Now I'm going to backtrack.
Why? Because like so many things, sometimes you need to know where you've been in order to know where you're going.
In my current WIP, I'd plotted out most of the major themes, turning points, and so forth, but I'd started my first 40,000 words in such a hurry, I could no longer remember what I'd written or where I was going with some of the paragraphs.
After an enlightening critique group session with the fabulous ladies at the Toronto Romance Writers, I decided to go back and change the narrative voice from third to first person perspective*. That task in itself loomed large for me--it meant I'd have to read everything I'd just written.
I didn't like that prospect.
But I did it anyhow. And wow, did I end up rewriting and cutting and editing it down. But by doing so, I'd cut through the tangled plot I'd got stuck in. I eliminated all the unnecessary world-building bits, expanded on the things that were important--like emotion, characterization, and story details--and slimmed down the whole tale to a much more manageable book.
It wasn't easy. But it was wholly worthwhile. Now that I can see what's behind me, the path ahead is clear.
So when you do get stuck in your writing, and you're mired in the details of your plot or world, go back and read over what you've written. Don't despair over the quality, but do map out where you've been. Did you write stuff you can't remember? The reader probably won't remember it, either. Were you going someplace with this paragraph about some trivial detail? No? File it under "save me for later."
Weed out the dead matter and your creative garden will flourish!
(Okay, I realize the metaphor got mixed along the way from roads to gardens...but that's how editing works!)
*A word on POVs to come.