Friday, March 17, 2023

When in Doubt: Change Locations!

Have you ever felt super stuck?

Like the jar of a lid that refuses to budge stuck?

Like you wore too many socks with your snow boots and now you can’t get them off stuck?

Like you typed some words and deleted them just to type the same words again stuck?

Like why am I even attempting this because it won’t be good stuck?

    Perhaps you get to the point where, out of desperation, you try something new. Recently, I impulsively booked a writing retreat. I thought I might try the “change your location” trick to get myself writing again. Amazingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it worked. In addition, by leaving my space and writing somewhere new, I also remembered the habits I used to have within my own studio space to create this same kind of experience at home: a desk for writing, a table for drawing, a couch for reading (Admittedly, most of my work gets done on the couch).  

sunset over a shed and a winter grassy area
A sunset at the Highlights Foundation
  I realize this is not new or original advice. I also realize that many of us can’t impulsively book writing retreats and run away from other obligations. However, as I was walking during a writing break while on retreat, I had a realization: this advice doesn’t just work to get your creative wheels turning again. It can also help get your story or art unstuck.

Is your story super stuck?

Like your character has run out of things to say stuck?

Like you need to get to a plot point but what you just wrote won’t get you there stuck?

    Try changing locations! If you are bored with your story or character, consider putting them in a new setting and see what happens. What do you discover about your character? Your story? Who do they meet? How do they change? What secrets does this uncover for them? For your story? Now, with the answers to those questions, infuse new life into your project.

    The same can go for portfolio development or when creating a book dummy.

Is your art super stuck?

Like you always draw the same characters and emotions stuck?

Like you have created all your stories in the same setting stuck?

    Try changing locations! If you are bored with your art, try putting your characters in new settings and see what happens. What would they do in that location? Who would they meet? How do they feel about it? What angle would add to the emotion of the scene? Can you create sequential images of the same character in different settings? Now, with the answers to those questions, start creating some new art.

Illustration of a child in a boat fighting off giant dragonflies with their oar
Take your characters on a journey. Illustration by Anne Appert 

    One thing to avoid when changing locations is relying to much on here-to-there scenes to hit your word count. In writing, consider what is most important in the journey to the changed location and cut everything else. Do we even need the in between scene? Can this just be a writing aid to get you to the next chapter? In art, the journey should still tell a story. Even when creating sequential art, consider what is most important to show to tell the entire story, and cut everything else. Do we need to see every action between each illustration? Or can these just be an illustration aid to get you to the next scene? The here-to-there may be useful for you as a creator, but remember to trust your readers or viewers to be able to fill in the gaps in order to create your strongest work.

    I wish I could book a trip every time I felt super stuck. However, I can change my characters’ locations in my stories or in my art when I am feeling creatively stumped. These could just be exercises that help me know my characters better, that give me new ideas for my stories, or that introduce me to a new illustration style I want to investigate further. Even if these journeys don’t end up in my stories or in my art, they were worth the time to get me from there to here.

From stuck to inspired.

It could even bring us from I don’t know why I do this stuck to I remembered what I love about the process inspired.

I hope it does!


Image of person with short purple hair in yellow shirt, smiling in front of a green backgroundAnne Appert (they/them ) is a nonbinary author/illustrator who spent their childhood with their nose stuck in a book, while their wild imagination transformed their New Jersey backyard into faraway places. Anne still enjoys spending time in their backyard dreaming, and now their imagination turns their dreams into words and pictures for children. Anne wrote and illustrated their debut book Blob, which was published by HarperCollins in Fall of 2021. Their second book What If You Wish? will publish with HarperCollins in 2024. They are a member of SCBWI, from which they received an honor in the 2021 Conference Portfolio Showcase. When not writing and illustrating, Anne enjoys teaching college students, dying their hair every color of the rainbow, and attempting to roller skate. You can see their work at

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