Sail Past Writer’s Block with These 5 Tricks


First, let me just reiterate here that I don’t believe in writer’s block. At first I did, years ago, when I had heard of the phrase, and like a lemming, followed in the belief it existed.

It doesn’t.

There are so many ways to circumvent what writer’s block actually is –fear of the page or, more accurately, fear of not having anything substantial or relevant or important to say. It could even be disguised as fear of failure just as much as it could be fear of success.

Your inherent gasp is thunderclap loud.

While I’m not here to discuss your fears, other than to say just ignore them and, rightly, that is good advice, I am here to share with you some ways to navigate around the wild seas of not writing. Here, I’ll pass you a writer’s life vest. Feel better?

Here’s the bad news: you’ll never get it exactly right. Still not convinced? How about: who cares? That’s right, I said it. Who cares?

Your shocked eyes can’t possibly widen further.

You’re right, I’m an editor. How dare I?

Can you hear the snap of my whip? Even the best of editors make mistakes, but we also know that the best of writers don’t let such a thing prevent them from creating wonderful pieces. You’re a writer (I hope you are because you’re reading this), and you DO have fantastic creativity in you. Your job is simple: share it with the world.

Here are five ways to get you off the dock and sail ahead with your writing:

One word, any word. I’ve mentioned in Twitter that sometimes you just need to start, and I’ve qualified that with ‘start with a word’. Pick a word, any word. Throw a dart at an open page in your dictionary. Go back to that highlighted word in your e-reader, or that cool archaic word you read in one of the classics, or even some slang out of a comic strip. It doesn’t matter where you found it, because it can also be ordinary. Just write the word by itself. Then make up a sentence using it; make it silly and fun if you want. Just keep going. Every word is filled to overflowing with images, so this can be more like free association writing. What does that word make you think of next?

Sentence starters are fun, or sentence continuers. Sometimes our brains will originate an oddball or unique extension to what is already there. Our brains do great work this way; they jump ahead before we can catch them. Aren’t you glad? How would you end, “With the waves….” or “…and she whispered…”? You already filled in some blanks, right?

Sense it. Another way to start is with your five senses. Better, limit yourself to just one. Then the pressure is off (Okay, not really. This is my mind-trick: making you think that by dealing with less, it’s easier. Bwah haa haa.). Pick your sense of smell. Close your eyes wherever you are now. What do you smell. Write it!

Picture it. One of my favourites has worked well for years with my English as a Second Language tutees, and it’s still a great tool I see used over in my writer’s circle in Google+: photos. Now, why I love this exercise is because it doesn’t need any prompts. You see the picture how you see it. Go into intricate detail of the rocks there, the hat that lady is wearing, or about whatever is not in the picture. Add to the picture that way, and guess what? You now have the beginnings or parts of a story (See how sneaky I am?).

Best kept secret: the timer. That’s right. Writing sprints are nothing new, but have you done one lately? Do you have a timer next to you as you’re reading this? It’s probably in your cel phone like I have. This is fun when you have a group to do it with, but if not, doing this solo is a great exercise, but here’s the thing to keep in mind, and it’s a must-do: do not lift your pen off the paper while the timer’s on. I mean it. No, I’m not kidding. Try it for five minutes, and write non-stop. You can’t stop. You’re not allowed. How not to? Just don’t. Can’t think of anything to write? Then write ‘I can’t think of anything to write’ until you do. I guarantee that you will because you’ll get tired of rewriting that line very quickly.

The goal here is to get you past the stopping-before-writing habit and jumping into the no-holds-barred- anything-goes writing. When you allow yourself the freedom to write anything, even the stuff that will be forever boxed in the crawlspace, then most anything will come to mind, and soon you’ll be in a strong sea of ideas. You do have it in you, Writer.


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