Writer’s Block? No Such Thing

Linda Barnett-Johnson , my guest today, is Assistant Editor of Long Story Short and Director of Administration for the Long Story Short School of Writing. Linda writes:

In the dark recesses of your brain, known as the cerebral cortex, is where the words to your many stories lay dormant.  They’ve taken a leave of absence without any authorization. You know they’re there because you’ve accessed them many times before. Is this what is known as “writer’s block?”

Is there such a thing as “writer’s block?”  Does our writing mind shut down like a factory when it’s time to go home?  Does our writing ability go on vacation or enter la-la-land?  Or does it act like a signal light going from green, writing without ceasing; yellow, slowing down – getting off the track; or red, complete meltdown – do not pass go or collect $200.00 – stopped dead in its tracks. 

If writer’s block existed, you wouldn’t be able to write your name, make out a shopping list, pay your bills, or write down an appointment and keep it!  So unless you’re dead or in a coma, there are many opportunities to get over your “writer’s block.” 

Get Creative: 

Go to the park with pen and paper and write what you see.  Then what you hear, smell, feel and taste.  Your senses are always in working condition.  For example:  “The bird looked like it stood still in the air.”  Now fill it in with more description.  “The large hook-billed eagle hovered over the ground, looking for prey with his keen eyes.”  Try it with all the senses. 

Another trick is to take your dictionary and start reading the words.  A lot of times this will trigger something loose.  Or randomly pick a word and write about it.  How about randomly picking a word and adding the word land or village or town behind it.  For example:  I close my eyes and my finger lands on – “revolve.”  Now put the word land behind it and you have – Revolve Land.  I don’t know about you, but I can see a children’s story about a town that has revolving playgrounds or schools.  Use your imagination and you’ll be surprised at what you come up with.

I have a fun project I started that keeps my brain from going to la-la-land.  

1) Take a small box about 12″x12″ (or a size that suits you), and write “Story Starters” on it. 

2) Get some Baggies, a black marker, pen, and notebook paper. 

3) On one baggy write: “Character Names, another “Settings,” another “Emotions” and the last “Objects.” 

4) a) Take your pen and paper and write as many “Character Names” you can think of.  Just make up names.  Get a phone book if you have trouble.  Fill up the whole page.   Now do the same with “Settings,” “Emotions,” and “Objects.” 

    b) Cut and fold each one and put them in their individual marked baggy. 

    c) Now draw a paper from each baggy.  You now have a “Story Starter.” 

Here’s an example: 

Character Name                   Setting                  Object                      Emotion 

Baron Colmsby                    Concert                 Baby Girl                 Funny 

I choose one piece of paper from each baggy and this is what I come up with.  My imagination is running wild.  I visualize Baron Colmsby at a musical concert.  Someone has brought a baby to the event.  Think of funny incidents regarding the Baron and the baby.  In fact, that would be a good title for the story – The Baron and the Baby.  Could make for a funny story. 

You can make a baggy for anything.  How about:  “Story Titles,” “occupations,” “mannerisms,” to name a few.  That’s the fun of this project.  I even have a baggy with “phobias.”  Whatever phobia I pick from the bag, you can be sure that one of my characters has it.  It’s a blast!  There are tremendous possibilities, as well as a myriad of things to write about.  Keep it simple, or make it as elaborate as you want. Get your kids involved. 

So you see there are potentials all around us.  All you need is your imagination and your senses.  So, in my opinion, unless you have no imagination, there’s no reason for “writer’s block!”

8 Responses to “Writer’s Block? No Such Thing”

  1. Saoirse Redgrave Says:

    Very neat idea using the baggies and brainstormed snippets.

    I recently found myself sitting in front of my computer in complete stunned terror, unable to shake the words from my fingertips onto the keyboard. I kept thinking: I don’t get writer’s block (and by your definition, no one really does ;-).

    I solved my issue by spending a few minutes watching my highland cattle and soaking up the atmosphere of our farm before driving around without the radio on (and mercifully my nearly 5 year old son was in a quiet mood). I let my mind just ramble. By the time I was back at the computer, the words were rolling again. Not perfect, but present. And hey, that’s why we edit, right?

    Thanks for sharing,
    ~Saoirse Redgrave

  2. joylene Says:

    Terrific ideas, Pat. Basic methods that are guaranteed to spark some ideas. Good call.

  3. Linda Barnett-Johnson Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the article. I run some private writing forums and give topics each month. Those usually generate some great stories. I do the same with poetry.

    Thanks for stopping by and reading the article. Tell your friends,

  4. Pat Bertram Says:

    Thanks for letting me post this article, Linda. Some great ideas!

    For me, when I get blocked, it’s because I’ve taken a wrong turn in the story. Rereading the previous pages or chapters usually helps, sometimes a walk, sometimes mental distance.

  5. Linda Barnett-Johnson Says:

    Sometimes you just have to get away for a while and let your brain have a rest. Do something entirely different and I guarantee that your story will start to haunt you until you get back to the computer or pen and paper.

    Thanks for inviting me to post. I look forward to more.

  6. Pat Bertram Says:

    Linda, I’m looking forward to your next guest appearance. Editing is such a crucial topic.

  7. kittypackard Says:

    Great idea with the baggies–like a novelists’ Mad-Libs. I don’t believe in writer’s block either because I am entirely too aware of my own proclivity for blaming my own laziness on easy cop-outs … like ‘writers block.’ 😀

  8. danagillican Says:

    I love the “no excuses” point of view you have about writers block. I agree with you 100%. The tips you give are very helpful.

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