Tag Archives: Writer’s Block

10 Writing Prompts To Help You Unstick Your First Draft

Sometimes drafting that story stinks.

You’re all excited in the beginning, you can’t stop writing! But somewhere you get stuck. And you may want to quit.

Keep in mind, your purpose in writing the first draft is to just get the raw material of a story. You don’t have to create a masterpiece. You don’t even have to be all that coherent. In fact, what you’re doing wrong may be stressing you out. Instead, just write down what comes to your head. Don’t self-edit. Don’t go backward. Just put down word after word.

10 Writing Prompts To Help You Unstick Your Draft

 

The following prompts may just get you over your little funk and get you enough inspiration to…

1. Describe what everyone is wearing. This is especially for your girly-girls. Go into detail about the honey colored cashmere twin set that the receptionist has on. Have it remind you of your Aunt Grace and the time she took you shopping at Macy’s and you got squirted in the eye by the perfume counter and now you can’t smell Jennifer Lopez’s new scent without thinking of Aunt Grace. Do it. Your draft needs this.

2. There’s an annoying noise bothering the main character. What is it? And then describe it. What does he do about it? Even if this has nothing to do with your story, the act of writing it out can trigger something else. You may be glad you went off on this tangent.

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.”
H. Jackson Brown Jr.

3. Your main character is really, really hungry. Have him stop and feed himself. Does he cook or go out? What does he eat? Go into detail. Why does he like bacon and blue cheese burgers so much? What does he do with his egg allergy? Why does he suspect the waitress is up to something? Not enough characters eat, in my humble opinion, so schedule some elevensies and see what happens in your draft.

4. Your main character has been in this exact position before. What was it like? What did she do differently? What feeling does she now have about this? Pride? Shame? Fear? Tell the reader. Even if you go into dangerous unnecessary backstory, do it anyway.

5. Give your main character a ridiculous middle name and tell a story of how they got it. Who cares if this has nothing to do with the plot, just write. It could be that this could open up a long lost secret or motivation that can help unstick you!

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6. That weird thing that you heard about from a friend last week — about the dog, or the appliance repair man or that puff piece on the evening news — put it in your story. Even if it’s not completely plausible. In fact, go through all your old notes and see if there’s something salvageable from other stories that this one could use.

7. Put your main character in a car accident. These are never planned. Think about how they would react, what types of injuries would be the worst. Would they be at fault? Would they take responsibility? Every draft needs something unexpected, right?

 

8. Your main character finds a cell phone. It is ringing. They answer it. It’s someone the main character knows. Who is it? What do they want? This assumes that your story isn’t set in Longbourne in 1810. Even if it is, go for it. You may discover something.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
Kurt Vonnegut

9. The weather goes crazy. Is it a major thunderstorm? Hurricane? Blizzard? This too is not in our control and it shouldn’t be a choice for you — put your main character in a storm and let them wrestle with the elements. Like we can ever do anything about the weather.

10. Finally, set your timer. Go small. You might be stressed out that you don’t have an hour or two to put in the big numbers. That’s okay. You need lots of small numbers. If you’re a fast typist, you can knock out three hundred words in ten minutes. Take any of the above suggestions, work for ten minutes and watch that word count climb.

Here’s a secret: you don’t have to write what makes sense. You just have to get to the end. Once you get that draft done, then you can get serious about what says and what gets cut.

Just write. You can do it. It will be awesome.


If you liked this post on writing prompts, try these:

How Champion Free Writers Combat The Blank Page or, Top Ten Ways To Deal With Writer’s Block


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

16 Simple Things To Do To Be More Creative

Everybody wants to be more creative.

Creativity is that moment when your ideas come together in just the right way, you may see something that no one else did. Creativity is problem solving, but it’s also strategy, connections and applications of concepts. When we’re on fire creatively, sometimes we don’t know where the original spark came from but we know we like the innovative blaze it ignited.

The problem with creativity is that it’s the hard work of the mind and sometimes the ideas just aren’t there.

We know what makes our bodies tired, but often the mind gets tired in entirely different ways. If we are writing for a living, or hinging our professional success on creativity, then we can’t afford to waste too much time not innovating and creating.

