Sighing, squirming, brewing coffee, clicking on site after site I’m avoiding what’s in front of me. Notes line the margins of my manuscript and questions fill my mind as I tap, tap the keys attempting to ‘say what I mean’ and develop this story.

I write about the sounds and sighs of summer – how it became a season of scars. I write about losing Betty. What did she say just a couple of weeks before she passed away? And I write about my reaction to the doctor delivering the news. “I’m sorry, Heidi. We have to amputate.”

When I began this memoir I knew it would take a toll. I cried, drove on winding back roads, wrung my hands, and got it out. Almost three years later I have the incredible fortune of a book deal. I’m grateful. This is a rare opportunity and it’s a dream come true. And now, right now, I’m a little stuck.

I delve into my story, tugging on a history I worked hard to overcome. I realize this is the point of the book. To know one can be devastated and survive. It is possible to get to the other side. I just hope I can write to the other side. I want to finish well. While I have supportive, loving people in my life, writing can be lonely. I am my very own annoying exhausted cheerleader. You.Can.Do.This. Keep.Going. And I don’t know about you, but I am easily distracted.

There is a life to participate in and pursue. It wasn’t my intention to let life get this busy and I wish I could be all Little House on the Prairie running in the meadow and splitting wood with Pa. But, that is not my reality. I have a family, a house and a DVR to look after! This week my job is to temper my daughter’s dream of becoming a ballerina, work on my son’s listening skills, fold the laundry this time, wrestle with guilt, watch Parks & Rec, and nosedive into recovery.

I sit behind the computer staring at my screen. Start, stop, start, stop. Stand up, sit down. So. This is writer’s block.

What do you do when you can’t write?

63 thoughts on “stuck

  1. Robbie

    Sorry you are having writer’s block. It must be emotionally draining to re live it all as you write? I wish I had some advice but I’m new to all this.

    1. heidi Post author

      Thanks, Robbie! It can be draining. I think it helps to acknowledge it (that’s it’s emotional) and accept it. It’s getting better, though.

  2. Laura

    Wait. Watch. Listen. It seems to come from interacting with others. I love to watch how people act and react. I learn from them. Music…stirs the soul and the mind begins to engage.

    Love your story.

    1. heidi Post author

      The stepping away does help. It’s important to have some time to regroup and refuel. Love you, too.

    1. heidi Post author

      Definitely – a change of pace. I just ran some errands and got outside. You can’t be locked away in a room forever.:)

  3. Jeff D'Antonio

    I’ve never written a book, but I know that most of my best blog posts have written themselves. For me, writing is my release, my outlet for emotions too deep to uncover any other way. There have been times when I’ve needed to write but could not find the words, and when that happens I know that I’m just not ready yet. Usually the words start to come when I’m sitting quietly somewhere on a rock next to a creek watching the water go by. A thought comes to mind and I start to explore it. I turn it over and over in my mind, sorting it out, making sense of it. When the thought starts to take the shape of a phrase or two, then I know it’s time to start writing. That’s when I go back to the computer and start tapping on the keys. And it all just comes out and writes itself.

    Sit quietly, and don’t force it. It will come.

    1. heidi Post author

      Jeff, I think I’m just going to print this out and paste it to my computer, wall, fridge, wherever I can see it! It’s a good reminder for me. This is how I write, too. Turning it over and exploring it, somehow the writing finds me.
      When there are deadlines it changes the writing. Don’t get me wrong, I am hugely grateful. To have a deadline and people believing in me is a gift. I just want to live up to it. I need to find that balance of pushing and waiting.
      Thank you for this gorgeous advice.

    1. heidi Post author

      Haha!!! Yes, shop! I almost, almost put that into this post. I just need to shop. It’s inspiring, right?

  4. sheri

    Wow, congratulations on your book deal! That is so wonderful, you deserve it! As for the writer’s block – it will pass 🙂 You’re just in a little slump. Step away for a day or two. Reflect. Let a slow gaze at the stars bring you clarity. Don’t stress, it will come back to you 🙂

    1. heidi Post author

      Sheri, thank you so much! It’s very, very exciting.
      Yeah, I think I place a ginormous amount of pressure on myself. I could use a “slow gaze at the stars”. I love that. 🙂

  5. christy

    I make a list of things I have to do, that I don’t want to do, and start doing them and checking them off the list. Then I start hating whatever it is that I’m doing more than I hate the idea of going back to the screen. So make a list!

    I love your writing Heidi! xo

    1. heidi Post author

      I like lists, too! I’ve been organizing and cleaning out my closet, my kids’ rooms in an effort to wipe the slate clean, so to speak. Maybe I’ll just continue until I reach your method, hate it and the writing will take off….you are so, so funny!! xoxo

  6. Julia

    I think it is so hard sometimes to find the time, energy, and emotional strength to delve into your past and re-live moments of such intensity. Your words will come. They are powerful, and important, and I can not wait to read them.

