5 (Writer’s) Block Busters You Can Do in 5 Minutes

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[Said in obnoxious infomercial voice:]

Hey there, Fellow Writers!

Are you tired of having a scene (or even a whole story) in your head that you can’t seem to transfer to a notebook or computer?

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Or, sitting down to do your daily writing, and coming up with a big fat blank?

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It might not be your fault! According to the research of people you’ve never heard of who do studies of questionable legitimacy, you might be suffering from a condition known to lay people as “Writer’s Block.”

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If you have strategies to help get rid of writer’s block that I haven’t mentioned, please feel free to say so in the comments. Hearing new ideas (Or ones I knew, but had forgotten) is always helpful. Thanks.

Here are some exercises I’ve found helpful when my brain locks up on me:

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1.) Spend 5 minutes doing a prompt. This always gives me a mental kick-start and gets me writing. I don’t have to sit around trying to decide on an idea, and the time limit keeps me from editing as I go, which is something I do too often.

Prompt Examples:

– Find a friend. As quick as you can, both of you write a beginning sentence and an ending sentence, but nothing in between. Trade papers and fill in the blank  left in the scene of the other person’s sentences. Try to have a paragraph-long scene or story when you finish.

– Flip open a magazine and write a paragraph inspired by a picture or article on that page. What you write doesn’t need to have any actual connection to what’s on the magazine page. It’s just whatever that image/article brings to mind for you.

– Look at a news paper and start a scene where a character reads and reacts to one of the headlines. (This is also good for keeping your writing current and socially relevant.)

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2.)Take a 5 minute walk. Fresh air, Vitamin D. The outdoors are full of stuff that’s good for you. You’ll also be getting a little (but probably enough for our purposes) of exercise, which, as you probably know, gives your brain more of the stuff it needs. (Blood flow, oxygen.) Try to find a power walking pace that boosts your heart rate, but doesn’t leave you winded. You should end with more energy than you had when you started.

Things to pay attention to while walking:

– Landscape. Is there anything around the area where you’re walking that inspires or interests you? Anything that could be used in a potential story setting? This includes natural and man-made structures. Does a house look like a place one of your characters would live?

– Graffiti. I actually go around looking for graffiti because it always makes me wonder who wrote it there, and what made them think it was important enough that everyone should see it.

– People. What kinds of other pedestrians are in the area? What kinds of cars? How are the people driving? How are they dressed? Is there anything unusual about someone’s gait or mannerisms?

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3.) Eves Drop. Not on people you know, or anything. Just people out in public places who are having loud obnoxious conversations anyway. Make them work for your writing process. (I know two out of three so far require leaving the house, but they’re worth it.) Pay attention to word choice, voice inflection, speech patterns, accents, euphemisms. It can really help when writing dialogue.

Good places to overhear a conversation:

– Coffee Shops. Not a coffee shop where everyone else is there alone, writing or playing Fruit Ninja. One where you know people meet for lunch and gossip.

– Bus stations. I swear I have seen and heard stranger things waiting for buses than anywhere else I’ve been except the blood bank. (I do not recommend the blood bank for this exercise. You want to go someplace where the conversation might be a little scandalous or sketchy, but not someplace where you’ve got a high probability of getting stabbed and robbed as you leave.)

– Colleges. You don’t have to crash a class. You can just visit the campus and grab lunch in the cafeteria or something. Topics overheard can range from who did what with who/what for x amount of beer/money to the validity (or lack thereof) of existentialism.

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4.) 5 Minute Research Session. Fact check a portion of what you’ve already written, or do some quick research on a subject you may have avoided writing about because you didn’t feel knowledgeable.

Things to remember while researching:

–  Bored sixth graders have taken over a good portion of Wikipedia. That’s not to say you can’t or won’t  find good information there. Just remember to double check it.

–  Librarys aren’t just where homeless people go to use a computer. Most of the writers I know do a good job of utilizing the library as a resource. (Which is much cheaper than buying every book on amazon. Nothing against amazon, but it’s hard to beat free books.) A few, however, seem to keep forgetting it’s there, so I like to throw out a reminder once in a while.

– Databases are your friend. The good ones make it easy to search specific subjects and check the credentials of the authors of particular articles/ books. Plus, lots of these are also totally free.

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5.) Make an outline/timeline/flowchart/whatever. I have a large white board I use for this purpose. Sometimes when I’ve got writers block it’s because I know on some level that what I’m trying to write isn’t working. I could be missing a key fact, or maybe a new idea contradicts something that happened in a previous scene. either way, this process helps me figure out what’s wrong and how to change it so it works.

4 Comments

Filed under Education

4 responses to “5 (Writer’s) Block Busters You Can Do in 5 Minutes

  1. I am a new writer and this is excellent advice. Good article.

  2. joyce becker

    I’m not a writer but really enjoy reading your blog!

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