13 Simple Things To Do to Be More Creative

 

The first step in becoming more creative is to start with your physical well-being: Get enough…
These alone won’t make you creative, but they will bring your mind to the optimum situation where creativity could occur.

Other ideas to set yourself up to be creative.

1. Get your mind off your task. I am a mother of five, so I know all about distractions. It turns out that having my kids come into my office every thirty seconds to show me something insignificant and dull is good for my brain. Distractions can make me more creative. They certainly make me annoyed.

2. Do something logical. Now according to this researcher, the jury is still out on how exactly one brain activity helps the other, but doing logic puzzles, Sudoku or crosswords certainly can’t hurt your creativity. I’d like to think of these logic breaks as cross-training for your mind. If you focus only on inventive thinking, your brain could be need for a rest.

3. Put yourself in a low stakes creative setting. Don’t know what to write next in your novel? Go get your pencils and adult coloring book and veg out. When you are coloring, you are making creative choices, but because they are rather insignificant ones, your brain can take a breather. Maybe after a couple of pages, you can face your writing again.

Ways To Be More Creative by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

4. Exercise. This article a University of Georgia study showed how exercise increases memory and analytical thinking.  here’s even this series on Youtube called Yoga for creativity

5. Get out of your own head. According to this article from PsychCentral, your overthinking about your task could be the very thing that paralyzes your creativity. It certainly can paralyze the rest of your life. Consider putting projects aside and deliberately putting your mind on something new. This may be all it takes to get fresh perspective.

6. Change the scenery. This thorough article gives lots of examples of how to create novel experiences during your week so that your creativity is encouraged.  Even things as simple as altering your commute or rearranging your office can stimulate your brain and make your ideas flow.

7. Go through your old notes. According to this article, “innovation can only ever rearrange what already exists.” I would agree. As storytellers, we’re always remixing old ideas — old character tropes, old plotlines, familiar settings — to make something fresh and hopefully innovating. Your old ideas may not be brilliant on their own, but if they are coupled with your current experience and insight, you may find great inspiration.

8. Try a new juxtaposition. Analogies can be a great way to stimulate creativity. When I was in college, I was introduced to the idea of the synectics model, which is a way of comparing unlike objects or creating fresh analogies to stimulate creativity. This video explains it too. Occasionally I use this  (with my original notes from the ’90s) to understand my themes or characters better.

9. Discuss your idea with other creatives or peers. We all know that having someone to trust to bounce ideas off of is helpful. Don’t know any writers? It just so happens that I lead the liveliest writers group on Facebook. You should join us.

10. Make lists. I love, love, love everything that Brain Pickings has to say, but then they did an article on how Ray Bradbury would make lists to stimulate his thinking. Oh! This is perfect! Do what Bradbury does and you could write the next Fahrenheit 451!

11. Meditate. I was totally sold on this idea when I read this: “We can stop wringing our hands and waiting for the muses to fill our minds with novel and useful ideas. The science suggests that we can take an active role in inspiration and that this exercise can help!” I would believe that anytime you pursue mindfulness, you’re going to come out ahead. Not to mention that your stress level decreases, your blood pressure lowers and you feel physically energized.

12. Get organized. You’ve probably read the phrase, “A tidy desk is a sign of a sick mind,” or something along those lines. Maybe you’ve used your disorder as an excuse to be creative. But the good folks at The New York Times have done a little science and they think you should tidy it up if you want to be creative. Now set your timer and get to it. You’ll probably like the way it looks when you’re done.

13. Listen to music. According to this Psychology Today article: “Music not only affects your creative musings but also your energy levels.” But you probably already knew that. You already knew that some music makes you get up and dance. Some puts you in the mood to write. Sometimes music takes you on a memory trip. Music is powerful, so plug in those earbuds. You’ll be inspired in no time.

14. Take a nap. Of all the thing on this list to bolster creativity, THIS IS MY FAVORITE! Our little brain cells need a rest! I’ve always suspected as much, but it’s nice to know that science backs me up when I close the blinds and tell the kids not to bother me for 45 minutes or so.

