I really dislike writer’s block. I want to write, I really do, but sometimes I don’t know what to write (like trying to figure out the topic for today’s Writing Tips). So I end up staring at the page/ screen, or get distracted on Twitter, Facebook, random people in the background, anything but write what I’m supposed to. Then I get frustrated with myself and get demotivated from writing so nothing gets done. Ever. Unless the planets align and I hold my mouth just right, then magically the creative juices start flowing and I can write! But that doesn’t happen often, and I can’t wait for it, plus I always hear that you need to write everyday–practice, practice, practice.
Let me tell you a story. Two woodsmen were out chopping wood. The first man chopped non-stop all day, the second would take a break every couple hours. By the end of the day the second man had chopped more wood. The first woodsman asked him, “How did you get more wood chopped than me? I worked constantly while you would stop and start.” The second man answered him, “I stopped to sharpen my ax.”
So the answer to the earlier question is, “Sharpen your ax.” To that end here are 5 ways you can sharpen you ax, or pick up a new ax entirely:
- Have a jar on your desk filled with random nouns (look through a few books and just write them down on little slips of paper). Pull out one of the words and use it in your current project or write a story involving that thing. (ex. “skeleton”: skeleton army, a family has skeleton’s in the closet, etc.)
- People watch at the mall, the grocery store, the living room window, anyplace you can see random people and characterize them (describe them with words). Use all 5 senses.
- Take your character to “lunch” on paper. What do they order (soup and salad or steak still bleeding?), how do they act at the restaurant, do they tip well? And of course while you’re there you can interview them.
- What are some quirks or pet peeves that you can give a character? Bites nails, always wears red, hates cold eggs and pancakes. Personally I hate wet socks. How many situations can you come up with where that quirk will impact the story?
- Go get some ice cream, then do some jumping jacks to work the ice cream off. Getting up and moving around can help the blood and creative juices flow, just make sure you get back to writing. So often, too, I’m doing something not even related and I’ll come up with an idea or something will come to me that I’ve been trying to think of for a while (“It was Belgium.” If anyone can name the movie, you can have a (digital) gold star. Hint: Meg Ryan says it).
What other tricks or prompts do you use to help you overcome writer’s block? How do you sharpen your ax? Please share below.