” A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.”-Sidney Sheldon
Writer’s Block? Why, there’s no such thing. You just came to standstill and imagined a mean old man in a wheelchair with a cane raised above his head ringing your front doorbell. Don’t dare open the door or he’ll wheel himself right into your living room and shout, “So, you think you’re a writer, do you?” He’ll chuckle in his creaky deep throaty voice, “I knew ya’ couldn’t come up with a story, poem, essay, whatever it is you thought ya’ could write, now go back to bed and pull those covers over your head. You ain’t no writer, I can tell ya that much.”
Don’t go back to bed. Show that old man and his discouragement out the door. Instead, Lower Your Expectations. You can do that.
Give yourself permission to write badly. High expectations stem from the ego. Ego can be a killer when it comes to writing. Ambition for what you are writing has no place as you write…especially drafts. Here’s what Stephen Dunn , Pulitzer Prize poet, says,
“Ambition during composition is usually deadly unless it’s ambition for what that poem might do and where it might go–ambition for how much of the world and experience it can be equal to. I see nothing wrong for being ambitious after he poem is finished, to wish for it a place in the world.”
I find this true in the writing of all genres…poetry, novels, essays, memoirs. Once you lower your expectation, you are free to write anything…no matter how badly. You can always come back and put in those creative techniques at another time. and if writing badly doesn’t help, double down on the badness! See just how badly you can write. I was given a free write prompt to try to be as bland and uninteresting possible . It was fun. Once I discovered just how badly I can write, I could move on.
And that’s the key…move on. Keep writing.
“It’s perfectly okay to write garbage-as long as you edit brilliantly”.-C.J.Cherryh
Are you waiting for inspiration to strike. You say you’re sitting on an island with coconut trees and the azure blue sea running into the sky. You can sit there forever waiting for that bolt of inspiration, but are you a productive writer. No, more than likely you’re passed out on the margaritas served while waiting. If you really have to have inspiration to write, try inspiring yourself with the following Blockbusters.
- Freewrite: Write freely and rapidly, without stopping, for a set period of time. Follow each thread of what’s happening on paper to the next thread. Let them unravel all over the page. Remember there are no rules for freewriting. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or spelling. It doesn’t matter what makes sense at this point. ( I will post Freewriting Practice Tips on a later post.) Free write intensively. Freewrite each day until you have a stack of freewrites. Then you can go through them and pick out your gems. sentences, phrase, ideas you can develop. You need to train by freewriting. It’s a way of stretching your writing muscles.
- Try another method of writing. Instead of sitting at the computer, take a pen and notebook to a cozy chair, or a bench outside. If this is already your usual method, go the computer and stare at a blank screen instead of a blank paper. Take yourself to a coffee shop. The idea is a change of setting.
- Change your writing focus. Instead of writing prose, try a poem. Instead of a poem try writing a journal entry. Again…Just Write.
- Be Kind to yourself: If you write in order to put down so many words per day, stop for a while. Don’t count the words for a day or two. Write to finish a paragraph, or a stanza. Go out and take a short walk. Eat an apple. Do a bit of gardening. Then go back to your writing.
- Do something you’re good at. Are you a great cook? Cook a special dish. You can get back into writing easier when you feel good about yourself and your abilities. Stop beating yourself up when you are stuck with your writing.
- Use creative prompts. Take a book, open it to a random page. Write down the first noun you come to. Then, the first verb. Tell yourself you have to use that noun and verb in your writing. Find a good first line in a book or a newspaper. Write it down as your first line and go from there. ( Suddenly the train stopped and….) Look on a map and point to place. That’s your setting. Be as creative finding your prompts as you desire. Prompts will get you started; they touch your subconscious. Later, you can take out all the prompt words if you feel like it.
- Ask your self (much like a detective) Who, What, When, Where, Why , How. You can discover some interesting and exciting possibilities for your writing. Complex problems often provide topics for writing.
I hope you have realized that the mean old man with the throaty deep taunts is the voice in your own head. Just say to yourself, ” Writer’s Block…there is no such thing!