Showing posts with label writing prompts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing prompts. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Starter Blocks v. Writer's Block

Last night Nicole and I were guest speakers at the monthly Ventura County Writers Club meeting. It was great to get out and mingle with so many writers! We want to thank Tysa Goodrich, the club's Vice-President, for inviting us out.

When we were first asked to speak, Nicole and I got together and realized that one of the main things helps writers overcome is the dreaded writer's block, so it was a natural subject for our topic last night.  Then driving home together after the event, we realized we should really share our insights with you! So, here's what we've come up with over the years:

Basically, there are three types of writer's block:  1) the "I can't make myself sit down at the computer"; (2) the "I've sat down and now I'm just staring at the screen / blank page"; and (3) the "I'm full of anxiety and have a fear of judgment."

1. The "I can't make myself sit down at the computer"
  • Find a new location to write:  When we step out of our usual environment with a specific purpose, the purpose wins the day.  Instead of staring at the dishes that need to be done, we're fully attentive to the computer screen / blank page.  Why do you think there are so many writers in your local coffee shop?
  • If you have a 9-5 job and when you get home, you just feel too bushed or too distracted, stop somewhere on the way home.  Go to the library or the coffee shop or yes, even to that dark bar to write and then go home.
  •  Finally, set a dedicated time for writing and stick to it!

2.  The "I've sat down and now I'm just staring at the screen / blank page."
  • Here's where writing prompts come in handy.  Start by googling "writers prompts" and you'll come up with 100s.  Even better, you can keep track of your own.  This is a tip that we picked up from David Hunter at The Writer's Den. Look, we're writers, we carry a little notebook around with us everywhere (and if you don't, then start). Maybe, while we're out and about or even at home chopping up some onions for dinner, we come up with a cool character idea or a sudden phrase, pull out the notebook and write it down. And then, instead of keeping it in your notebook, tear out the page and put it in a box on your desk or near your writing area.  Now when you sit down to write, reach in your little writer's box and draw your inspiration.
  • Commit to at least 15 minutes of writing. That's it. Just 15 measly minutes. Trust us, you'll go over
  • If you're really stuck, review your old work and revise it.  Then get online and come up with at least 3 places to submit.  (Or check into this blog once a week for our Writers Round-up.)

3. "I'm full of anxiety and have a fear of judgment."
  •  First of all, we all know where that judgment is coming from and it's not the writer at the next table over.  It's you. Here's where we do something new with that 15 minutes of writing time. Freewrite. Freewrite. Freewrite. That means, set your timer, put pen to paper and keep it going, no stopping, no crossing-out, no revising. If you get stuck, write "I feel stuck" or even better, start the piece with a phrase like "I wish someone had told me..." and when you get stuck, repeat that phrase until you can move on.
  •  Write as if no one will ever see it. So what does it matter? And this is when you will discover your writer's voice and it will feel free to speak above a whisper.
  • Long term solution? Learn some form of meditation. I've been meditating for over 3 years now. It revolutionized my writing. My husband, also a meditator, who never wrote prior to his practice, has now written 1 and 3/4 (2d nearly finished) screenplays in the last year. I practice and teach Vedic Meditation but there are many options. Meditation stills the inner critic but even more important than that, it drops you to the state of being, the source of thought, and you would be amazed what's milling around just waiting to be pulled to the surface by your writer mind.
Most writers have faced writer's block at some point so we'd love to hear from you - did we leave anything out? Let us know what works for you!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Writing Prompts

Last night was my second to last session of writers group for the year. One of the prompts I provided for the writers was to write in the P.O.V. of a place using "I am..." as a nudge into the piece. I gave them about 5 minutes since it was the first piece of the night and a bit of a warm up after the holidays. I wrote along and thought I'd share today. My place was Portland, Maine, a place I have visited ...


I am dark water, November rain, statues of poets long-dead and longer forgotten. I am red and white towers, green and black mussels swimming in saffron. I'm Saturday afternoon happy hour lobster, $4 for 6 inches. I'm the slow roll of dockside walkway. I am men that smell of brine and their cracked hands and chapped lips. I'm hand-painted storefront, chipped and peeling each winter, re-coated and blister bright in May. I'm haunted brownstones, brick and board barrooms; glass-front, corner cafes where the squash soup was made this morning and the coffee is fresh because it never stops pouring. I'm fog and spray and lighthouses that keep ghosts and look for survivors. I'm the literature of Longfellow and the cry of a foghorn, long & low. I'm blue-collar, white-washed and live on salt water taffy and the meat of the sea drenched in butter.