Wednesday, September 17, 2008

You Can Beat Writer's Block

Overcoming Writer's Block

By Debbie Roome

Writer’s Block is a condition that every writer experiences from time to time. Its symptoms are a blank mind, a blank page, and if there are deadlines looming, a look of great distress. It literally feels like a dam wall has been erected that prevents the words from flowing. It affects fiction writers, copy writers, journalists, novelists; in fact, anyone who writes. Fortunately, there are various exercises which can boost creativity and release the blockage.

Take a blank sheet of paper and write the topic in hand in the middle of the page. If you don’t have a topic, then choose a word with lots of possibilities such as juicy, bubbling or bridge. Then write down every word association that comes to mind. Use squiggles and boxes and group similar ideas with connecting lines or thought bubbles. This approach often triggers fresh inspiration.

Create a Story
Choose three unrelated words or get someone to do this for you. Examples could be fire, cheese and paint, or jug, palm tree and train. Then set a timer for five minutes and write a paragraph incorporating all three words. Don’t think; just write whatever comes to mind. This is often enough to release the bottleneck of words and you may be amazed at what comes out.

Start in the Middle
The introduction and conclusion are often the most difficult parts of any story. Don’t feel compelled to start at the beginning. Write the body of the article or story and then go back to the beginning and end. They will often just fall into place.

Read some Fiction
After extended periods of writing, it can be helpful to draw some inspiration by reading something pleasurable. Choose a new book or an old favourite and read a couple of chapters just for enjoyment. The process of reading often triggers new ideas and fresh thoughts.

People Watching
People-watching can be a great source of inspiration. Try sitting in a mall or train station and observe the people that walk past. If someone catches your eye, analyze why. Was it the way he walked or something about the stoop of an old woman’s shoulders? Maybe it was an unusual hairstyle or a garish outfit from the 60s. Back home, write down some thoughts about this character. Where would they live, what could their career be, are they married and if so, to whom? This may lead to further ideas and character development and those people may eventually appear in a novel or other work of fiction.

The worst way to approach writer’s block is by staring at a blank page for hours. If all else fails, it may be best to accept that today is not a good writing day and spend it doing something else. If that is not an option, try the above exercises and hopefully the words will soon be flowing again.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Current projects include a contract for writing devotionals, contributions to the local paper, editing and production of a community newsletter and compilation of her church’s year book. Read some of her work at Suite 101 and Faithwriters.


Tracy Ruckman said...

These are such great tips!! I really identified with the "start in the middle" - a couple of times when I've been stuck I've even written the scene at the very end and it helps bridge the distance.

Thanks for a great article.

Stina Rose said...

Thank you for the great tips! I am going to have to try out the "create a story" idea. I like a challenge!

Thank you again for the great ideas!