Breaking Writer's Block

Here's a hand-out I wrote earlier this year on breaking dreaded writer's block. It was started in attempts to overcome my own writer's block - therefore many of these suggestions have been attempted by me and have proved successful in various circumstances. My suggestion is, if it sounds crazy, give it a try. My thanks to the many who have contributed material on this subject elsewhere on the net and in writing handbooks. - Matthew 7/18/97
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DO SOMETHING ELSE
(But you might want to keep a pen and paper handy, just in case)

EXERCISE - Go to the gym and work out, shoot some hoops, ride your bike, Take a hike

MUSIC - be the food of love, soothes the savage beast, Mozart is supposed to increase those brain waves, Arena rock works for me, familiar music, strange music, call a radio station and request a song

ART - fingerpaint, doodle, get some playdough

CONVERSATION - talk to somebody who makes you feel good, go down to a coffeehouse and meet somebody new, call somebody up you haven't heard from in a while

PEOPLE WATCH - restaurants, airports, malls, sporting events, county fairs, anywhere outside in good weather, listen to talk radio

PLAY - pool, chess, bridge, poker, bingo, charades, catch!

HELP SOMEONE ELSE -Every city has volunteer opportunities - visit people at a hospital/retirement home, help out at a soup kitchen, teach someone to read, help a friend brainstorm, contribute to this page

WRITE OTHER THINGS - letters, e-mail, limericks, jokes, poems

DO NOTHING - just lie on the floor, take a 5 minute break, meditate - take 10 deep breaths and feel yourself relax a bit more each time, or visualize a special place with each breath, take a nap for 15-30min, sleep on it

GO AWAY - Go somewhere you don't usually go - an Art museum, a park, a new bookstore in town, a different restaraunt

READ or LISTEN -Read a good book , Go to a reading or open mic, go to a speech or a meeting, Get an audio book and listen to it - especially those read by the authors, Read writers about writing.. e.e. cummings' non-lectures or Bradbury's Zen and the Art of Writing are good starts - anything about the creative process

WHATEVER MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER, MORE RELAXED, READY TO WRITE

FREEWRITE
Nobody has to see this writing, you don't even need to keep it or reread it

-Turn off all the lights(the computer monitor included) and write in the dark
-Babble
-Write about anything you see or think
-Write as badly as you can
-Write about the most boring thing you can think of
-Vent frustration-- write about how much you hate having to write, wish you were asleep
-Ask questions - Who?What?Where?Why?
-Stream-of-consciousness
-Don't take the pen off the paper for 10 minutes.
-Don't edit or censor yourself
-Mindspill
-Make diagrams
-Doodle, scribble, draw pictures of the topic
-Brainstorm - make a list of everything words phrases that comes to mind in connection with the topic

THEN....JUST DO IT
Writing does involve work.

-Instead of making excuses not to write, use writing as an excuse not to do other things
-Plunge in at the deep end -deliberately exaggerate whatever bothers you -use excruciatingly awkward transitions.. terrible punctuation!
-Keep another piece of paper handy to doodle or scribble or put down extraneous thoughts on while writing.
-Start writing when you know you only have a short amount of time before another commitment
-Give yourself plenty of time to write
-Set concrete goals in terms of time period spent or number of words
-Reward yourself with study breaks
-Try writing with pen and paper(or crayon or marker) if you usually use the computer
-Write on anything - Kurt Vonnegut's character wrote all of Hocus Pocus on backs of envelopes, receipts and other such scratch paper
-You don't have to write sitting down at a computer.. try lying down, standing up, walking
-Try talking your writing to somebody or recording it with a tape recorder
-Skip ahead to another part if you get stuck for too long, momentum is important

DO IT DIFFERENTLY

-Personalize your topic - connect it with your experience write what you know, reach the fire inside
-Write it as it were a different piece, an essay as an expose, a piece of fiction as an expository essay, a poem as a memo
-Write it as someone else - as the leading advocate of the opposing side, as someone from history, someone from a different culture
-Write it to someone else - to a small child, as a letter to a good friend

DO IT AT A DIFFERENT TIME
-Try early morning, late at night, afternoon, the middle of the sleep cycle
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This page last updated:7/30/97