For Writers Archives

 

Home

Battling Writer's Block

Writer's block. You hear it bandied about. As if something is physically blocking you from putting pen to page. Well, for me, that's not the way it works. A more appropriate name is "writer's avoidance behavior" and boy, have I got it. Bad.

Grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, paying bills, working on my website, setting up a book signing, meeting a friend for lunch, all seem to come first when I'm avoiding the blank page. And, I've wondered, where does this come from, putting writing last? Why do I so often avoid the one thing I love to do best? And this is a good question to ask yourself, whether it's writing or some other creative activity you love to do.

Here are the reasons I've discovered, and maybe they are some reasons that keep you from writing whatever it is you want to write.

Fear

Well, there is certainly enough of that to go around. What if when I write, it's dumb? Boring? Just plain bad? Answer to all that: So what? Nobody else has to ever see it. When you get right down to it, writing is simply putting pen to paper and writing words. No one ever said what you write has to be interesting, good, or earth-shattering. Just write. No one has to see the first draft. And once you get the first draft down, you can begin to shape it into something that you might want to bring out to see the light of day.

Priorities

Spending time writing is a waste. It's selfish. Especially when there are so many real things, important things to do. I have news for you. Taking care of yourself, nourishing your spirit should always come first. If you are frazzled, rushed, and give all your time to others, your soul will whither until you aren't much good for anyone. Take the time to fulfill your dreams, whatever they are. Keeping in touch with your creativity (whether it's writing, painting, dancing, cooking, or scrap-booking) nurtures your heart and soul. And that has to be an important priority.

Just Do It!

Okay, so I lifted that from Nike. But writing is simply writing words on paper. Just do it. No one has to read it. Writing reminds me of being a potter. First you make the clay and plop it on a wheel.   Is it pretty? Nope. Does it begin to resemble something someone might want to keep? Display proudly? Not on your life. But it's the first step. Then comes the molding, shaping, glazing to add color and polish, and firing. So too with writing. First, the ugly lump. Then, shape it into a scene. Add emotion, refine action, add conflict. Put in the kind of description that means something to the story. Polish your writing. Reread it the next morning. Chances are, it will be a keeper!

Creative Writing Exercises

These are my favorites. Try any of these out if they hold appeal for you in any way.

Take a photo and write about it --I use this for my daily journal. This is much easier now that digital cameras exist. I used to glue Polariods on the pages! Not only does this jump-start my creativity while searching for something different or interesting to photograph, it sure is fun to look back through my journal at the photos of my life.

Make a Word Chest --or bucket, or whatever. I make slips of colored paper. Red slips have subjects or nouns, green slips are verbs, blue slips are settings. I keep building the box, sometimes searching through the dictionary typing out words I like. You can pull out one of each, but I've found it works much better if I mix up how many of each color I pull out each day. One day I pulled out two subjects and a setting. They were "monkey," "cop" and "school" and the result is my short story, Dancing Monkeys. It's one of my favorite shorties and the main character so grabbed my interest, I think he'll show up in a book someday.

Write your Dreams --the ones from the previous night. Or a reoccurring nightmare. Try to remember details, the mood, the landscape, and especially your feelings. Write as completely as you can, and start to embellish with what the meaning might be. This will get your subconscious involved and you may find yourself writing reams of subtext. Or, you may figure out a solution to something that is bothering you. Either way, time well spent.

Go someplace different to write --there are plenty of places, a library, a park, a coffee shop.   Begin to write what you see, what you hear.  

Eavesdrop --while you are at that someplace else. What are you hearing? What does the discussion mean? Don't try to figure it out, really. Make it up. The more bizarre, the better.After all, this is fiction.

Write a Story about a --You can go back to your word chest and just choose a red slip and write a story about it. I'll pick out a few right now and show you...write a story about finding something. Write a story about someone with a past it is vital they hide. Write a story about someone who is passive. Write a story about a church. An echo. About taking a risk. Sour grapes. An unreliable piece of information. If you don't have a word chest, open the dictionary and the moment you find a word that piques your interest, write!

Brainstorm a first line --the most important line in a book (arguably) is the first line. Start a brainstorming session and write all the most outrageous, bizarre, scary, exciting, action-packed, sexy first lines you can think of. Write a starting line for the next bestselling thriller. Or mystery. Or historical. Sci-fi epic. Romance. Or all of them! Next, pick one and write the next paragraph. You may end up with tons of ideas for stories. This exercise, in addition to getting your juices started, is great fun!  

Make lists --20 things you love, 20 things you hate, 20 things you'd like to do in the next year.   List your friends. List all the people you have ever known (this one is a great trip down memory lane). All the places you want to go. All the things a person should do before they die.   Your favorite movies. Your favorite books. Your favorite people, real or made-up.

Look through a newspaper --and cut out a story or headline. Start writing about it, but make it up.   Just use a keyword or two, or the general idea. Now you know why popular TV shows tout that this week's show is "Ripped from the headlines!' The show's writers had writer's block and were desperate:o)

Start with a family story --families all have skeletons in the closet. Write about it. Start with the legend and then start making stuff up. This exercise began my book, First, There is a River.   Wow, I'm glad I did this one!