Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Toss Up Tuesday: Breaking Writers Block

Writer's block. We all suffer from it some time. It slowly creeps up and then grips you firmly, refusing to let your mind focus, stifling the creative flow - nothing comes in and nothing comes out. Writer's block can be a brief stall that lasts mere minutes or a stalemate that lasts years. So, how do we get rid of it? I have a simple trick that always works for me, at least by the third time.

This trick is a writing exercise that I created my sophomore year of high school. It allows you to think simply and clearly, while slowly kicking your brain into gear. I call it "Still Object Method."

Step 1: Pick an object and a simple setting. Nothing too complex, but something simple and inanimate. For this example, I'll pick an apple in a completely white room.

This is my apple. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Step 2: Write it into existence. Start out simply. Write one or two lines about discovering it, how it came to be, etc. Think of it as an opening or introduction.
"There it sat. It is a mystery where it came from, but there it was, unashamedly intruding upon the stainless, glossy table of an otherwise completely white room; it was a crimson ink stain on a pristine, collared shirt."
Step 3: Pick a feature and describe it as if it were the most fascinating thing in the world. Pick one feature. Don't spend too much space on it and try to describe the feature without referring to it directly. For instance, instead of saying "it's color was a deep red," you would say something like:
"The apple was a bold drop of blood upon the first snow of winter. It's shine glared as if struck by a brilliant light, rather than the dull flickering of an overhead lamp."
Step 4: Continue this for another feature. Make sure it is a feature that will give it a nice contrast. I first commented on the glossy red of the fruit; now I will comment on it's stem, complete with dull green leaf.
"A small, brown stem protruded from it's top, stretching toward the heavens like nature's crown. Dull green leaves sprouted from it, hanging downward to kiss the fruit with velvety tip."
Step 5: Expand the description from the object. Work from the closest to the furthest. In this case, from the table top to the floor, to the chair, and so on.
 "It rested upon the cold surface of white marble, defying it's colorless world - from the immaculate floor to the blank, staring walls."
Step 6: Describe an event. Someone/something interacting with it, etc.
"A young woman, almost as pale as the room which she now entered, flicked her silvery blonde hair from her shoulder and lifted the apple in her slender fingers toward her mouth. Her thin, rosy lips parted."
Step 7: Create a nice, neat ending. Try ending on a dynamic word for impact - a seldom used word, an onomatopoeia, and so on.
"Her pearly teeth sank into it's flesh as she tore away a chunk with a loud crunch!"

Try it again with other objects. Some favorites of mine are chairs, lamps, knives, glasses of water, stones, and candles. Once you get to the end, try to continue it. For instance, I ended with a girl biting the apple. I'd start writing about the girl - what she did, where she went, or perhaps a back story. Maybe the girl wasn't supposed to be eating the apple; perhaps she was part of some sort of scientific testing.

This usually helps break the writer's block. I hope that it helps you. Remember that even if you are stuck on a project, try to write something else - even a journal entry - because if you don't use it, you lose it!

[Edit: This post was originally published on Wednesday, July 24th (delayed due to site issues) and re-published on Friday, July 26th due to continuing problems.]