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15. Move forward on the worst idea. So in the 30 seconds I was using to Google all of these suggestions, I couldn’t come up with the documentation to support that moving on the worst idea was a good creative strategy. I still stand by it and this is why: assuming the stakes or low (and really, drafting a novel in this saturated market rarely creates high stakes for anyone) try the worst idea on your list of potential ideas. Move forward. Take a step. See what happens. Either you’ll discover that it’s not such a bad idea after all, or you’ll adjust it and modify it so much, you’ll create more and more ideas and you’ll be recharged by your discovery. It’s a win-win.

16. Read. Of all the things on this list, reading is one that you should be doing anyway. You probably don’t need a reminder that reading feeds your subconscious, increases your vocabulary and knowledge, opens your mind to new ideas and helps you think critically, but I’m going to paste a link in here anyway to make it official. 

You can’t specifically turn your creativity on and off like a tap, but you can set your mind up strategically so that it has the better chance of being creative.

Got any more ideas? Send me a comment! I’d love to hear how you’ve become more creative.


Like this post? You may find these helpful too!  

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful

Or, Top 10 Ways To Deal With Writers Block


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

How Champion Free Writers Combat The Blank Page

Facing the blank screen can be one of the most intimidating moments of being a writer. I have a sure fire way to conquer this moment: the free write.

A free write is a word spew, or word vomit if you don’t mind a graphic image.

A free write is also a brainstorm or stream of consciousness. It is the act of putting down a word — any word — and then another, another, and another. In a free write, you conquer the blank page by the simple act of just making it not blank. That effort can make a difference in your confidence and your momentum for the rest of your writing time.

I know that for me personally, I don’t have a lot of time to stare at a blank page.

So I write the most hackneyed, predictable sentence I can write about the characters or the main points for a full ten minutes. From there, I take a break to clear my head, but I have something to edit. I can save the tiny chunks of goodness, delete the rest, and start over. I find that by “priming the pump,” I’m more productive, more confident and more creative.

You must have something in your initial drafting stage. Aim for it to be as awful as possible.

I’d like to suggest that if you are going to be productive and successful,  that you aim to be a champion free writer.

How Champion Free Writers Combat The Blank Page

If you are a champion at this, you’ve locked your self-editor in the closet.

You don’t have room for him at all. The best freewriting is fast. So if you are stopping every six seconds to edit yourself, not only are you slowing down, but you’re slowly eroding away your confidence. There is a place for self-editing — and IMHO authors don’t do enough of it — but it is NOT in the initial drafting stage.

If you are a champion at this, you’re comfortable.

Free writers have to practice their momentum. They don’t just become good at this. If you’ve never tried it before, set a timer for 1-2 minutes and then see how many words you can get down in a short about of time about your subject.

If you are a champion at this, your brain gets a workout.

If you are a free writer, you have to think fast as well as type fast. Now not everyone is a fast thinker, but I believe that you can increase your processing speed with practice. And another option is to create this first draft by hand. Julia Cameron writes, “The computer is fast—too fast for our purposes. Writing by computer gets you speed but not depth. Writing by computer is like driving a car at 85 mph. Everything is a blur. “Oh, my God, was that my exit?” Writing by hand is like going 35 mph. “Oh, look, here comes my exit. And look, it has a Sonoco station and a convenience store.”

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If you are a champion at this, you may tap into your subconscious.

With practice, and especially if you are writing with a pen or pencil, your subconscious thoughts are more likely to come to the surface. From this article in Psychology Today, “Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington, reported her study of children in grades two, four and six that revealed they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.[4]

If you are a champion at this, you may pick up a pencil instead.

Handwriting is often an effective anti-anxiety treatment and can calm you down. It’s these thoughts that may be your best work, but it’s not going to come if you are to self-aware, worried about spelling or keep thinking that this is stupid. Consider ditching the computer for a while to get over that blank screen fear and free write the old-fashioned way.

If you are a champion at this, you may discover a great metaphor or connection.

While we are writing, we can often free associate unlike items and perhaps see connections that we didn’t see before. It’s also quite acceptable to take a tired and worn out cliche and rework it so that you have a fresh image in your mind. These metaphors can make your prose extraordinary.

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If you are a champion at this, your productivity increases.

If you are in the habit of free writing then you are working. You’re actually getting something done. Writers write. Those who sit around and wait for inspiration get a lot less done. By habitually free writing, you are growing in discipline. You’re creating more and more drafts. You have more to edit and potentially more to publish. This feels good and it’s a lot more fun to be published than it is to be constantly waiting for the elusive muse.

