OLDIE BUT GOODIE: The TENNIS BALL Under the RADIATOR: When the Creative Process Gets Stuck

photo 2When it’s cold outside, our dog loves nothing more than an indoor game of fetch. But though we all do our best to toss the ball strategically, it invariably ends up wedged under one of the many radiators in our old house. Sometimes I wonder if Sophie deliberately rolls the ball under there.  The point is – it ends up wedged beneath radiators an awful lot.

Like Sophie’s tennis ball, sometimes my creativity gets stuck under the radiator of writer’s block or the baseboard of problematic plot issues. But, like Sophie, I’ve learned from experience how to extract the ball of creativity so the game of writing can continue.

Now, in celebration of Sophie and tennis balls and fetch, here are four strategies she (and I) use to get “unstuck”.


1. Keep pawing until it budges. For Sophie this means getting staying focused, head down, rear up, paws under the radiator until the tennis ball bounces free.  For me it means staying focused, trying different things, pen in hand until I make a creative breakthrough.

2. Find another toy. For Sophie this means playing fetch with her stuffed turtle for a while. For me it means taking a break from the stuck project and working on something else instead.

3. Bark for help. For Sophie this means making a ruckus until someone comes and gets that tennis ball moving again. For me this means reaching out to a trusted critique partner to give me honest feedback on what’s not working and to offer encouragement to keep going.

4. Learn to avoid the radiator. Sophie’s not very good at this, but it’s still good advice. For me it means taking time to figure out how my story got stuck under the radiator in the first place, then learning from my mistake so that the next time I find my writing rolling in that direction, I catch and redirect the ball of creativity before it gets stuck.

Woof!  That’s all I have for today.  Happy writing and may you enjoy the process – radiators and all!


6 thoughts on “OLDIE BUT GOODIE: The TENNIS BALL Under the RADIATOR: When the Creative Process Gets Stuck

  1. I guess I felt like Sophie this past week, as I needed to write a fiction story for a magazine deadline (the Korean devotional one) but I couldn’t come up w/a story line. So I read through old Highlights Magazines and even the Girls Guide book I wrote to come up w/a voice and character and problem. It worked. 🙂

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