Overcoming Writer’s Block

(C) 2019, JJ Shaun
The dreaded Writer’s Block Monster. (I’m no artist, can you tell?)

I realize this is a familiar topic, but I’ve been reading a lot about Writer’s Block in the forums I follow. So, how do *I* break through my writer’s block when it threatens to derail my progress? Keep reading for a few more suggestions from my personal writer’s toolbox.

Writing Communities

I have an account on a writer’s support page called Writing.com. Like most of my writing, it’s has lain mostly dormant for the last couple of years. I spent the time working not to fall into depression as my career disintegrated.

I would regularly participate in the daily writing contests the site has to offer. My short story, Fire-Wind https://jjshaun.com/2019/10/13/writing-short-fiction/, was an entry in a Writer’s Cramp contest.

The site also offers a daily Flash Fiction contest. Your task in this contest is to write an original short story of 300 words or less. It must have a character, a conflict, and a resolution and follow the daily writing prompt. I wrote the beginning of a story using that way.

Here’s the first part.

Where did you hide it?” asked Joey.
“I’m not tellin’,” replied Sara.
“He’s gonna ask about it, you know.”

That night after their father got home from work, after the dinner conversation, after the dishes were washed and dried and put away, and after the television shows had been watched, Father got up to find the family history. He read an entry from the book every night before sending Sara and Joey off to bed. So they would know where they had come from, he said.

Sara hated the stories. They were wrong, and she knew it. She knew it because she remembered. She remembered how it all really happened. Because she had lived it—again and again as he read.

The spirit of the book had already claimed her.

(C) 2014, JJ Shaun, Originally posted on Writing.com

The prompt in this case was, “Where did you hide it?” Sometimes I read a writing prompt, and a scene pops into my head. This story was one of those. The next day, the prompt was, “Don’t go out there.” The flash piece I had written the day before continued, and I wrote another part of that story. The following day, one more part of the narrative appeared. It needs work, but the bones of a tale now exist.

I’ve talked about Writing.com because it’s the only online writing community with which I’m familiar. Others exist. I searched “free online writing communities” and got more than six million hits. Mind you, not all of them are writing communities like Writing.com, but the first page had quite a few URLs I recognized from previous searches.

One site that floated to the top the most was the Writer’s Café. So I created an account and started poking around. I’ll need more time to get a good feel for the site. Stay tuned; I’ll post more about this place later.

Writing Magazines

I also subscribe to the writing magazines, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and Poets & Writers. I’ve subscribed to Writer’s Digest since my university days, and I’ve learned more little nuggets of creative writing wisdom in those pages than from almost any other source.

Why do I subscribe to all three publications? They each focus on different audiences.

Writer’s Digest has hints, tips, and tricks for the Hobby Writer™ and burgeoning author. The writer focuses more on seasoned freelance writers. The target for Poets & Writers is the professional novelist, poet, or scriptwriter. Each magazine has a list of conferences targeted toward their audience, from the local weekend writer’s getaway to the MFA programs offered around the country.

Writer’s Digest and The Writer offer writing contests in their pages. Both have monthly short awards and offer annual prizes for flash fiction, short stories, and self-published novels, to name a few. I entered a flash fiction story and requested feedback to see where I need to improve. I won’t know the results until after the first of the year, so stay tuned to either celebrate or commiserate sometime in February.

Freewriting

I’ve used freewriting to break through my worst block. I sat at the keyboard and just typed in whatever came into my head. I set a timer and just typed for about fifteen minutes. If all I had on the page at the end of that time was random thoughts, I finished and went on to something else—usually a video game.

After a few days of this exercise, something amazing emerged. The threads that had been nothing more than bitches and complaints about my day changed into a short story. I wrote for a couple of hours and felt the block crumble away.

One other way to free-write is to concentrate on an event that stood out in your day. Was it an overheard conversation fragment that stuck with you? Jot it down and write a story about what led to the comment and what might have followed.

Writing prompts are everywhere, from trying to describe a breathtaking landscape to watching an interaction between two people and imagining what led or followed to that occurrence. Our job as writers is to pay attention to our environment, then describe what we see, hear, smell, and feel.

How about you? What methods do you use to overcome the dreaded Writer’s Block? I’m sure you have ideas that haven’t occurred to me. I’d love to hear from you.

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