And finally, if you are a champion at this, when you do get that free write done, you have a draft.

You understand this big, stinkin’, pile of words isn’t supposed to be publishable. These words are just the raw material — a hunk of coal that will eventually be pressed into a diamond. And whether Hemingway actually said something to this effect or not, the concept is a true one: the first draft of anything is ca-ca. 

If you’re going to free write today, you’re going to open a document and just go.

You might put down what you’re thinking. You might type out what items are on your desk. If you are free writing, you are creating word after word, sentence after sentence, about nearly anything.

If you are in the habit of free writing, then you have a great tool. Use it as often as you can.


If you liked this article on free writing, you may also like,
NINE QUESTIONS TO ASK IF WRITER’S BLOCK HAS YOU BY THE THROAT,
or TOP 10 EMERGENCY PROMPTS TO HELP YOU THROUGH NANOWRIMO.

 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Top Ten Ways To Deal With Writer’s Block by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Have you fought with writer’s block?

It sucks, doesn’t it?

Writer’s block is that state when there seems to be no inspiration. Writer’s block is when you wrestle back and forth in your confidence to create and still come up with nothing. Writer’s block is the realization that you have no ideas. Writer’s block is a searching for new words or new ideas and putting only dull words on the paper. Writer’s block can be dangerous in that we start believing that we’ll never have a good story again. Writer’s block is frustrating and maddening. Writer’s block can be blamed on our muse ignoring us, on our chest cold, on our own insecurities or on lies we’ve been told.

Top 10 Ways to Beat Writer's Block by Katharine Grubb

Writer’s block comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s fear based. Sometimes it’s energy based. Sometimes we’re just bored with our own ideas.

But these are some ways that you can overcome:

1. Fill your tank. If you’re not writing, you should be reading. Read broadly with as much diversity as you possibly can. Read in our genre and out of your genre. Read poetry and nonfiction. Read constantly.

2. Write anyway. Journal. People watch. Do the morning pages. Just add words. The habit of getting down a little will help you immensely.

3. Don’t equate your lack of productivity with your value. Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in the fact that we’re not writing, that we dig ourselves deeper into a pit of despair. Shake off any dark thoughts about this season. It happens to everyone.

4. Describe an anecdote. Write about anything that happened to you recently. Use the opportunity to write about it as practice. When you’re done, change the setting or characters or specific details to make it more creative. Even if this isn’t a publishable piece, your act of writing will help you grow in confidence.

5. Use a prompt without any expectation of a result. My favorite writing prompts are the first lines from great works of literature. I find that the craftsmanship of the first lines an inspiration. Now, I would never claim them as my own, but it does get my creative juices flowing.

6. Turn off the inner editor. First drafts are supposed to be messy. The editor comes in when you are completely satisfied with the drafting process, not any sooner.

7. Stop comparing yourself to others. This is good advice for all of life. But writers have a tendency to measure their success based on what others are doing. This is a huge mistake. Your creativity is yours alone. Just keep writing and don’t worry about what others are doing.

8. Give your projects breathing room. Put your project aside and come back to it in a month or even longer. We often need the perspective of time to see our art with fresh eyes and have a realistic vision for what needs to be done. Don’t be afraid to wait.

9. Surround yourself with other great art. I believe that art begets art. Listen to creative music. Go to an art museum. Watch high quality films. Your subconscious is hungry for the thoughtful and beautiful. Feed it. At some point, this art will show itself in your writing.

10. Read a writing book. Sometimes we’re blocked because we really don’t know how to do something in our stories. A writing book may help. If you haven’t your own collection of writing books, check out your local library.

Writer’s block is, I believe, just part of a journey of a writer.

Our creativity can move in and out like a tide. We can overcome writer’s block with discipline, practice, low expectations and stepping back into a playful place where we can enjoy writing again.

Our ideas are often organic beings. They are independent organisms of our life. They don’t have a time table nor a calendar. Wait on them. Give them time to stew properly.

Our ideas are never perfect. They require patient sculpting and reshaping. If you can lower your expectations of what they should look like, and ban your inner editor from the drafting stage, you can conquer the perfectionism that often comes with creating.

