I was in a funk right in the middle of a chapter. I didn't know how to move forward with it. Everything I wrote seemed like, well, fiction. And not the good kind, the kind that rings true; this rang hollow and forced.
So I did a modification of a writing exercise I'd read about on another writer's blog. That writer suggested writing the truest thing you could--a letter to someone you know. It was a letter not meant to be sent, but meant to be true, even if the truth hurt. I did something similar--I compiled a document of one-liners that were the most truthful things I could tell key people in my life. Many were actually kinder than expected--and surprisingly sweet. A few were pretty biting, although that wasn't so much of a surprise. But all were honest, blunt, and--more importantly--true.
After I did this exercise, I went to bed. Woke up, showered, and say down at ye olde laptop. Had no idea how to finish the chapter, but started typing anyway. And words came out, and the chapter ended, and I don't know where the hell it came from, but it really, really worked.
We spend so much of our non-writing lives pleasing others, doing what "should" be done, saying what "should" be said (or biting our tongues when we "shouldn't" speak out of turn). There's no room for that in fiction writing. To get out of my rut, I had to get back to being real. I had to shrug off the shoulds and write what needed to be written, even if it was a little weird and creepy. (Especially if it was a little weird and creepy.) Life is not kittens and rainbows and unicorns and glitter. It's bizarre and scared and scarred and feral, and that's what readers want to read. It's also what I want to write--and today, I did. And I'm proud.