  7. Mayor Gia

    Ooof, that’s sucky. It’s easier to find stuff to write about when you’re not digging into the hard parts in your life..

    1. heidi

      Yes, I haven’t had a hard time coming up with blog posts. It’s that digging deeper that’s getting to me, I s’pose. 🙂

  8. Emily

    You’re a talented, hard-working writer and I (along with so many others!) am really interested to read your memoir, but take it slow, okay? Keep starting. Just don’t be too hard on yourself when you stop for awhile. Sometimes I think writer’s block is a sign that you’re putting too much pressure on yourself, you know?

  9. loraleigh

    Well…just to let you know you have been on my mind lately. I actually thought “hey Heidi hasn’t posted anything in a while??? Hmm wonder what’s going on??? Uh Oh I hope it’s not writers block!” So! Know that you are thought of and I’m sending up my prayers thoughts and best wishes for you to overcome. I do hope you can find some space to turn your thoughts over and explore them. Of course, be thankful you are not in MB right now because that would not be possible here. No, all our winding roads and quite spots are so badly frost heaved that you fear you just might hit a soft spot that will actually be so soft, you’ll wonder if you are literally sliding to China, or your vehicle will be squished off the road by a gigantic seeder, discer, or truck carrying stuff that is worthy of a “waring dangerous goods” or “explosive” label; take your pick. I suppose your thoughts might be jogged into action by the Hutterite guy you meet at the garbage dump who has come to discreetly get rid of his two whiskey bottles. He could also be a distraction though, because even though you can hardly understand a word he is saying through is mix of broken English and Low German, you’ll understand enough to know that he’s got another full bottle of whiskey in his empty 15 passenger van along with some form of tobacco, and that he wants you to join him in some whiskey drinking and smoking, sit down a spell and talk to him about where you farm and who your husband is.
    So my friend…:-) Be thankful you are not suffering from “the block” and in MB all at the same time wouldn’t that be truly dreadful! 🙂
    Much love to you.

    1. heidi

      You are so funny!! And sweet. I write here once a week, so the blog has been going okay. It’s the book. The book.
      Yeah, um, pretty happy I’m not in MB. I don’t know how you do it. And, what? You didn’t want to hang out with crazy drunk guy? I can’t see why… 😉
      We’ll talk. On the phone. Soon.

  10. Galit Breen

    Oh you, I love how transparent this is.

    I know that you’ll get there. Even this post is on the way to There.

    (When I get stuck I go for walks, listen to music, exercise, work someplace else, reread a part I love, write a scene that’s been playing in my mind even if it comes Later or NotNow. I read blogs that inspire me or a piece of “Bird by Bird” or a book. Sometimes I sleep it off.)

    I’ll cheerlead with you, too!!

    1. heidi

      Music and reading are often great triggers for me. I need to do more listening and reading…that may get me There. 🙂 And walk, get outside…fresh air has a way of curing what’s bothering us and cleaning out the cobwebs.
      Thank you for you support and encouragement, Galit. It means a lot to me.

  11. Carolyn

    Great post. You said it so well.
    When I get stuck writing, I stop and do something completely different. It’s then that my mind will drift back to what I was working on, and then I’m unstuck ~ most times 🙂
    Good luck.

    1. heidi

      Thank you, Carolyn. I like that – do something different. I spend so much time with my computer! I could use different scenery. 🙂

  12. Kerstin

    Oh Heidi, you’ll get there.
    I think one thing that many writers do (including myself) is not read enough. Take time off and read. Go split some wood and run through Fort Langley ;).
    I do know how you feel. I’ve been there.
    Don’t put all that pressure on yourself, but start dreaming.
    Also, did you know that I procrastinate simultaneously on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest? Yeah, I get distracted easily as well, but always find the way back when it counts. I know you will as well!

    1. heidi

      Oh my gosh! I love you! “Go split some wood and run through Fort Langley”…that made me laugh out loud. I can see it now…

      You’re right – I need to back off a bit, dream, and I will find my way back. Thank you for that.

  13. Toriz

    Firstly, I want to say congratulations to you! 🙂

    And secondly, here’s how I try and get past writer’s block:

    First I just get up and have a little wander around the house; just to get moving. Then I sit back at the computer and try again.

    If that doesn’t work, I go and get a drink. Then I try again.

    If that doesn’t help, I grab a snack. Then sit back at the computer to try again.

    And failing that I go for a change of scenery or activity for a while; go for a walk, play with the dog, work on some crafts, mess about online, etc. Sometimes just focusing your mind on something else can do the trick.