Our ideas will never be universally loved. Instead of focusing on who won’t like it, focus on who will. Don’t allow your fear of rejection to keep you from working.

We will not overcome writer’s block by procrastinating.

We will not overcome writer’s block by being too dependent on inspiration.

We will not overcome writer’s block by reminding ourselves over and over that hey! We have writer’s block!

You can beat writer’s block. I believe in you.

Bad Day for Words? Easing the Struggle to Write — a Guest Post by Christine Hennebury

I have over 20,000 people who follow me on Twitter. That means that potentially that many can read about what I ate for lunch (or more important stuff if I choose to tell them!)  I have nearly 400 friends on Facebook from all over the world. That means that potentially every story, heartbreak, and bad day can be told to them pretty quickly. Then I lead a group of writers on Facebook of over 1700 people worldwide and I am not shy about telling them about my struggles and victories. It’s from these groups that I have found some of dearest people in the world. My guest writer is Christine Hennebury, a butt-kickin’, storytellin’ Canadian who is one of my biggest cheerleaders and online friends. I can’t imagine life without her. Go Christine!  And thanks for guest posting! 


Everyone has bad days at work. But we writers are especially skilled at turning a slow day into a big THING about who we are as writers and as people. 

I think it’s because we are so good with stories. So, for us, a bad day is not just about that individual day, it’s about our choice to write. It becomes part of a bigger story of whether we are cut out for this job, whether we have anything important to say at all, whether we *should* be writing.

Easing the Struggle to Write a guest post by Christine Hennebury

And while in some contexts those could be valid questions, most of the time a bad day is just a bad day. Maybe we didn’t sleep well, maybe we are struggling with an aspect of our work and we just haven’t figure out why yet, or maybe we just don’t know what to do next. It doesn’t have to have a deeper meaning.

In many professions, there are specific steps that need to be followed on every job and the practitioners don’t have to think too much about the procedures because they have been tried and tested. If something doesn’t work, they don’t have to assign any meaning to it, they can just try something else. I like to help my clients find similar steps for their creative work so they can ease their way out of difficult days and keep working.

Here are my suggestions to keep a bad day in perspective and get some words on the page:

1) Lose the story: Say aloud to yourself ‘This is just a bad moment, I don’t have to give it any meaning.’ Weaving a story around a hard day gives it a meaning it doesn’t deserve. A bad day doesn’t mean that you are a bad writer. 

2) Give it a little thought (but just a little): Are the thoughts in your head about how you need rest or that you have no ideas? Or are they harsh thoughts about your skills or abilities?

 If it is the first, then consider if you need to take a little break or if you need to do something to get the juices flowing again.  

If it is the second, then ask your mind to work with you instead of against you. Maybe say something to yourself like ‘I hear that you are trying to protect me from getting hurt by keeping my ideas in, but I need to get them on paper. We’ll talk about what I can do with them once they are out of my head.’

3) Do a warm-up: Set a timer for just 5 minutes or so and write about nothing. Write complaints about how you don’t want to write. Write a letter of annoyance to your muse. Make a long list of hamburger toppings. It doesn’t matter what you write, just get your brain in writing mode. 

4) Try a little ‘real’ writing: Now that you’re warmed up, you can set your timer again and start writing. Here’s the catch though – don’t even try to make it good. Just get your ideas sketched out on the paper. This is not the day to shoot for the stars. Aim low. Do your okay-est. 

Just get the ideas down and you can work them into something else later. You know how you are supposed to show and not tell? This is a time when telling is perfectly fine. Just say ‘She was angry’ and save the descriptions of her reddened face and her low growl for the editing phase. When the timer stops, get up and walk away.

5) Reward yourself: If you can, take a longer break that you spent writing. Make it a GOOD break – something really rewarding. Conversations with a friend, taking a short nap, sinking into the tub. Whatever really feels good to you, but indulge yourself in it entirely for however long you have available. 

If your schedule won’t allow it today, then take a short indulgent break now and PLAN your bigger break for later today or on the weekend. 

6) Return to writing: Once you’ve had a break, set the timer again and keep writing. Remember that our goal is to get the ideas out and to keep moving. 

This is NOT about doing anything well or ‘right’ – it’s just about doing your job. 

