Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Writer's block and ways to overcome it by Sue Dawes

Wikipedia defines Writer's Block as: 'a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years.'
Most writers suffer from the condition at some point during their writing life, whether it be due to rejection or just the feeling of being overwhelmed by want you want to achieve versus what life throws at you.  This often ends up with a blank page, a half finished novel or a headache.
One way to get past Writer's Block is to complete some short exercises, particularly ones where the first sentence is provided. Prompts seem to help because they remove the responsibility for creating the initial idea and thus the pressure.
It doesn't matter if the pieces you write remain fragments of stories - the goal is to actually put words down. Everything else comes after.  You are just trying to kick start the creative process.
Here are some of my favourite exercises:

  • Go to your bookshelf and pick a book.  Open it anywhere.  Pick a sentence that appeals to you and use it as the prompt. You can make it harder by choosing the 7th book , the 7th page and the 7th sentence or any number that appeals to you.
  • Grab a magazine.  Choose two adverts and cut them out.  Use the words (and only those) to write a poem. Even better if you can use the originals and stick them down.  Making 'physical' contact when you write seems to change the way you create.
  • Take a newspaper article or a photocopied page from a novel and use the words on the page to create something new: a beginning or a poem.  Try and switch the original genre it was written in to something different.  This is a really interesting website if you get hooked on making new from old
  • Dig out your old stories.  Use a sentence from your own work to start something completely new.  I often have favourite sentences that don't quite fit where they are but are too good to throw away.  This is word recycling and it resuscitates them. 
  • Flash cricket.  Get ten friends to give you a word. The aim is to include all the words in a very short story. It's surprising what you can create with words that don't necessarily 'fit' together. This is a good basis for poetry too.
If your Writer's Block is associated with isolation, the best solution is likely to be a writer's group.   Hearing other people's work can act as an incentive, especially if during the group meeting, there are short exercises to complete.  Reading and editing both kick start creativity and writing in company can be a very productive.  There is a writing group in Colchester which offers this:
None of the exercises above will give you a finished piece of writing but sometimes the best ideas are found in writing that isn't planned.  You might create a place, an incident or a character that you can use again. More importantly, you have words on a page.

For more prompts, the following list will help. Some randomly generated dialogue and words, others have simple exercises to try:
10 minutes or less