Leeza Hernandez: Unsticking The Glue: Tips to help you overcome writing obstacles

LeezaBioPicHow do you get stuck during writing? Do you have a great title but no characters or story to go with it (yet)? Does your dialogue fall flat on the page? Is your antagonist cooler to hang out with than your protagonist? Do you have zero ideas about how your main character is going to resolve her conflict? Or, are you simply stuck for ideas because you’re staring at Mount Laundry, the kids are fighting over the remote and you just can’t think straight?

If you identified with at least one of the above, or something similar, please know that you are not alone, and what I just mentioned all come from personal experience. I’m also a recovering procrastinator! The purpose of this post is simply to help you cut loose and play—just to see where it takes you.

For me, writing is HARD. It’s not that I don’t love to write, but when I get stuck, I do have a tendency to occupy myself with little non-writing-related projects—usually something artsy—because, let’s face it, that’s way more fun than the pain of rewriting a scene that seems to be going nowhere anyway.

Here are a few quick tips and optional affirmations to help you battle any frustrations that might be holding you back from your creative genius.

SS_SubHead_BeKind

It’s okay to get stuck. We all do. The key is to make sure that you don’t stay there.  Affirm: “I am a brilliant writer/illustrator. Getting stuck provides the perfect opportunity for me to dig deeper into my writing, and creatively connect with my character(s).”

 

SS_SubHead_Procrast

Owning up to procrastination helps put it right back in its place. When you know you are supposed to be revising—avoid distracting thoughts of grocery shopping, or leafing through your favorite magazine—and declare “I’m procrastinating!’ then do something about it. Try one of the exercises in this post, or some of the other exercises featured during Summer School and you’ll be back on track in no time. Affirm: “I am focused and loosen up my writing muscle through playful character exercises.”  

SS_SubHead_TimeOut

We are all busy and have 24 hours in one day. Carving out a pocket of time just for yourself is tough but not impossible. Make it a habit by starting small. Assign ten minutes a day for free writing—waiting at school pick up, getting up/going to bed earlier, hiding in the bathroom! If you’re already at ten minutes, add five or ten more. Affirm: “When I write/illustrate for ten minutes a day, I bring my creative joy to the world!”

 

SS_SubHead_Reinforce

If you have kids in the family, extended, or otherwise, ask them questions. Talk about your character, explain the problem, and see if they can offer up any suggestions. Kids of all ages have amazing,out-of-the-box ideas. Be prepared for the shoulder shrug response, but typically, if an adult says to a kid, “Please will you help me with my story?” the response is a favorable one. Thank them for their help and try EVERYTHING they suggested. Affirm: “When I try new ideas, no matter how bizarre or foreign, I know it is the perfect way to push me beyond my comfort zone.”

 

SS_SubHead_Peers

Consider joining a local critique group or find a writing partner (someone who writes in the same genre is best). Bouncing ideas back and forth and being part of a positive, supportive and constructive group is great for motivation to get you back into your writing. Affirm: “I am always open to receiving/giving new ideas to help myself and others write or illustrate forward.”

 

SS_SubHead_WhatIf

One of the most constructive forms of feedback I receive from my critique partners is the  “What if… ?” or “Have you tried… ?” question. Consider a few of these basics to get you started:

  • What if you write this story (or chapter) in a different tense than you normally write?
  • Have you tried writing this story in first person rather than third?
  • Have you tried making your main character an animal instead of a human?
  • What if you made a list of the physical attributes your character employs when she experiences: anger, surprise, fear, reluctance, jealousy, joy, sadness, grief or curiosity?
  • Have you tried listing spoken words that your character might use when experiencing those emotions?
  • What if you gave your character a prop, or a sidekick?

 

SS_SubHead_StillStuck

That’s okay. It happens. Take a break or, if you’re up for it, try one of these writing prompts: Junk Drawer Dive [JunkDrawerPrompt_HighRes] or Lost and Found [LostFoundPrompt_HighRes]. Each prompt contains a ten-minute exercise and one that requires at least 30 minutes for free writing/sketching. All you need is paper and pencil, so grab your favorite beverage and hop to it!

 

JunkDrawer_02

LostFound_01

Thank you so much NerdyChicks and Summer School for having me over! I hope you all find a little something in this post useful to implement in your own writing or illustrating. Wishing you writing and illustrating success!

Leeza Hernandez

Leeza Hernandez

Leeza Hernandez grew up in England where she spent her playtime imagining, drawing and meeting characters from around the globe.  She’s the author/illustrator of Dog Gone! (Putnam) and its newest companion Cat Napped! and the illustrator of John Lithgow’s latest picture book Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo (S&S) and the Eat Your Homework series written by Ann McCallum (Charlesbridge). Leeza lives in Central New Jersey with her family.  Visitwww.leezaworks.com.

Enter to win some incredible prizes from Leeza: a goody pack featuring signed copies of Dog Gone! and Cat Napped!; An 8 x 10” matted and signed, hand-painted collage inspired by my cat … er … napping, a 4×6” silkscreen print of Dog Gone! and a Mystery Prompt Bag (ten tiny goodies with instructions for writing/sketching prompts). Five runner-ups will each receive a signed 4 x 6” silkscreen of Dog Gone! and a Mystery Prompt Bag too!

