by Cindy Tomamichel
Writers block is something often mentioned when a group of writers get together. How do you fix it? How do you deal with the menace of the blank page? Has your Muse abandoned you?
Well, firstly writer’s block is just a temporary inability to write. It may feel horrible, but it’s not leprosy. So get away from the chair of angst and go fill up your creative bucket with some experiences. Get out and listen to people talking, take a long walk and really look at the scenery, talk to trees and mutter to yourself. Find a new insect and follow it home. Pat stray dogs and cats and smile at people. Do some charity or volunteer work and reconnect with the world. Go to the library and pick up three random books and read them. Make something- bake a cake, do something with your hands like gardening, craft or brush the dog. Spring clean the house. Run, walk, bike, swim, move in the fresh air.
But most of all, get away from social media. It is a timesuck, hours that you will never have again are stolen from you by random stuff and other people being horrible to each other or selling stuff you don’t need.
After a break, don’t even think of writing until the urge is unbearable. Use the time perhaps to think of yourself as a writer. Why do you write? What are your short and long term goals? Or do you just like to think of yourself as a writer even though you haven’t written anything? Don’t get sucked into the writer’s lifestyle and agonise about it without having written anything. Writers actually write, they don’t just agonise or talk about it.
Ok. Still stuck for inspiration? Here are some things that have helped me personally. Out of prompts like these I have churned out short stories, poems, and several novels. There is something about random words and images that makes the Muse jump like a tasered villain.
Random words – there is a free app called ‘InspireMe’ which gives you three random word prompts, and there are probably dozens of others. Otherwise get a bunch of writers to pick a set of topics such as genre, mood, emotion, colour, noun, place, verb etc. and a word with those. Choose three, and then swap with someone else. For example, one I got was genre- beat poetry, thing – clown, actions- tears. By yourself you could pick up a dictionary or book and do the same.
Line of Poetry – choose a line of poetry to inspire or incorporate into a story. Put a twist in it. I used T.S. Elliot’s Wasteland to inspire a sci fi story. I find using poetry gives the story itself a lyrical ring.
Songs – pick a line from a song, or tell the story behind a song. Bear in mind song lyrics are copyrighted, so be careful if you want to publish them anywhere.
Newspaper and magazine photos – plenty of scope on every page.
Google images – want to write on a theme or topic? Google some images for some more ideas. Just don’t use the images without checking copyright.
Mind map – you may have seen these used to brainstorm. Basically write your random words or an idea/image inside a circle, then write in all the things that come to mind. Draw lines to things that connect. Add in conflict, plot, theme, setting and characters and you have a book, so off you go!
Nano prompts – National Write a Novel in November is a fantastic way to get inspiration. They often have random prompts to move you through your story – I have used the travelling shovel of death, and others include having a ninja or pirate enter the scene. Raymond Chandler famously said when stuck, to have someone come through the door with a gun. Do something unexpected, you can always edit it out later on, but you may find it has really added to the action and excitement of the story.
Facebook group prompts – I know I said keep off social media, but really who can do that? So make it worthwhile and do some of the photo prompts offered by writing groups. From these prompts I and many others have written flash fiction, short stories and poems. Use the time pressure to your advantage, and you will usually get some excellent feedback for your efforts. Attention seekers as we all are, any feedback is bliss!
Stuck in the middle of something like a novel? Stop for a bit and analyse why you are blocked. It might be a large or a small reason. For instance, it is hard to keep on writing if you doubt yourself as a writer, or despair of ever being published or anyone hearing your words. Let me reassure you, unless you have a superego, everyone feels like this at some stage. For this problem try and remember why you write at all and rekindle the pleasure of just setting words to page. If you want to be published, be proactive and actually submit something. Or start a blog or podcast of flash fiction.
Smaller reasons to get stuck may be resolved by asking yourself what the reader and the characters are getting out of this scene. Try summarising it to get to a more exciting part, you can return when editing. Leave amusing notes to yourself, making sure to put these in brackets so you see them when editing. Maybe some research is needed. Change it up a bit. If you are a planner, write something spontaneous or outside your plan. No plan? Sketch out a rough timeline of events.
I hope some of these help you as a writer to continue to build your world of words. Writers have the ability to create a device that can transport total strangers to another world. It’s called a story, and they live inside you, yearning to be free.
Cindy Tomamichel is a multi-genre writer. Escape the everyday with the time travel action adventure series Druid’s Portal, science fiction and fantasy stories or tranquil scenes for relaxation. Discover worlds where the heroines don’t wait to be rescued, and the heroes earn that title the hard way. Visit www.cindytomamichel.com for more details.
There is something about random words and images that makes the Muse jump like a tasered villain.