Friday, June 30, 2017

When We’re Stuck, Frustrated, or Feel Like Giving Up by Karen Sargent

Karen Sargent
The writing life can be filled with ups and downs. What do you do when you get in a funk, and things just don’t seem to be going right? Karen Sargent offers encouraging words that might be just what you need to help keep you motivated. I’m tucking some of these gems away, myself! ~ Dawn

When We’re Stuck, 
Frustrated, or 
Feel Like Giving Up

We writers like our routines, don’t we? We sit in our favorite spot to write (the love seat in my living room immersed in natural light). The drink that best fuels our creativity sits nearby (a mug of cream and sugar with a touch of coffee for me, please). Our favorite resources are within reach (my well-worn copy of The Emotion Thesaurus). And other various tools are strategically placed (a purple pen and a note pad on my right, so I can jot down ideas that shoot from my brain when it’s firing—like an ingenious plot complication, or avocados so I’ll remember to add them to my grocery list.)

With everything “just so,” we power up the laptop and begin to write. Sometimes the words flash like lightning from our fingertips to the keyboard, powerful and magnificent. Other times we write three words forward and ten words back, wondering how many times—and how hard—we can punch the back space key before it starts throwing sparks.

When my words can’t be coaxed or wheedled or threatened forth, I pull at my hair and scream at the cat and heave my coffee mug across the room where it shatters against the wall. Not really. But I sure feel like it.

Instead, I take a deep yoga belly breath (or what I imagine is a belly breath since I don’t yoga) and reach for what may possibly be my most important writing tool of all (trumpets flourish…deep manly voice announces): THE BINDER OF INSPIRATION!

Now, that sounds all fancy and sophisticated I know, but actually, my binder is just a binder. Black. Two-inches. Three rings. Inside are the printed chapters of my manuscript because I still proof better on paper than on a screen.

But outside, inserted beneath the clear plastic that covers the front of the binder, are words that inspire me to keep writing—handwritten on post-its or paper scraps or neatly typed on colored paper, creating a jumbled mosaic of inspiration. So when I need to be inspired, I go to the binder. And depending on my crisis-of-the-moment, I seek the voices I need to hear most.

When I’m stuck in my story, I look for inspiration to unstick me:

  • Questions to ask when writing: “What if?” or “What can be worse?”—Jerry Jenkins
  • Plunge a character into terrible trouble. Everything he does to solve it only makes it worse.—Jerry Jenkins (again)
  • Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe.—Stephen King

Occasionally I dwell on how impossible it can be to get a manuscript past the industry gatekeepers and into readers’ hands. I wonder, “Why am I doing this?” The answers are here:

  • my heart woke me crying out last night 
         how can i help i begged 
         my heart said 
         write the book—Rupi Kaur (poem)
  • Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.—Robert McKee
  • At the end of the day a reader is going to pause her life and open your book to enter the world you created.—Robert Yehling

Or when doors close—windows, too—and I whisper, “I can’t do this,” these words tell me I can:

  • Do not despise this small beginning, for the eyes of the Lord rejoice to see the work begin. Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)
  • Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galations 6:9 (NLT)
  • Our investments of time now will lead to success later.—Chinese fortune cookie

Okay, I don’t believe in fortune cookies, but I do believe God could speak through a fortune cookie if He wanted to (He is God). Or it could be coincidence. But since this came at a low-low time when I really needed it…it’s binder worthy!

Whose voices and words inspire you? Are they binder worthy? Please share. I’m always looking for inspiration to add to my mosaic!

When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother’s love never ends—not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her death, she becomes a “lingering spirit” and returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family’s downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing.

Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she is responsible for her mother’s death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence.

Although limited by her family’s grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and salvage her family before her second chance runs out.

Karen Sargent creates characters whose imperfect faith collides with real-life conflicts, taking readers on a journey through grace and redemption to discover enduring hope. A romantic element is woven within each story. In addition to writing novels, she blogs at The MOM Journey, where moms aren’t perfect and that’s perfectly okay. When she’s not writing, she teaches high school and college English and resides in the beautiful Arcadia Valley with her husband and two daughters.

To connect with Karen and learn more, please visit:




  1. Karen, I love the Emotion Thesaurus and all it's "sisters," too. A snatch up anything by Angela Ackerman as soon as it's released.

    This is a great post, one to be bookmarked for the next time I hear, "what do you think you're doing," in my mind. Thanks so much!

    1. I love all of Angela and Becca's resources, too! I can't believe how packed with free tools their website is. I discovered them early in my writing journey...thank goodness! Thanks for your encouraging response to my post. :)

  2. Since adopting our two rescue dogs, Zech 4:10 has become one of my favorites! Great post, Karen. Happy Friday, and may your words flow like lightning bolts today. :)

    1. Dora, you are my favorite person today! I love rescue dog rescuers! :) When my animal-loving daughter was little, she confessed she felt bad because she would rather help dogs than people (our church is community service based). I assured her God designed us all differently to take care of all of His creation. :) Words like lightning bolts...I love that, Dora. Thank you for that blessing!

  3. Karen's words ring true. It reminds me of preparing a meal for company. You want the perfect menu. A blend of complimentary flavors with a beautiful presentation. You put out the fine China and set the table according to etiquette standards. If everything goes according to plan you will succeed.

    I get caught up in setting the mood before I write to get the words flowing. I'm trying to recreate that day when beautiful words were faster than my fingers. But like my messy kitchen when I'm trying a new recipe it's the end product that counts.

    Along the way I find inspiration in authors I enjoy reading. The advice I've gotten through years of conferences seep through. I often pull out my notes from those classes for inspiration or words I've saved from inspiring blogs or encouraging words from critiques and experienced writers. I'm encouraged by those who write despite challenges and I lean on the Lord for confirmation to keep writing.

  4. Great analogy, Daphne, although I'm not quite the hostess/cook you appear to be, so this description really heightened my anxiety...which pretty much equals how I feel when my writing is stuck. Well done! :) Thank you for sharing your insight and process. Those old conference notes are definitely a good place to go for inspiration. I haven't done that intentionally when I'm stuck, but I'm adding it as a strategy. Thank you!

  5. What a great idea to create a binder--I love it! What I want to do is get a game board of Snakes and Ladders and put in on my wall by my desk. It sounds strange, but I was having coffee with a writer the other day and he ised it as an analogy for the writer's road....that you keep heading forward, and sometimes life sends you a ladder and you learn something quickly, get a boost of promotion, a lucky break, a great idea, etc. And sometimes you encounter a snake, and you have to go back a bit, but that's part of the journey. If we keep moving forward, we will get there, and learn so much on the journey. We just have to stay true to the path and know that it won't always be ladders, but the snakes are what makes us strong and adaptable, and we'll persevere. ;)

    1. Interesting concept, Angela! Thanks for sharing. By the way, I use the The Emotion Thesaurus all the time, and I recommend it to my editing clients.

    2. Great analogy from your writer friend, Angela! Can I have the Ladders & Ladders version of that game? :-) Wise words.


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