    But, if I’ve tried all the above with no luck, then I open a new document, and type whatever pops in to my head (regardless of whether it’s any good, or related to the project I planned to work on – or any of my others). Even if this means I write things like, “I don’t know what to write about” or “this is frustrating” or whatever. I think a few times I’ve just written things like, “blah, blah, blah.” The idea is just to get your body and mind agreeing it’s writing time. Often that’s all it takes.

    And if that doesn’t work either, then I go through the process again until it does. And if I get tired in the meantime I take a nap. Often if everything else failed I’ll wake after a nap with ideas buzzing about in my head. Not always, but often.

    Just keep trying all the ways you can think of, and eventually you’ll be over your writer’s block! *hugs*

    1. heidi

      I love the idea of opening a document and write for the sake of writing. I used to do that more. Maybe that could jump-start my brain and heart, you know? Great advice! Oh, and napping…I could always use more sleep!

  14. tanya

    My friend Heidi is the Little Engine that Could.
    “I think I can, I think I can”
    And when the book is done done?
    “I thought I could, I thought I could”


  15. kim

    You read back what you have just write, and realize that you more than overcame everything put in front of you. You didn’t just survive, you blossomed. And as proof of that, you have a wonderful family. As you have said in a previous entry, you are right where want to be, in the middle of everything. And sure its busy, but its also kinda fun and exciting.

    Crying may seem hard, but, in truth, it is one of the most healthy ways to deal with things, crying shows you are alive, passionate and still dealing with everything.

    Do the things you need to do, dare to dream and allow your mind to wander, don’t force the writing, it will come in time.

    Congrats on the book deal.

    (long term reader)

    1. heidi

      Kim, long term reader, I am sooo happy to meet you!
      Truthfully, I need a big cry. An all-out sobfest might actually be the very thing that would loosen me up.
      Thank you so much for your very kind words and advice here. I’m taking it all to heart. Truly, so glad to meet you.

  16. Sarcasm Goddess

    Ugh. Writer’s block blows. When I can’t write, going for a walk helps tremendously. Oddly, so does doing the dishes, but I hate doing the dishes so it’s a very conflicting experience. Don’t worry, the writer’s block will pass eventually. YOU CAN DO IT!

    Oh, one other thing that really helps me. Whenever I know WHAT I want to say I just can’t seem to get the words to form on the paper, I open up my email and pretend I’m emailing someone. I write what I’m trying to write in my book, but because it’s email and much less formal than MY BOOK the words flow naturally. I don’t worry about proper grammar or punctuation, I just dump the words on there like I am talking to a friend on the phone. The hardest part is getting the words out there. Once they’re there, you can always edit. GOOD LUCK!

    1. heidi

      Haha!! You said it – writer’s block blows!
      I love the email idea and not to worry about grammar or punctuation. I sometimes write all free-style for a bit and then I go back to clean it up. It’s better than fretting over every word and where it’s placed, and just go with it. Thank you for your words of encouragement! And your hope. I’ll take it. 🙂

  17. tara pohlkotte

    um. i cannot wait to hold your words in my hand. this is completely out there, don’t mean to be a creaper, but if it ever helps to talk through what you want to write to a person who hasn’t heard your full story, i would most happily love to talk with you, read, or distract you with meaningless banter 🙂 but you will do it. you most certaintly have the talent. you have the dream… consider me your new cheerleader. 🙂

  18. heidi

    Tara, you are just so dreamy. And I say that in a non-creepy way. 😉
    The book is mostly done. I’ve been given notes by my agent and I’m revising accordingly. I lucked out with her as she is amazing and super supportive. She and my editor have real vision for the book, so I’m attempting to better the book by digging deeper and developing more of the story, going over every chapter. We’re all on the same page with the same goals. Now I just need to make that happen and I’m getting there. I made good progress at the beginning and I’m happy with it…I just need to keep going. 🙂
    Thank you for the offer! I will happily take you on as my cheerleader!

  19. Louise Ducote

    We all know you’ll bust through any pesky writer’s block that might be messing with you, and you must know it, too. Sometimes a break helps. Sometimes writing something completely unrelated to what you’re supposed to be writing helps. For me it’s always been gardening; an hour of listening to my tomato plants seems to peel away all the unneeded junk from my mind so I can get to what I was after in the first place. It’s all there.

    1. heidi

      Louise, what hope you bring me! Little did you know, the timing of your comment was just perfect. 🙂 Thank you. I needed this.

  20. stephanie

    I think you’ll get there, Heidi, by doing what you do every day. It’ll happen. In fits and starts, maybe, but it will happen. You write so beautifully that the words will find their way to the screen, and then to the page. In the meantime, take care of that DVR. That made me laugh out loud, and the Little House on the Prairie image. Your sense of humor will see you through, and we will all be at our computers waiting to click purchase to buy that book.

