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Getting Unstuck

Getting Unstuck Writers & Books, April 10, 2021

David Ruekberg, Instructor 

  1. Introductions: A writer you like / Someone who influenced you as a writer / Why you’re here
  2. Getting unstuck
    1. “Lower your standards” (misquote of William Stafford)
    2. Acknowledge, then ignore the critic. Don’t edit yourself (until after you write your first draft). 
    3. Write fast (Alicia Hoffman).
    4. Write every day: one line, or a lot of them.
    5. Journal.
    6. Use prompts.
    7. Read .
    8. Take a walk.
    9. Push through. 
    10. Take 10 minutes to do nothing.
    11. Have a conversation with a child.
    12. Expand your comfort zone. Find your area of “Optimal Anxiety.” Set a do-able goal. (
    13. Collect language
      1. Nye: “Valentine for Ernest Mann.” 
      2. Tony Hoagland: “Commercial for a Summer Night”
    14. Find or make a writing buddy or a group.

Prompts (or Google your own, that’s what I did)

Don’t necessarily feel constrained by the guidelines of the prompt. After all, it’s just a prompt — something that prompts you into getting the pen moving. On the other hand, if you never follow the guidelines, it might be useful to try. Expand your comfort zone. 


Make your own prompts

  • Re-read a poem that you enjoy or are intrigued by. What is the writer is up to? Do you connect with the subject matter? Is the form of interest?
    • Things To Do Today, by Joe Wenderoth
  • Pretend you’re about to teach a writing class. What would you suggest to aspiring writers? Teaching is a great way to learn something. 
  • Make a list. I think it was David Ignatow who said, “Every poem is a list poem” (or something like that). 
    • Make a list of memories. Make that your poem, or choose one and write about it. 
    • Making any list will trigger more ideas. Once you start writing images down, it will generate more. Just get started. 


Start or join a writing group, or find a writing buddy

  1. In person: 
    1. Take a class and contact a few people you think would be a good fit.
    2. Go to poetry readings. After getting to know people there, reach out and form a group. 
      1. Writers & Books website, City News, etc. 
      2. Just Poets: See their calendar for readings, meetings, and workshops. (
      3. Open mics: 
        1. New Ground Poetry Night. First Tuesday of the month. 7:30 pm. 
          2. Equal Grounds Cafe, 750 South Ave, Rochester. 
        2. Writers & Books Wide Open Mic. First Wednesdays. 7 pm.
  2. Online: Maybe you have met people at a conference and want to stay in touch, or people in your own town who are unable to meet regularly. 
    1. Email, Facebook group, or other forum. 
      1. Facebook: Join “ROC City Writers & Readings” group.  (Only for posting announcements, but if you want to contact people, you can PM them.)
    2. Search for a local group. 
    3. National Poetry Writing Month challenge: 
    4. Poem a Day challenge (see Writers Digest above).
    5. Internet sites: Be cautious. In addition to creeps and trolls, there are a lot of people out there hungry for adoration, but not as interested in giving helpful feedback. I’ve never joined an online group, but this one might be good: 

If you join a group, decide ahead of time what your ground rules are. Things to consider: 

  1. Regular meeting time, place, and duration. 
  2. Ground rules: What is your purpose in meeting? Positive comment only? Constructive criticism? Brutal honesty? (I prefer “descriptive analysis.”)
  3. Parameters: one poem per meeting? Two or three? It can take 20-30 minutes just to discuss one poem. 
  4. Writing from prompts or on your own. 
  5. Send poems around ahead of time, or read them cold when you meet? 
  6. 3-5 people is a good number. Too many becomes a committee. 

If you decide to work with a writing buddy, decide on your process. 

  1. Check in regularly, or just call when you’re stuck? 
  2. Exchange work, or just encourage each other? 



Writing and Publishing FAQ, Academy of American Poets

Resource lists of publishing opportunities

Site Comments Cost URL
Duotrope Search by genre, topic, contest; track your submissions $50/year
New Pages Calls for submissions (usually by topic), contests, etc.  Free
Poets & Writers Search by genre, topic, contest, etc. Also how to promote, meet others. List of readings, workshops.  Free
Submittable Site that most online journals use to manage submissions. They also have announcements of contests, tips for writers, etc.  Free, though journals and presses may charge reading or contest fees.


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