Overcoming Writer's Block

Overcoming the writer's block when life gets in the way. Learn to prevent writer's block once and for all.

Writer's block isn't a disease, but, on the average, it hits virtually every writer at one time or another. And, once writer's block has fastened it's claws on the thin-skin of a writer's heart, the cold, sterile silence is hard to overcome. The trick is to turn in a different direction the moment you feel your imagination slipping away. Fight the feeling! Don't give in! Keep your focus!

When you find yourself unable to create, do not panic. At the same time, don't just sit idly. The biggest mistake is sitting back and not writing at all.

Do not ever stop writing. Do not lose your focus, your imagination, or your creativity.

If the correct words won't come to you, if you seem to be falling into an abyss and your creativity is sadly misplaced-write your grocery list. Focus! Keep the fingers moving, the mind thinking. That's really the key. If you can accomplish that one trick, you will never fall prey to writer's block.

Though you may hate what you have written, you were writing. In fact, in down times, a writer may find a different facet to his or her writing. A new angle, even if it's sardonic, lacking spirit, or negative, is part of the writer's imagination, a portion of the creativity. Perhaps it's eccentric writing, perhaps it's dull and witless. Whatever. Keep going. Eventually you'll find your niche again.

Here are a few exercises that may help.

Find a quiet moment in time, away from the kids, away from the world, and place your fingers on the keyboard. Don't fret if you don't know what you'll write about, it'll come to you. Then, preferably in a darkened room, close your eyes and begin typing. Type anything. Anything at all, but don't stop writing. Type for as long as you can, the entire time concentrating on keeping your eyes closed and pulling words from your creative center. Before you know it, you will have added several characters to the jumble of words appearing on your computer as short stories or ideas form.

This particular exercise is helpful if you find yourself lost in the middle of a chapter, the end of a book, or at the beginning of a short story. I also find it works best when creating fiction. If you don't find the characters have begun to open up to you, or if when you open your eyes you discover your fingers were on the wrong keys-don't worry. It's okay. This was only an exercise intended to keep you moving. What may happen, however, is that you may find an answer to your stumbling block. Let your mind wander. Sometimes we stifle ourselves with formality, and this is the perfect way to loosen up your writing. Use words you would not normally use, and use them profusely as your story or mere sentences unfold. Anything goes in this exercise.

Another helpful exercise is the mock characterization procedure. Write down four characters that you would hate to be, or like to be--any of which may be made up. For instance: Superman, sanitation worker, mother of 16 children, and a seeing eye dog. Then write down four problems, or mishaps that might occur in the course of a day (earthquake, twins get lost, someone eats poison, etc.) Add four bad guys. Finally, write down four locations. They can be anywhere in the world, or out of this world. Each of the four items should be written on separate pieces of different colored paper and cut into strips with one answer on each strip. Then take one of each of the colors and put them into four individual envelopes.

When you are finished you should have four envelopes with four different colored pieces of paper inside. Take one of the envelopes and pull out the contents. Example: mother of 16, earthquake, mass murderer, the Canadian wilderness. Write a story about the mother of 16 children and how she survives an earthquake with her children-or not-and how the mass murderer perhaps hunts them down as they cross the Canadian wilderness.

The biggest part of the exercise is to put the story together, beginning to end, in less than two pages. By voluntarily pushing yourself into a box, you will force yourself to master your space, and once you master that very tiny space, you can enlarge your territory bit by bit until you're back in the swing of things.

By the time you've written all four stories you'll be anxious to incorporate some of what your characters in the exercise are doing into your most recent work. Maybe you'll take one of the individuals and continue with his or her story, and use the exercise as a synopsis. Or, use it as nothing more than a way to loosen up your imagination.

The important thing is that you didn't lose your writing abilities because you used your writing abilities and made them work for you.

Writers are sensitive individuals. If you experience a dry patch, know in your heart that it will pass, and continue writing, even if you don't like what you're writing. You can always go back and change it.

A blank page is a page that hasn't been touched by creativity. A page that has writing on it, even if it's not perfect, is a page that you alone created, with characters and situations that you alone could put together. You are in control. You are the master of your characters. You own the words, the sentence, the paragraph, the page, the chapter, the book. You, and you alone.

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