Thursday, October 9, 2014

Avoid writers block!

Today, I'm going to share with you an exercise that can help ease the frustration of writer's block. That is something that bothers me on occasion and it is annoying to sit and stare at a blank screen (or a blank sheet of paper, if you are not a computer fan or you're out in the woods, etc.). You sit and sit and sit... and get up... fetch the mail, walk the dog (OK, so I don't actually have a dog!), get a snack, wash dishes, sit down, write or, at least, attempt to write... but don't actually write.
One thing that I learned in my long and not-so-illustrious career as a writer-wanna-be is that writing is sort of like a physical exercise. You have to stretch and warm up before you get into the "heavy exercise." You don't start off a run at a full gallop... although some people can. I would say that you've got to warm up before you write. There are people who can just start writing... but I'm not one of them. 
So the warm-up activity that I am recommending is a timed writing.
You are going to set a timer or your cell phone or any other device that you have that measures time, and you will write nonstop for the length of time that you've set. I recommend ten minutes. For ten minutes, you will just write. Write quickly and do not go back to correct errors. You are turning off the editor portion of your brain because, when you are writing, that portion of your brain is not your friend! That is the portion of your brain that's telling you negative things. It is saying: no one will read what you wrote, it is not good enough, just give it up, you can't write! And it won't give it up! So we are going to shut it up for ten minutes because it is being inappropriate. 
The editor portion of your brain is your friend when you are working on revising and editing and proofreading something that you've written because you don't want to turn in a first draft. But you have to have something written first.
Here is a suggestion for a timed writing that you could do, either alone or with friends.
I'll give you four words to start and then you will write nonstop for ten minutes.
The four words are: I saw a mouse...
I will now do a timed writing right here so you can see that it is OK to write something that makes little sense or is rambly or is random. 
Ready!
Get set!
Go!

I saw a mouse. I was eating my lunch happily, when I noticed that the mouse was staring at my food. What the heck? Stop looking at my food, I said to the curious mouse but the mouse just shook its head, almost as if it understood English. Hey, I thought, maybe that mouse does understand what I am telling it. So I said to the mouse, "Would you like a bit of cheese?" The mouse said, "Yes." Just that. Yes. I nearly dropped my fork onto the floor. What's with nearly? I did drop my fork on the floor because I could hardly believe that the mouse uttered a work... um I mean a word... or maybe the mouse did utter a work or did some sort of work. But I digress because this is stream of consciousness and digressions are encouraged.
Well that mouse and I did enjoy a nice lunch together after my initial shock that it was able to talk. It told me stories of mouse lore and I was very impressed that the mouse was such a good story teller. In fact, I was jealous of the mouse's talents for story telling. Here is some of the story that the mouse shared with me:
In days long ago, the mouse and the cat were friends. In fact, all mice and all cats were friends. They ate together, they hunted together, they danced together, they told stories together. Their lives were joined and life was good for Mice and Cats.
Then one day, a cat and a mouse got into an argument over Cheese. The cheese had been sitting for far too long and no one was eating it. It had turned green with mold because that's what happens to cheese when no one remembers to eat it. In fact, the cat and the mouse did not remember where they had gotten the cheese from because cats and mice don't make the cheese. Only humans make the cheese and, back then, humans were not friends of cats or mice, although they liked mice a little more than cats. Well, the cat and the mouse argued about why the cheese was that unusual shade of green. It did not look pretty and cat said that things that do not look pretty should be taken to a dump so that Rat could eat the things that do not look pretty. Mouse was very unhappy that Cat insulted Rat like that because Mouse said that Rat was his cousin and that his cousin should not be unsulted. It was not nice. Unfortunately, Cat was not being tactful that day and he went on to say further insults of Rat. At that point, Mouse got out a little mousy sword and challenged Cat to a duel for insulting the honor of his cousin, Rat.
After the duel, which no one one won because neither cat nor mouse knew how to use their swords, Cat and Mouse separated. Cat still to this day feels the need to chase Mouse and sometimes to eat mouse because... well, no one remembers why.
So anyway, this time, I met Mouse and Mouse turned out to be very friendly. I was so happy to eat lunch with Mouse and hear his story about the past when suddenly, my cat arrived in the room and yelled at me for me to remove the mouse from the premises. My cat is a well fed...

So the ten minutes expired and the story did not.
Sometimes that happens!
And now... it's your turn!!!
Another technique for a timed writing would be to use a picture, such as this one, and a few words to start your story and then write as, occasionally, you look at the picture for inspiration.

2 comments:

Lily Leung said...

Very good advice, Alyce! I'm presently reading and loving Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. It is really nonsense and look how famous it is. I've gotten into bad mode, sitting down and just writing anything to get started. It's effective, too.

Lily

Romi C said...

"I saw a mouse....running across my garden. It was a large white mouse. I screamed...."

:-)

Both a timed writing and the use of photos are good ideas.

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