7) Find the kindness:  It’s time to start being nicer to yourself about your writing process. This is how you’ve chosen to make a contribution to the world and you need to give yourself permission to actually do it. 

The important thing about all of these steps is finding a way to keep your bad day in perspective. If you are a writer, then writing is your job and, like with any job, there are procedures you can follow to bring ease to the process. Why not give the ones listed here a try and see if they can help you get back to your project?


Christine Hennebury
This is Christine Hennebury. You do NOT want to mess with her!

Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her hand. Luckily, her story skills have improved since then. She makes up stories, shares stories, and helps people shape their life stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her storyfying at www.christinehennebury.com Read some of her recent fiction at http://mombie.com/category/writer-dame/story-a-day-may-2015/ Chat with her on twitter @isekhmet

 

Nine Questions To Ask If Writers’ Block Has You By The Throat

You can’t even. You just can’t even.

Sometimes the words aren’t there. The ideas are weak and feeble. Your fingers grow numb waiting on a decent thought from your brain. There’s a problem and you can’t quite figure out what it is or why you’re blocked.

I’ve been there. And I’ve learned that a little self introspection sometimes is enough to get to the bottom of the problem.

9 Questions to ask if writer's block has you by the throat

Are you blocked because you are emotionally damaged by your project? 

Be honest. Not every writing project is a barrel of laughs. Some, like term papers and college essays are kinda important and you need to plow through. Some though, we’ve signed ourselves up for because we thought we needed to. I do not advocate quitting, but I do advocate taking stock of your mental and emotional health. If your project is very stressful, causing emotional or physical pain (it happens) then get out of it if you can. If you can’t, then finish it as soon as possible, beating the deadline.  I don’t have exact answers here, but I do know that severe negative feelings have a source from something and we owe it to ourselves to analyze what’s troubling us, figure out a solution and fix it.

Are you blocked because other things (besides writing) are messing with your head? 

You’ve just faced trauma, you’ve had a bad day, you’ve yelled at your kid. YUP. You can really shut down after an emotional event. Catch your breath and wash your face, but go write about it. Put down in words your feelings, your fears and your emotional ups and downs. Not only is this therapeutic, but you never know, gut level honesty can be good for your writing. Just because you write something down doesn’t mean you’re going to use it, oh my goodness, NO!  But the exercise of expressing yourself, of dealing with stress, trauma or extreme emotions is good practice for whatever you usually write.

Are you blocked because you are self-sabotaging?

This is a tricky idea, but sometimes we set out on projects fully expecting to fail. Something deep inside may be telling you not to try. As a result, you don’t want to write that blog post, make that tweet or even send that email. Try this instead: write five positive facts about yourself for every negative one that you’ve been ruminating over. Don’t just think them, write them. This also is therapeutic on many different levels and you’ll find, after a few minutes, that you’re emotionally ready to tackle the project. This may be a symptom of a much deeper problem and getting good advice from a trusted friend/pastor/therapist might be the best solution.

Are you blocked because your brain is tired? 

Just like your body, your brain needs rest too. Spend an evening or two (but not too many) watching television or playing video games. Your brain will recover with a little recreation. Then come back to your project and see if you can add to it.

Are you blocked because you are overwhelmed with the project? 

You have a deadline. It’s huge. It’s intimidating. What do you do? You eat the elephant one bite at a time. Break the task down into smaller ones and spend short increments of time on the project. (Hey! Ten minutes is a good start!) Then, as you get started, you’ll see that your momentum has kicked in and you can accomplish more and more.

Are you blocked because your inner critic WILL NOT SHUT UP?

The inner critic is that nagging voice that won’t let you be free. It corrects, criticizes, makes you go back and fix little things that aren’t important, negates the smallest effort and basically defeats you before you even start. This one really needs a kick in the face. Fire, evict or murder your inner critic — at least in the drafting stages. All the things that inner critics worry about, like grammar and structure and spelling, should be addressed after the first draft is written, not before. It takes practice, but train yourself to write fast first drafts — so fast that your inner critic can never catch up. Then, even though the draft is ca-ca (Hemingway said so), at least you have a draft! Now you have something to work on later. Call that inner critic back in the room, keep him on a short lease, and put him to work.