To be entered to win one of these prizes, please leave a comment on this blog post!

 

For another great writing exercise, please visit the Exercise Book.

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138 comments on “Leeza Hernandez: Unsticking The Glue: Tips to help you overcome writing obstacles

  1. Poppy Wrote says:

    Wonderful post!

    Like

  2. Lauri Meyers says:

    These affirmations are just what I needed today and will be promptly hung on my bulletin board. Thanks Leeza!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Leeza says:

    Hi everyone, thank YOU so much for your lovely comments and I am so glad you found my post useful (yay!). I learned that my own stickiness/procrastination, stems from fear—from failure, rejection, success, judgement, humiliation—the list is endless … and then somewhere along the line, I figured out that if I stop worrying about that external stuff and just focus on what I love to do, the rest simply dissipates. (Tho’ I did say I’m recovering, so I still have those moments, just easier to recognize them now and take positive action).

    Sardyr: You’re funny – I shout a lot of that too!
    Mary Jane: Happy new art table!
    Charlotte: You’re welcome ☺
    Julie: thank yoU!
    Pauline: Thanks so much!
    Maria: I think it’s good to get stuck from time to time, whether it’s procrastination or some other distraction. Forces us to step back and open our eyes to new solutions.
    Lori: That’s a great idea – Oliver Jeffers is amazing!
    Jen: How wonderful to have been able to write a chapter of a book from a prompt in high school—a natural and beautiful gift!
    Linda: That’s awesome. Sometimes we go over it, go under it or go around it, but other times we just need to plow right through it!
    Kirsti: Thank you!
    Debbie: That’s a great idea, too . When I am REALLY stuck I like to walk by the ocean – helps me clear the clutter in my head.
    Laurie: Hurrah! Affirmations don’t work for everyone but I personally feel they can be powerful motivators.
    SaDonna: You’re welcome.
    LeslieG: You=Awesome! Thank YOU and haven fun ☺
    Alice: Hope they help for you. Thanks!
    Chriistine: Anytime!
    Bookseedstudio:Yay! So happy, thank you for all your kind words and so glad the books are a hit. EAT YOUR SCIENCE HOMEWORK just came out, with lots more rabbit fun and receipes ☺
    Donnamcdine: Yay, have fun!
    jmvandenberg: I understand what you mean about juggling many projects-I imagine you are a great multitasker and you can use that to your strengths. The timer is a brilliant device, especially for juggling those projects I agree. It encourages me to work faster and no time for overthinking and instead let the right brain do its job. I LOVE TIMERS – FREE TIMERS FOR EVERYONE!!!
    Tracey: You’re so right. Writing and/or illustrating can be such a solitary process, but there’s definitely something comforting when we realize we are not alone.
    Robyn: Thank YOU!
    Ginaperry: Hey! Glad this came at the right time for you (funny how that happens, right?). I was stuck for a wee while about what to write for this post, alongside being stuck on another book project. I posed the “What if … other people get stuck?” question… et voila!
    JulianaLee: Hope you rope yourself some fantastic new ideas, Juliana – hee hee!
    Deirdre: At a workshop a few years back someone suggested turning the phrase “I’m a procrastinator” to “I take time to think through things carefully” – so there you have it, dreaming up a character could be exactly that. ☺
    Sarah: So glad, yay!
    Therese: Happy to help. Enjoy.
    Robinhallwrites: You’re welcome – happy unsticking your majesty (hee hee!)
    Kpbock: Good luck – hope you can un-stick, stick, stick. (I truly think we get stuck because we either simply need to take a break, or because we need to step back and look at what’s before us from a new perspective.
    Carol: that’s awesome. I struggle with dialogue a lot and this one trick helps me, even if it doesn’t make it into the final draft. It’s a conversation starter. My characters have surprised me with language I never thought they’d use!
    Sharon: Thank you so much. I think we creative folks can be too critical on ourselves when all we really need is a little TLC- everything is gonna be alright. ☺
    Shirley: Huzzah! We could run a contest for most inspiring junk drawer – hahah!
    Christine: So happy and thank you. Junk drawers are fascinating to me.
    Doreend: This is awesome and your workshop sounds amazing, too! It’s a great exercise to do even with pencil and paper. Writers: Simply write down the first word that comes into in your head and see where it goes, or illustrators: draw a shape/line/squiggle and let the pencil do the rest of the work. Thank you for sharing, love it!
    Dawn: thank you and have fun!
    Hmmmmm: A stretched-out tan rubber band? Fantastic! (and thank you)
    Beth: You’re welcome.
    Teresa: Hooray! Thankyou, too.
    Abuckles: Glad you loved the exercises and tip, thank you.
    Lisa: You’re welcome ☺
    Sue: Thanks, glad you loved the post.
    Sandee: So glad it helped. Good luck!
    Topangamria: Hooray! Thank you.
    Michelle: Funny! And glad you found those two helpful – me too.
    Tina: Yay, thank yOU!
    Aimee: Thanks so much!
    Susan: Glad you liked the junk drawer exercise. Cheers!
    Rajani: You’re welcome.
    Poppy: Thanks so much!

