Conquering Writer's Block
[I] went through a couple of ideas for a Ruminate blog post, but neither of them went anywhere. It’s been an odd month or so of fires, remembering September 11, and juggling kids' new schedules. I thought for sure I could come with something, but I could only get the first paragraph written of a post. When in doubt about what to write, there’s always the topic of not knowing what to write. This got me thinking about three tips I use for conquering writer’s block. 1. Sneak up on it. My favorite method for overcoming writer’s block is sneaking up on a project. When I feel the pull to not start a project, I take very small steps and ignore the big, looming project. The dialogue with myself goes something like this: “I’m just going to open my computer and turn it on. . . . I’m just going to check e-mail and maybe organize some files. . . . I’m just going to open the document and check the first page. . . . I’m just going to add a paragraph here. . . . I’m just going to work on that sentence.” Before I know it, I’ve overcome the initial hesitation of starting and am well on my way to actually writing. 2. Cheat with a prompt. I have two books that I keep handy for good writing prompts. They are, “The Writer’s Idea Book: How to develop great ideas for fiction, nonfiction, poetry and screenplays
” by Jack Heffron and “What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
” by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. Both have been helpful in jumpstarting and reinvigorating projects. 3. Don’t finish that sentence. National Public Radio recently interviewed two writers included in the new book (which I haven’t read but am quite intrigued to) “Don't Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit
” by Sonny Brewer. The interviewer asked the authors if they had any advice for writers. Besides the sage advice to write every day no matter what, one of them suggested not finishing the last sentence you are working on. When you pick up the piece the next day, you have a great place to start and motivation to get started, if just to finish that sentence (kind of like sneaking up on it). I’ve used this idea without really meaning to as kids’ schedules interrupt my writing, and it works quite nicely (especially if you can’t stand leaving things unfinished). I also find that reading, taking breaks from projects, and going on help with overcoming writer’s block. Although, this month, even with all these methods, I wasn’t able to get much beyond thinking about unblocking.
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Also in The Waking
Melissa Ostrom's essay "Buttoned" appears in Issue No. 53: Shelter.
My sick body is still good. She is still me. She is still wise and strong. My female body—to which others believe they are entitled—is still my home. She is still my power. Our stressed and strained bodies are waiting for us to return to them.
Teaching has saved me some days. When I didn’t want to get up but had to because there was George Saunders or Sandra Cisneros to read and discuss, I was saved from the pit of Myself Left To Myself that I remember preachers often scaring me into.