Beat Writer's Block


Beat Writer's Block

SOME WRITERS SAY WRITER'S BLOCK IS A MYTH. That may be true for some, but for the rest of us, there are definitely times when words just won't appear on the page. To me it feels like a deadening of the senses, a sensation where every word or idea I conceive of tastes flat and stale in my mouth. That distaste makes me afraid to write anything down. But don't worry, o blocked ones; there are remedies for this situation. Here are a few exercises to get you going again when you feel paralyzed.

1. The random line game. Sometimes you just need a little momentum to gather. Famous writers sometimes begin by copying favorite sentences from books they love; after writing a few beautiful sentences, they're ready to start writing their own. Go to your bookshelf, pull out a random book, turn to page 84, and look at the 7th sentence on the page. Type it into your document (or write it in your notebook). That is the first line of a new story. Now go, go, go! (Just remember to cut that sentence later -- you're only borrowing it to get started).

2. Stay in town. Sometimes using another form of creativity can get your storywriting muscles warmed up. Get out a blank sheet of paper and draw several houses on it. They can be as detailed or as stick-figure as you like. Start constructing a street or a town. Make a police department and a fire house and a library. Now you've filled a sheet with an entire fictional town; now start populating the houses. What family lives in that house, and that one? Which house has the crazy old hermit living by himself? Who works at the police department, and who at the library? Now have someone in one of those houses be murdered. Who's guilty? You've already created a rich world with potential for a great story.

3. Write a postcard from a character. We all still have postcards sitting around, right? If not, draw one on a piece of paper. Make a pretty scene on one side; on the other, write yourself a postcard, but from the point of view of a character. Why is this character on vacation, or is she on the run? Who is she writing to, and why does she feel the need to write? The situation and circumstance of writing a letter has already created the need for a story to explain the details.