    Thank you again everyone, have an amazing weekend!

    Like

  4. Yikes. Is that what all my baking is all about? 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Leeza: Thank you for sharing many quick tips to unstuck myself to focus on writing and creativity. I especially like, “Be Kind to Yourself.” The links to Junk Drawer Dive and Lost and Found are excellent resources. ~Suzy Leopold

    Like

  6. I’m not the only one who writes in the bathroom, car, or anywhere I can grab five or ten minutes alone! Laundry is my procrastination of choice. My boyfriend’s grandkids my muses and sounding boards. I especially liked the idea of making a list of the physical attributes my character possesses when experiencing different emotions. Thank you for a great post!

    Like

  7. I say affirmations on my early walks. I will these!🌺

    Like

  8. donnacangelosi says:

    Thank you for your tips, encouragement and ideas for tapping into creativity, Leeza!

    Like

  9. Lauren says:

    It’s always the laundry, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing some solutions! I love the idea of asking my kids for help – I’ve done that with drawings (and it’s ALWAYS better after) but never with writing. I’ll try it!

    Like

  10. Valerie Larson-Howard says:

    I’m a life-long, proud procrastinator, so I appreciate any help in getting my work complete. Thank-you.

    Like

  11. l8k8 says:

    Thanks for the post. Great ideas on getting ideas flowing!

    Like

  12. deborahholtwilliams says:

    I’m going to try using your “what if” suggestions on a story that has had me stuck for way too long. Thanks, Leeza!

    Like

  13. Janie Reinart says:

    Leeza, I love the creative joy you bring to the world! Lost and Found /childhood –very cool exercise. Thank you.

    Like

  14. Pia Garneau says:

    I admit I am procrastinating. Thank you for this timely post Now off to write.

    Like

  15. Nat Keller says:

    I have to admit- I’m a procrastinator too!! Great tips on how to work with it though–

    Like

  16. Carol Nelson says:

    Thanks for the great advice. I am also a member of the procrastinator club and working on reforming. I will be making use of all of your tips. The ‘what if…’ questions are great! I know they will help me finish my manuscript!

    Like

  17. Poppy Wrote says:

    Great tips!

    Like

  18. Michelle Leonard says:

    Love your suggestion to gather a team around you to help you through the rough spots. Writing feels so lonely sometimes, but we just have to remember to let people in to help out. Thanks, Leeza!

    Like

  19. This was a fabulous post, Leeza. I loved the affirmations and the junk drawer prompt is the bomb…I could go on all day, and just might! :0)

    Like

  20. Marge Gower says:

    Thank you for the junk drawer idea and prompts. I have several of those pockets in my den to draw from. I love the idea about going for reinforcements. My grandchildren will be coming for a visit soon. I’m going to ask them what they would like to read about in a book. They have great imaginations. Thanks so much for your time.

    Like

  21. bucherwurm65 says:

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your inspirational affirmations! I will use them again and again.

    Like

  22. Talia says:

    I’m procrastinating right now! Seriously this post was exactly what I needed. That list at the beginning? YES to every single one. I’m so struggling with my characters right now. Thank you for this. I really need to start using affirmations to combat all the negative voices in my head.

    Like

  23. Leeza, did you write this for me? At times, the writing is hard and I love to procrastinate. Thanks for the awesome tips. I’ll apply them. 🙂

    Like

  24. Doris Stone says:

    Oh my gosh, Leeza, this post has so much helpful information in it, I don’t know where to start! That said, I guess the first step for a procrastinator like me is to set the timer for 10 minutes, put my butt in the chair and to start writing.

    Like

  25. Janet Smart says:

    I like the what ifs! I like giving your character a prop or sidekick.

    Like

  26. Danielle says:

    This was my favorite post so far! Thanks so much!

    Like

  27. writingit555 says:

    I really like how you reframe the “issues” with such positive affirmations. By saying those affirmations, it changes my frame of mind and I greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

    Like

  28. Carrie Brown says:

    You hit the nail on the head here, Leeza! This summer has be particularly challenging. Re: procrastination! While taking time out to do other things has definitely led me to new ideas for my writing, I have got to find a better balance. Hopefully, when the kids go back to school in a week, my summer brain will return from vacation! I love your affirmations and activities.

    Like

  29. Val M says:

    Love just saying “I’m procrastinating…” — how perfect to call it what it is and then force ourselves to march on! Thank you, Leeza.

    Like

  30. kdveiten says:

    Thanks for some great ideas, Leeza! Procrastination is probably my number one enemy. I’ve got to beat that one!

    Like

  31. Rena Traxel says:

    I certainly need to get in the habit of telling myself I’m procrastinating and get back to it.

    Like

  32. linnshekinah says:

    I can identify with this – totally. And I’ve learnt to be kind to myself. Critique groups/partners help but not entirely. I think we’ve to accept that getting stuck is part of our writing process and find ways to overcome our hurdles. I’ve found a few “unstuck methods” that work for me.

    Like

  33. S Marie says:

    Love the “What If” section of this post. Very helpful prompts to get un-stuck.

    Like

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