Getting Unstuck: Insight into Finding Words with Dawn Leas – A HippoCamp 2022 Recap

by Angie Mohn

This post is part of a HippoCamp 2022 recap series, with guest blog posts written by HippoCamp attendees. Learn more about our conference for creative nonfiction writers.

Writers oftentimes find themselves stuck… stuck to find words, stuck in their thoughts, maybe even stuck in traffic. Nobody likes to be stuck in the proverbial rut with wheels spinning and nothing happening, not moving forward but not going backwards either. Just stuck.

Writers frequently grapple with words. It’s nothing new under the sun. Whether the writer is taking pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, finding the right words at the right moment for the right scenario and description can be challenging. The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. You can get unstuck!

Author Dawn Leas shared her pearls of wisdom for writers to become unstuck when you find yourself at a loss for words. She broke down three ways of getting unstuck – to go outside in nature, get moving, and start journaling. When writing gets tough, it’s always best to just walk away to clear your mind and to stop spinning your wheels.

By getting outside and in nature, you can attune your senses to the world around you. It’s always best to be in a place you love and feel safe, a place that brings you happiness. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have quick access to beautiful beaches, salty air, and spectacular crystal blue waters. So, for now, it’s my back patio and wooded lot to watch nature hurry and scurry in all its splendor. It’s peaceful and quiet, apart from the noisy blue jays. Nonetheless it’s refreshing.

By moving your body, you shake and loosen drab feelings. Leas stated that you can quite literally “shake your stories free” when you move. By simply pacing in your home, going for a walk or a run, you can clear your headspace. If you exercise, you may find thoughts and words come to you during or after the physical release of pent-up frustrations or stress. I find even when I do CrossFit that an idea will come to me afterwards when I’m in my car driving home. During the training session itself, I’m just focused on surviving the workout. But thoughts and ideas have come to me afterwards. Movement of any kind is healthy and can bring freedom and release to your thoughts to find words. Remaining stagnant or sedentary will have quite the opposite effect and perhaps keep you stuck.

Journaling is powerful. Journaling can help move writers to further explore their thoughts and feelings. It can become a way to shift gears and get the mind to focus on something other than the writing project itself. Leas suggests using writing prompts to become unstuck. Brain dump single descriptive words into your journal. Brain dump in your journal by penning what you’re experiencing in that moment. Journal before diving into your writing project to get the creative juices flowing. I journal first thing in the morning. Starting with gratitude, I then move into writing on what I’m feeling in that moment. I handwrite in my journal, as there is something very moving for writers when pen or pencil is put to paper. It’s a good place to find some flow.

Overall, adjust these three takeaways to you and your lifestyle. Leas suggests trying something different to bring about your creative spark. Perhaps relocating and writing somewhere different can bring about inspiration to find words. If you find something doesn’t work for you, pivot and try something new. Be consistent to practice the art of getting unstuck and soon enough, words will flow like living waters.

>>See more HippoCamp 22 recap posts, content, and more here.

Meet the Contributor

Angie Mohn is a registered nurse, researcher, educator, and health writer. She holds graduate degrees in information science from Penn State University (MSIS), and nursing from Cedar Crest College (MSN). She writes creative nonfiction and focuses on topics such as health, fitness and nutrition, and living a migraine-free life. She is currently writing her first book about her journey to becoming and remaining migraine free. Angie resides in Southeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and three wiener dogs.

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