    1. heidi

      Oh, Stephanie, thank you. With all my heart, thank you.
      You bet that DVR is looked after with utmost care! It’s one of my favorite things. In fact, tonight I will catch up on a few of my stories. 🙂

  21. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

    You need to get your sweet little writing self back over to the other grid. Missed you so I had to go looking. Glad to find you. You will get unstuck, you will write your story, and you will rock your book. I may not know much, but that much is clear. Nice piece as usual, Erin

    1. heidi Post author

      Thank you for the very kind words, Erin. And thank you for cheering me on. I really, really appreciate it.

    1. heidi Post author

      Hi Kristin! Thank you! There is some fabulous advice here. It’s been an enormous help this week.

  22. julie gardner

    Back in September, I wrote a post about writers block and would you believe I referenced Little House on the Prairie throughout it? We are like pioneer-soul-mates or something.

    My post was after I got dehydrated during a Weezer concert in Palm Desert and likened being parched to having my idea-well running dry and then I digressed and pretty soon Charles and Caroline were there solving Half-Pint’s problems with a little extra love and attention.

    But we don’t get prairie miracles now, do we?


    My brain sometimes needs a restart which I get from either A. re-reading what I’ve previous written (the editing gets me back into the mood/voice and if nothing else I’m revising and polishing my words which is never a waste of time) or B. writing something COMPLETELY separate from my current project (then there is no pressure for continuity, no need to make any pieces fit into a whole) or C. walking away from the computer.

    Sometimes, we just need a break. From the words, from the work, from ourselves.
    The inspiration will flow again; after all, it’s your story to tell. But the mind and heart and fingers can only take so much before they need a rest.

    Be gentle with yourself. And patient. Remember that this is HARD work, but worth it in the end. You’ve already come so very far.

    And you will get where you’re going eventually.
    You will.

    1. heidi Post author

      I know you get this. And I appreciate your words, your encouragement more than I can say. And a shared love of Little House on the Prairie? Are you kidding?! We are totally pioneer-soul-mates or something. 🙂

      I looked over my writing, got back into my voice, and that helped this week. Also, I took breaks. I tried some shopping therapy and just took time out. It’s been busy lately and I think I’ve underestimated how much that can impact my writing.

      Julie, thank you so, so much.

  23. Jennifer - Treading Water in the Kiddie Pool

    Oh my gosh Heidi! I must have missed the post where you announced you got a book deal. That is awesome! Congratulations! And I’m sure the block will go away. I can’t wait to read your book when you’re famous 😉 You’re such an amazing writer and have a wonderful story to tell.

  24. Kimberly S. (Sperk*)

    Gorgeous post. Even when you have writer’s block, you have a powerful voice of significance. I love that you are here.
    Distractions get to me too, and I’ve figured out that I get writer’s block when the “difficult” stuff is waiting to pour out. I try to find things that help me to feel courageous, like reading inspiring stories here and around the blogosphere, allowing myself to be in the moment with my children, or simply listening to what’s going on around me-hear the birds outside the window. I try to focus on things that are, in essence, “life.”

    1. heidi Post author

      Oh my, this is so lovely. And so true. I am terrible at being and staying in the moment. In fact, I just wrote a post about it.
      I’m digging deeper and my body is all, ‘no way! You’re not doing this’. So, I get stuck. I’m breaking through, though, and it’s definitely been better the last few days.
      Thank you for your kind and wise words, Kimberly.

    1. heidi Post author

      Yes!! Reading can serve as great inspiration. It’s often my go-to tool, but I need a good book right now. Any recommendations?

  25. Jay- The Dude of the House

    I was wondering the same thing yesterday while trying to compose today’s post.
    I learned that checking Facebook and Twitter repeatedly do not help me change course.

    You’ll get past it, you are a great writer. Go watch Parks and Rec and clear your mind a little. (Funniest show on TV, IMO).

    1. heidi Post author

      Hi Jay! Ha, ha! Social media…can be such a huge distraction.
      Yup, I agree. I love, love Parks & Rec.

  26. IntenseGuy

    Ah, but you have written about “reaching the other side.”

    Remember those sweet moments where your son and daughter look to you and say something… and in those words, their love, complete acceptance of you for what you are (and that is a great mom, writer, and probably a host of other things too)? That to me, was the “other side”.

    The closing page of this book could be the applause in your ears as you speak to the firemen… and inspire not only them… but yourself.

  27. Kate Coveny Hood

    Sometimes the words just don’t come. I hate that. Even when the words that DO come are mediocre, it’s better than total block. The loss of momentum is the worst. But they eventually come back. And since I see that I have two more recent posts to read – I assume that yours did.

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