Writer’s block. Now that’s a scary phrase. And one I’ve heard many times, read about over and over again, and experienced on numerous occasions.
I believe I even have it right now. And today, I am going to set a challenge and make a promise to myself to get through this block, with the use of freewriting and writing prompts. But I’ll get to that later. First, let’s go through some basics…
What is Writer’s Block?
Anything that stops you from writing. And it results in a writer who cannot, or does not write. What the ‘block’ means really, is ‘Stuck’. And typically, when you’re stuck, you have to force your way through and don’t stop.
But maybe there is another way of thinking about this… and that is, the art of letting go. Instead of forcing your way through, let go, let it be. Write, but write something else. Don’t force the topic or article or poem at hand. Step away and tackle something else. I’ve found that I don’t like terms like ‘break through’ or ‘beat’ or ‘push through’ when it comes to writer’s block. I think you need to keep moving, keep writing, but not necessarily force your way through.
“There’s no such thing as a writer’s block. If you’re having trouble writing, well, pick up the pen and write. No matter what, keep that hand moving. Writing is really a physical activity.”
Finding a way through Writer’s Block
There are different techniques for finding a way through writer’s block, and today I look at two in particular; the use of freewriting and the use of a prompt for guided freewriting.
Freewriting to Conquer Writer’s Block
Freewriting is a technique that is used a lot in writing classes and books and in blogs online. It is the method of setting a short time period, perhaps 10-15 minutes, and writing down whatever comes to mind, quickly, without thinking or analyzing it. This taps into our subconscious and lets our right side of the brain create, without letting the analytical, editorial and critical left side of the brain interfere. The censor is kept at bay; which allows new ideas and images to flow out through the pen or the keyboard, and lets us get down a first draft, or find new ideas, characters or settings to further write about.
Guided Freewriting with a Prompt
Freewriting can be used at any step in the writing process, from character creation, to finding plot ideas and developing structure, to starting chapters or scenes, and just to get you moving forward. When used like this, you would normally start with some sort of writing prompt to work from, to focus your mind and create ideas around the topic you’re interested in pursuing at that given moment. This is usually called Guided or Focused Freewriting.
I truly believe, the only way to push or glide through this feeling of stuckness, is to just write. Write Anything. Guided freewriting to a prompt is probably the easiest way to do this. This is how:
- First, make a commitment. To yourself and to others if possible. Commit to writing every day for a certain amount of time. Maybe start with 10 minutes.
- Make a time and place; make an appointment with yourself, and show up.
- Now write; freewrite whatever may come up. If you need to, use a prompt to start from. Create a keyword from the scene you’re working on, or choose a prompt from a favoured book or blog. (Below, I link to a couple of fun writing prompt resources.) Write nonstop, for the allotted time. If 10 minutes is too much, start with 5 minutes. It may come to that for me; we will see later today.
A 7-Day Challenge and Promise
Over the next week, I have set a challenge for myself: to complete a writing prompt for writer’s block each day of the week, to push past this block that’s been holding me back, for almost over a year now. This is my promise to you, and to myself, to complete this 7-day writing challenge.
Now a bit of personal stuff…
Gone is the post pregnancy fog that’s been haunting me, and my mind and body are becoming my own again. It all seems to be coming together; my life that is, a little energy is back, bubs is sleeping better and feeding less. I’m starting to exercise and eat better and more regularly.
And better yet, I once again feel the urgency to write. To put pen to paper, and to produce something worthwhile, and something I’m proud of. I have even started this blog. Therefore, there are no more excuses. If I can write here…crank out an article of 1000 words a couple of times a week, I can damn well start writing fiction again, and stop being so damn hesitant.
One thing that has snowballed this trickle of self-improvements was something I learned from positive psychology; I created a Vision for myself. This I needed – a beautiful, gentle kick in the pants. I’ll explain more in another post about this ‘vision’, and why they’re so important to your life, and to your writing, and why everyone should do one – even if you don’t need the help of a psychotherapist – like me 😉
A Writing Goal
My goal is to cure my (fiction) writer’s block over the next week, by freewriting to prompts each day for at least 10 minutes each day. It’s a small start, but a beginning nonetheless, and it’s important to start small and grow from there.
I’ve just read about 10-minute bursts of activity, and love the idea, and can definitely add this to my day, as anyone could, I hope. My source for the 10-minute burst idea is Katharine Grubb’s “Write a Novel in Ten Minutes a Day”, but I’ll save a review of this book for another post. Right now, I’m just taking the basic concept, and jumping right in.My first writing prompt will be sourced from my trusty “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves. I will use the recent 2010 Kindle edition. I loved and used well, my paperback copy of this book years ago, which gives a prompt for each day of the year. This book has previously helped me through numerous writing blocks, and I’m sure it will again. I will provide a more in-depth review of “A Writer’s Book of Days” in the coming weeks. I will start with today’s prompt, being Thursday 27th of April 2017.
So, today I will commence to write again. I will start with daily prompts and continue to do so for one week. My commitment to myself and to you, to break my writer’s block. Once the week is up, I will post a short update on the challenge, and how it went.
My Challenge to You
I hope you will join me, or even join in with me, to stimulate your own writing, or to break your own writer’s block. I will endeavour to update daily, my current writing prompt and progress.
Here is today’s writing prompt, sourced from “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves:
“April 27 Your daddy’s pride”
Following are two websites that I found to contain some really awesome writing prompts for you to begin from. I hope you like them.
- Firstly, the BookFox writing website has a large list of writing prompts, but I absolutely love this list, “50 Creative Writing Ideas to Combat Writer’s Block” found at thejohnfox.com.
- And, secondly, this list of narrative and personal writing prompts, which have so much scope, found at The Learning Network on the New York Times site, called “500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing”, which actually includes a linked pdf to an updated list of 650 prompts.
What are your favourite writing prompts or experiences with freewriting? Please let me know and perhaps I’ll be able to compile a list of that type of prompt and feature an article on it.
Or are you following the challenge with me? What prompts are you choosing? Please let me know your experiences below.
Day 2 Writing Prompt (sourced from The Brainstormer iOS app):
Three words: Atlantean, Ransacked and University (from the World Builder section)
Day 3 Writing Prompt (sourced from “50 Creative Writing Ideas to Combat Writer’s Block” (# 5) at thejohnfox.com.
“Write about a prophet who knows the exact day, time, and occurrence of his death years in advance.”
Day 4 Writing Prompt (sourced from “50 Creative Writing Ideas to Combat Writer’s Block” at thejohnfox.com.
“Take a familiar scene from a book and rewrite it, adding yourself in as a character (spectator, narrator, background figure, etc).”
Day 5 Writing Prompt (sourced from The Brainstormer iOS app):
Three words: Arthurian, Grey and Throne Room (from the World Builder section)
Day 6 Writing Prompt (sourced from the Learning Network -New York Times):
Day 7 Writing Prompt (sourced from The Brainstormer iOS app):
Three words/phrases: Healing Journey, Post-Apocalyptic and Witch (from the Original Brainstormer section)
I’m on track; Days 1-7 completed, for 15 minutes at a time.
Day 6 was a tough writing day though; I barely managed the 15 minutes, as I kept getting distracted. I am not giving up however, and tomorrow will be better 🙂
Day 7 is completed! I made it through my challenge. The final day was more productive; I think I’ve found a new story idea – it just popped out of nowhere. Now, I am going to continue like this, for the rest of the month of May 🙂