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Writing Tips - Writer's Block



 

Oh the irony…

 

I set the intention to write an article with tips and tricks to help authors work through writer’s block. I have all of the tips and tricks I intend to include written out in an outline already because I love organizing my information before I sit down to write. Yet, I just spent almost thirty minutes staring at my screen because I couldn’t think of how to begin this article. If you’ve previously experienced anything like that or are currently going through exactly that, then continue reading and let’s get out of this ‘stuck” energy together.

 

Although I have all of my ideas sketched out in an outline and I did all of the necessary preparation to make this writing session quick and seamless, I still found myself in analysis paralysis when I stepped out of planning mode and made the transition into action. I sat here thinking about all the ways I can begin this article – humor, statistics, no introduction at all, etc. – and then dove further down the rabbit hole by exploring the pros and cons of each option. When it finally occurred to me that I’m directly in the middle of writer’s block while composing an article about writer’s block I reminded myself that the first step to working through any and all “blockages” is to just start writing.

 

I know, if you could just start writing then you wouldn’t have writer’s block. So, let’s dive into a few ways you can make the transition between planning, preparing, and/or worrying about writing and actually writing. Essentially, the following are ideas and suggestions to help you get out of your head, step back into your body, and begin doing the thing that you’ve been incessantly thinking about doing.


Choose a different time/location/environment to write in.

If you would normally write in the day, write at night until your preferred flow state is back. If normally you write indoors, switch to a safe outdoor space. When I began drafting the poems for my third poetry book “The Black Experience: In Poetic Form” I moved from writing in my in home office to driving over an hour away from my home, parking in a shopping center parking lot, and writing in my car in the middle of the night.


Indulge in content that is antithesis to your beliefs/passions/morals/values.

When we encounter circumstances, people, events, situations, beliefs, etc. that are different from our own we are forced outside of our echo chambers and must come up with novel ways to interact with those different experiences. New neural pathways are created in our brains which then help us to see, experience, and make connections where we could not previously.


Write a short piece on a subject you know absolutely nothing about.

Research the topic and the write a couple paragraphs about it. We don’t have to rely as much on reinventing the wheel with our creativity. Even though you may not be writing what you desire to write about it helps put you in that flow state. Once there, you can smoothly switch to your desired project. Learning new information of course increases our repertoire of sources for inspiration. It also invites opportunities for new perspectives and general expansion. The more you know…


Write a “based on a true story” piece.

Think about a time you got into a heated argument with someone and write about it in detail. Except, have all of the “actors” switch roles. For example: You had an intense argument with your significant other. When you’re writing the story you place your partner in your position, a fictional or hypothetical person in your partner’s position, and you take the position of omniscient third person/observer. As you write the story, make up details based on how you prefer the conversation to unfold.


Take the story line from your favorite movie, song, television show, play, or book and write a short piece or a few pages of your version of it.

Change everything you’d like to change and keep everything you’d like to keep. For the television show, choose one particular episode so the project is not overwhelming. Taking on “personalizing” an existing body of work provides you a foundation for (limited) options so you can tap into your creativity without getting caught up in analysis paralysis. In other words, you don’t have the (self-imposed) pressure to create an entire universe but you have the space to explore and manipulate the universe that’s already there.


Choose a topic you know a lot about and can talk about or teach someone.

Write a piece of your desired length about that topic but as if you’re explaining it to an extraterrestrial who just landed on Earth and only has conversational knowledge of your language. You have to step outside your typical processes and modes of thinking as you’ll have to be creative in how you explain the details because your audience has no concept of the topic. For example, if you’re going to explain baseball to an extraterrestrial, you’ll have to find unconventional ways to explain what a baseball, base, and bat are and why it’s three strikes and you’re out.


Choose a subject in school (any grade level – but preferably one from your experience) that you struggled in or still struggle with.

Research the subject, and write a piece (length of your choice) explaining that subject in general, the specific aspects you struggled with, and any newfound understanding/information (based on your research) to a child or your younger self.

Be as detailed as you need to be to spark new ideas/understanding for yourself. One of the best ways to learn and remember new information is to teach it to someone else. Revisiting something from our past that we struggled with provides us an opportunity to see it (and other things in general) from a different perspective. Having a different perspective sparks new ideas and provides workarounds for what seems like obstacles.


Create a personal “Random Topic Generator.”

Brainstorm or “borrow” as many random topics as you can. Aim for at least five and write them down somewhere you easily have access. If you’re struggling to produce these random topics, go to Google, type in a random letter, and when suggestions pop up use those. Randomly select one when the block has you in its grips. Set an amount of time or choose a specific length (sentence, paragraphs, pages) to write on that random topic. Begin by writing whatever you can think of about the topic even if you don’t know anything about it. Pretend that you do and write that. If you choose to research the topic, limit to no more than whatever you can discover in five minutes. Write about what you’ve unearthed and then add your own “educated guesses.”

For example: You Google “sweet limes” and discover they’re a sweet yellow fruit often mistaken for lemons. You set your timer for twenty minutes and you write anything and everything that comes to mind about sweet limes. You can include the “factual” information, but the point is to spark creativity so in your world, sweet limes are now whatever you choose them to be.


Step away, do something fun, take a nap, and/or whatever you usually do to relax.

When a vehicle’s wheels get stuck in mud or snow many people’s first inclination is to slam on the gas and spin the tires until the tires rediscover grip. However, we know that spinning the tires actually prevents them from gaining traction again. The same applies when you’re experiencing writer’s block. If you continue to spin your neural wheels you’ll spin them out making it even tougher to gain traction. Take a break, release your brain from the task, and relax.


Meditate.

If you’re new to meditation or are like a lot of people whose minds run a mile a minute when you try to clear it to meditate or sleep, then use this to your advantage. Choose whatever length of time works best for you and meditate. While you’re meditating and those thoughts are swirling around like a tornado taking you out of Kansas, allow it. Allow them to swirl and churn and twist and run right on by you but take a mental note of what appears. Don’t spend too much time on any single thought. Simply take note of it and let it pass. When you’ve completed that meditation session, write down as many of those random thoughts as you can remember and add them to your “Random Topic Generator.”

When writing about one of these thoughts, interrogate yourself and write those answers. Why did that pop up? What does it mean? Does it involve other people? Who? Why those people? You can certainly use this time to explore your inner self, but the point here is to allow your creativity to flow. Write down whatever answers come to you regardless to how truthful or accurate they may seem to be.  

For example: You thought about that time you were in your third grade talent show and you performed “Weak” by SWV. Now as you explore that thought, you ask yourself the questions… who, what, where, when, why, how…and the answers are whatever you choose them to be. Then later, you can attribute these answers to another character or another story.




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