Steven Johnson covers in his book Where Good Ideas Come From–that idea of an open associative time for your brain to make and connect ideas.

    Also, since I’ve been on a TED kick: http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_johnson_where_good_ideas_come_from.html

    So drink tea and coffee!! (But not wine? Boo.)

    • Showers and walks are awesome. I do my best thinking there. But little tricks are all you need—big changes aren’t necessary, and believing you need them may actually put you further in a rut.

      Hey. I read somewhere that wine does help you, and I’ve experienced it myself. Quite accidentally, as it happens. I was frustrated with the German homework I had to do. A glass of wine later, my filters were gone, my homework was done, and I was happy. WINE WORKS.

  5. I’m all about music, so changing the music can change my whole vibe. That’s always the first step.

    The next one I totally learned from you and that’s walk away! I take a step back and revisit, even if it’s only 15 minutes away from the computer it can make a world of difference for me.

    • Music is a big one for me, too. I’ve even go so far as to play the same song on repeat while writing so I could hang on to the vibe, but that’s beside the point…

      Yes! Walking away is also good. Gives you time to cool off and collect your thoughts. 🙂

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