All writers get stuck sometimes. Call it resistance or blockage or being daunted by your next steps. It traps the best of us and we end up with no words written. It’s a terrible dilemma and as days pass, the empty hole where words belong grows deeper. At times like these, when it seems you have nothing to say, wouldn’t it be grand to have go-to solutions? Which is where 52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block by Chris Mandeville comes in. She distills her teachings into a sort of actionable shorthand. Her book is crammed with pep talks, pick-me-ups, inspirational tales, but mostly practical actions to replace tired routines or desperation moves. It’s written in short, easy-to-digest chapters, yet delves into important techniques like scene building, plot points and creating character back stories. It also contains out-of-the-box, freeing suggestions to help writers—orchestrating retreats, creating play lists, using guided meditation, and walking outdoors with a fictional character as a companion.
52 Ways to Get Unstuck is a guide to help you brainstorm and delve deeper into your process and it gives permission to try a range of tactics to start the words flowing again. However, it’s not a book that coddles or soothes; it’s a book that suggest solid, practical acts that will bring about better outcomes. Maybe it's just me, but when I'm looking for a book to help me be a more prolific writer, I prefer books that are straightforward, yet imaginative and appeal to my reason.
All writers face blocks, barriers, impediments, and downright opposition to getting our stories out of our imagination and onto a page. Anything that can help overcome these qualifies as a life preserver in a stormy sea. Chris Mandeville’s book 52 Ways to Get Unstuck offers a wide range of techniques for different situations, styles of writing, and writers. I got inspired just reading the table of contents, and have a list of the Ways I want to try first.
This is a treasure trove of writer’s helpers. Chris’s personal experience as a writer comes through as both comforting and encouraging. She’s been there herself and presents some very effective ways to move your writing forward. She uses examples and quotes from many other writers to illustrate her points, letting us know all along that though we write alone, we’re not really alone as ‘writers’. It’s like being in a writers’ group right on the page. This book is full of effective physical, psychological, and often metaphysical observations and suggestions. Regardless of whether you’re a pragmatist or a romantic, you’ll find help here.
The construction of 52 Ways to Get Unstuck is designed to be used by selecting your exercise using the 52 cards of a deck, or the 52 weeks of the year, or just randomly by whatever strikes your fancy as the best thing for your current problem.