Are you blocked because you are discouraged? 

You got the rejection letter. You didn’t make the first round of the contest. Your favorite agent hates your book. Discouragement is a tough. Take heart that every writer faces this. Then, go over any comments or feedback from these demons from Hell and see if their criticisms are valid. Then, write. Write about anything. Strive to improve. Ask your writing group or your critique partner what your strengths are and develop them. Then, when you’re ready, tackle those weaknesses. Much of writing is art — which is hard to learn. But much of it is technical! You can learn spelling, grammar and punctuation. You can learn technique. There are thousands of books out there about writing! Find one and do everything in the book. Be humble and teachable and work hard. Your dreams are worth pursuing and the hard work will be worth it. 

Are you blocked because you are lazy?  

Sorry, but it had to be asked. The truth is there are a lot of wannabes out there who don’t want to put the time in, who don’t want to be taught, who think that book contracts fall out of the sky. They don’t. (Although mine kinda did.) You can flip channels all day and call it writer’s block, and your enabling friends will help you eat your pizza and beer, but that is not what successful writers do. They work. They get up and keep going.

Are you blocked because you are afraid? 

This question is the one that is the closest to my heart. I was afraid for many, many years to pursue my dreams. My source of fear had far more to do with the messages I was told as a child than my writing goals. I spent most of my life in a constant state of borderline freaking out and it got worse when I became a mother. I was, in essence, blocked to do anything creative from the time I was 26 until the time I was 38. That’s 12 years of walking in fear! That was a lot of wasted time. (okay, I DID have five kids in less than eight years, so clearly I was busy with other things, but still . . . ) What was I afraid of? I was afraid of being laughed at, of being rejected, of failing, of succeeding, of taking time away from my family to pursue my dreams, of not being a good mother, of being thought a fool. What made me change was the realization that I had five precious children watching me. Would they say of me that I conquered my fear or would they say of me that I succumbed to it? I knew I didn’t want my children to be afraid of anything, especially my girls, so I kicked my fear in the teeth and got over it. It’s been eight years since that feeble effort to get away from my fear and ya know? It was hard! But I did it. And I’m so glad I did.

Some of these questions are going to take time to answer. That’s okay. The mental wrestling match that will required will be worth it in the long run.

What else can you ask yourself to combat writers’ block? Let me hear you!


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward, PTSD survivor, and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day.Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.

She blogs at www.10minutenovelist.com. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her new novel, Soulless Creatures, which is about two 18 year old boys, not vampires, will be released August 2015.

Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb Your roommate just bet you his brand new 280ZX that you don't have a soul. Do you dare to prove it?

Your roommate just bet you his brand new 280ZX that you don’t have a soul. Do you dare to prove it? Now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle!  

Working-class future leader Roy Castleberry and pampered over-thinker Jonathan Campbell are 18-year-old freshmen at the University of Oklahoma who think they know everything. Roy thinks Jonathan could succeed in wooing Abby if he stopped obsessing over Walden. Jonathan thinks Roy could learn to be self-actualized if he’d stop flirting with every girl he meets. They make a wager: if Roy can prove that he has some poetic thought, some inner life, A SOUL, then Jonathan will give him the car he got for graduation. Roy takes the bet because he thinks this is the easiest game he’s ever played. Roy spends the rest of the school year proving the existence of his soul, competing against Jonathan for Abby’s attention, dodging RAs who are curious about the fake ID ring in his room and dealing with his past. For Roy and Jonathan, college life in 1986 is richer, (both experientially and financially) than either of them expected.


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 The Rallying Cry  will be an honest, kleenex-worthy, you-can-do-this, faith-filled message of hope for those who need it. You can sign up below.

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Breaking Up With Writers’ Block

 

It’s time for me to break up with Writer’s Block.

If Writer’s Block was a person, he would be five feet eight. He is in his 40s but he looks much older. He has a greasy blond comb over on his freckled bald head. His face is sallow. His jowls are flabby and droopy. He admittedly never looks in a mirror. He has stray gray hairs that come out of his chin. I don’t know why there isn’t more evidence of a beard. Maybe that’s the most dramatic his beard gets. He has a dull stud in one ear, which has hairs and wax coming out of them. He’s wearing a faded light blue t-shirt. It’s torn around the neck and there are little rips in the crew neck. It’s an inconsistent color. Faded, bleach stained.  Heavy perspiration stains in the arm pits and back. Writer’s Block has boobs that sit on his expansive belly. There are tears and stains on the belly of the shirt that he doesn’t even see.

