• One Way Out of a Writing Rut

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 13 comments
    My gaping writing rut

    My gaping writing rut

    I’ve got this friend who constantly, daily, harangues me for not writing enough.

    It’s justified; I don’t write enough. I’m forever saying to friends and clients, “You must write every day. Every. Single. Day!” Yet I don’t do the same.

    Nobody likes a hypocrite. Especially a hypocrite who even from his soapbox can’t see over the lip of the writing rut he’s in.

    This friend, on the other hand, writes more than anyone else I know. Every week he sends me a new novella or three new book reviews and six essays. It’s super annoying.

    (You hear that, friend whom I know is reading this? You, sir, are annoying.)

    “You belong in a sewer”

    It’s as if he has “Why don’t you write more?” permanently copied, and he pastes it all over my dumb ass every day in emails and text messages. He even leaves me singing voicemails about how I don’t write enough. And about how my surname rhymes with “manure” and “sewer.” And every time he sends me new work of his own, I can just taste the implied “And where’s your new writing, assface?”

    Here’s the gist of our typical exchange:

    Him: Why aren’t you writing right now?

    Me: I’m too busy.

    Him: Will you write later?

    Me: I’ll be too busy.

    [Hours pass.]

    Him: What are you doing right now?

    Me: Watching TV.

    Him: You’re just about the worst person on earth.

    Me: …

    [Tweet “”I’m forever saying ‘You must write every day!’ And yet I don’t do the same.””]

    A Sentence A Day Keeps the Annoying Friend Away

    A couple of weeks ago he turned off the vitriol (for a moment) and offered an intriguing idea: My new, and only, writing duty would be to send him one sentence per day. No more, no less. Just one per day.

    The only rules were: 1) It had to be a sentence I wrote that day, and 2) the sentences had to be related. They don’t have to be consecutive, but they have to come from the same project.

    I agreed. Partly because, well, talk about low pressure. But mostly because it would get the guy off my case for a while. (Or so I thought. I still get daily reminders: “Where’s your sentence?!”)

    That first night, I sat down at my computer and wrote a sentence to kick off a scene in the novel I’ve been talking about for years. It wasn’t a great sentence, and I had little idea where the scene would go, or what tomorrow’s sentence would be. But it was a start. It was more than I’d accomplished on that novel since coming up with the idea.

    I sent my friend the sentence. He wrote an encouraging reply. I stopped writing.

    The next day I wrote another sentence. He wrote an encouraging reply. I stopped writing.

    The third day I wrote another sentence. And then I continued writing.

    I didn’t send him the rest of what I wrote that night. That’s not part of the bargain. The fourth day, I sent him the line that follows the end of the few paragraphs I’d written the night before. Because remember, the lines I send him don’t have to be consecutive; they just have to come from the same project.

    A couple of weeks later and we’re still going. I have a significant portion of that first scene written, but even better, I’ve written every single day. Some days, it’s just the one obligatory line. Other days, it’s two lines, or two paragraphs, or two pages.

    I now write every single day. I now practice what I preach.

    If you’re in a writing rut, maybe this is worth a try. Choose a friend who cares about you and your writing, and who is willing to annoy the bejesus out of you, and pass along to him/her just one sentence per day.

    Because sometimes a simple bit of accountability is all you need to get out of a writing rut.

    [Tweet “”Sometimes a simple bit of accountability is all you need to get out of a writing rut.””]


    What tactics have you tried to get out of a writing rut? Which have proven effective, and which have proven ineffective, and (of course) why? Let us know in the comments below, yo.


    Linked2WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is books editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and contributes regularly to the Dallas Morning News, Publishing Perspectives, the Observer and other publications.

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    B. Holloway

    Okay, I started this last night and wrote one sentence. This better work, or I’m blaming you!

    (Just kidding, I won’t. But I probably will.)

    J. Sommers

    Maybe it starts with one sentence and builds as time passes? Like by the second month you’re up yo a paragraph a day and by the fifth month you bump it to you a page a day. I guess at that rate you’d be writing a book a day within a year or two. I think that’s what Hames Patterson does.

    Anyway thanks for the tip. I might try this. and see how it goes.


    I will try this, but will make it like dieting, where I get a weekly “cheat day.” One day during which I allow myself to not write. And eat whatever I want. Thanks for the tip.

    Question: What if I’m not working on an overarching project? I guess the same applies if I’m working in essays and articles, etc. So long as I’m not just writing a random, disconnected sentence every day?

    Yi Shun Lai

    How do I “like” this post? *click* This is fabulous. I am sending it to all my friends.

    Betty G.

    You belong in a sewer isn’t very sweet. You look like a nice
    young man. But we all need someone to prod us sometimes.

    I don’t really have writer friends. But I do have a coworker who
    will asks about my writing. Maybe I can lean on him. And when I
    send him a sentence he won’t be judgmental, since he’s not a
    writer. Sounds like a win/win.

    Judy Liautaud

    I get up make a cup of coffee and tell siri to set the timer for one hour. She says, “remember a watched iPhone never boils.” so funny she is. Then I write. when the timer goes off I quit or keep going if I am liking it. Two years later I have a book. My days go much better when I have writing under my belt.

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x