I feel I've been posting more of these self help/venting articles than before, but if it works for me, then maybe it will work for you, also.
Shifting gears on projects are often the best way to stay fresh, be it with the varying diction you use (modern, poetic, broken, etc.), the world you're writing from, or the most simple and common rut: the plot.
I've noticed when I get attached to stories, most notably for me, my first manuscript, Bond of Darkness, I tend to not want to think of anything else. As writers, it's unhealthy. For years, I had been obsessed (literally at points) to only wanting to make Bond of Darkness better, (faster), stronger on all levels. Then came the rut. I kept editing on top of old material, keeping the best material, and in the end, I lost my plot.
My critique partners are my best friends and they've helped me see that I needed to work on other things. After I trunked BoD, I wrote a few outlines for different projects in different genres. I tried paranormal. Didn't quite work. Then I added thriller elements to the paranormal. Wasn't quite right.
Then I moved onto a new project, different in all areas: YA fantasy in first person. A few outlines later, I trunked that project, knowing it'd come back, but moved on again.
At the heart of everything, however, I needed to remove myself from the equation of wanting to produce manuscripts.
The best method I'm now making myself learn is to move through the stages of length. Challenging myself through flash, short stories and novellas will push me back on track for novel length manuscripts.
I also now keep a notebook on my end table, not only hoping to make myself an insomniac, but to jot the ideas down even as I dream them. Sounds cheesy, but it helps the process.
Have you found you need to change directions? How often?
Peace and Writing Love,