I brought him to a local diner so he wouldn’t cause a scene.

Breaking Up With Writer's Block
Breaking Up With Writer’s Block

The waitress approached our table with his order. Apparently, he’s a regular here and she can smell him coming.

His meal is a huge triple cheeseburger. The bun glistened with grease. It looks good on the plate, but the moment he picks it up with his fat fingers, it loses all of its attraction for me. He squeezed it in such a way that the mayo and the ketchup squeezed out the bottom. The patty slid out the bottom, splatting ketchup and mustard on the table. 

Writer’s Block took a huge bite. He squinted his eyes shut. He chomped with his mouth open. He chewed and snorted and wheezed and smacked. Writer’s Block is so disgusting. I have to look away. 

 The waitress asked me what I wanted.

I wanted to order something with the intention of shaming Writer’s Block. I wanted to say, in my most smug, self righteous voice. “I’ll  just have a Cobb salad.”  Writer’s Block won’t look me in the eye.

But I stare hard. I’m turning my date with Writer’s Block into a passive aggressive food fight.

Breaking Up With Writer's Block
Wanna bite?
Before I even get the order out of my mouth and WB mumbled with his mouth stuffed, “What’s Cobb Salad?” At least that’s what I think he said. He may have said, “I want one too!” or “I’m having a heart attack.” His mouth was full and I didn’t feel like asking him to repeat it, twenty minutes later, when he finally swallowed.

The waitress tapped the pen on the pad and said, “So, he’s paying?”

“YES!” I made sure that the waitress heard that clearly. 

I don’t wait for him to respond to me. “Look,” I say, “I think you are a fake. ”

He stops chewing enough to look at me directly.

 I continue. “I don’t believe in you.” He’s not nearly as intimidating as I thought he was.  “You’re a fraud. There really isn’t anything to you that a free write won’t expose. You are like many of the past pests in my life: empty and threatening.”
“I thought we had something special?” He mumbled.
“No. I’ve never been happy with you.”
He offered me another bite of his burger. I refused.
Breaking Up With Writer's Block
“I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that putting my butt in the chair and getting my fingers on the keyboard is half the battle. I’ve learned that just writing a few starter sentences about anything  can get the creative juices flowing. I’ve found a community of writers who are could about prompting me.”
“We can do all that too.” He wiped his face and fingers on his shirt.
“No. We can’t. All you tell me is that I’m stuck. You tell me I need to hold out for the perfect million-dollar idea. That if I write I’ll make too many mistakes. You tell me that it’s better to watch a lot of bad television than it is to write. You tell me that I’m not good enough to achieve my dreams. You tell me that there will be time tomorrow. And you know, I now have a goal in 2015 to write 1000 words a day. Everybody is watching me, Blocky. You don’t want me to fail, do you?”
“But . . . ” he looked like he was hurting himself. “We’ve had some good times!”
“No. We haven’t. When I’m with you, I just feel sorry for myself. I doubt my own talent. I feel flabby and lazy. I grow more fearful that I’ll never succeed. I really don’t want those feelings anymore.”
He sniffed a big snotty sniff. He looked like he was thinking about my words. “Dancing With the Stars is on tonight.”
“Oh, who cares?” I don’t have to be nice to him anymore. “When was the last time you showered?”

He chewed and looked up to one side, as if he was thinking. That’s another thing I hate about Writer’s Block. He acts like he is thinking. He’s never had an original thought. He never says much of anything. 

Breaking Up With Writer's Block

“Dunno.”

I lost it. “Writer’s Block, you disgust me.” I raised my voice. “But you are ugly. I really don’t like being seen with you in public. You need a shower. Since you aren’t a person, I don’t have to worry about offending you. I want to tell you how much I loathe your very presence.”

He shrugged and took another bite of that greasy burger.

“I’m leaving you forever.”  I stood up to leave. I had lost my taste for the Cobb Salad. “Go find another writer to torment.”