Imagine a person standing in front of a wall of trees at the beginning of a vast forest. They are either going to have one well defined path to take into the unknown wood, multiple paths, or no obvious path at all. If this person represents the direction which your project is going, it will be up to you to decide what path the person will take. Writer’s block would be having no obvious path for them to take, or even multiple paths, but with indecision on which path would be the best for the narrative.
It is appropriate that my blog’s first post would be dealing with the problem of writer’s block. Appropriate because I started this blog as a means to keep writing something while enduring severe cases of such creative stagnation. I say “severe cases” because minor ones may be easily treated with the methods that I will discuss here. I am no expert. I am just sharing what has been effective for me and it is my hope that at least something will work for you.
All the remedies here will address minor blockages and can be done at your computer desk and help get you back to writing in a few moments.
Sensory Stimulation: Music and Images
I listen to instrumental music while I write. I tend to see the movie in my head with the music in the background as the soundtrack, and it helps my imagination flow with images rich with detail. However, music can also activate inactive creative neurons. When I am stunted, I have found the best music to recharge imagination and get the mental movie playing again is lyrical and poetic, such as the example below.
The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes and hauntingly performed by Loreena McKinnett has on many recent occasions unlocked a flow of imagination from a well once thought dry for the day. Poetic lyrics will craft images in my mind, and this is the key. You need to have those detailed images being weaved in you mind so you can then forge them into existence on paper or the screen. It is best if the song matches with your personality and also the type of project you are writing. The project I am working on now can be described as gloomy and melancholic so this performed version of The Highwayman works perfectly for me.
Find a song that fits with your project’s mood and your personality, and play it. Pay attention to the lyrics, allow your mind to wander and then when you begin seeing those images try to connect them to your story. Let the poet’s words spark new and creative ways to craft your writing.
Music can also encourage you to keep going. Another song that I often listen to for creative encouragement is Kerli’s Walking on Air.
While Kerli certainly has a unique style, Walking on Air is a great way to prompt your writing and creative aspirations.
Music can stimulate your creationist energy, and so can images. A good set of photos taken of an area that evokes the same ambiance of your story, or that represent a setting in your project, can help. Observe the elements in them. Make a list of all the visual details you can and then imagine your character within such a setting, or just write something new and unrelated to exercise your mind.
Give it a try: Click on the photo, list the details you see. You can describe how the creek is cutting through the forest. Even if it is not related to your project, it makes for good practice.
Add to Your Schema
“Our dreams are the sequel of our waking knowledge.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson’s finely crafted quote is one of my favorites as it so profoundly speaks to the mindset of the creationist. We have dreams of what we wish and strive to create, but those dreams are formed by a mixture of what we know and experience and then forged by the strength of our God-gifted talent.
I do not know who originally said it, but I have heard this repeated many times: Great writers are also great readers. If you find yourself stuck, grab a book of a similar topic to what you are writing and read random pages of it. Doing so exposes yourself to the talents of another author and the way they crafted their words together. Pay attention to their techniques in areas you’re stumped. If you are stuck with a transition then focus on how they transition. If you’re struggling with action in a scene, then pay attention to how they describe action.
It will also expose you to a broader scope of ideas. The more you read the more you add to your waking knowledge; your schema.
If you are suffering from a prolonged case of writer’s block, I have found two remedies that work, though not quickly as those described above.
Go Places and Just Write Anything, Even if its Stupid
This can also go with adding to your schema. One way to get over a severe case is to go somewhere; ideally a location similar to the setting in your project that has you stumped. At this time I am writing a story that takes place in a forest. When listening to music or looking at images does not solve the problem, I find a wooded area to explore. I am then surrounded by sensory stimuli that will usually reactivate my creativity.
Take a notebook and record your thoughts as they come to you.
Just Write Anything, Even if its Stupid
Which is what I am doing here, I just hope it’s not stupid. (Although, I have written some fairly peculiar things in the interest of rekindling dormant aspirations.) This method does not usually help me as much as going somewhere, but I have had some success, and I know people this works for. I took a creative writing class in high school in which I have fond memories of the teacher making us write for ten minutes nonstop. We were told to write any thoughts that come to mind, even if they do not make sense. I certainly exploited those instructions. I still have many of those practices which I will occasionally read or share to close friends for entertainment and shock value.
Now go write something!