Monday, March 18, 2013

Tricking the Block

Here’s a tip I got from Natalie Goldberg about what to do when you stare at the blank screen or paper and can’t think of anything to write. Write for five minutes, or two pages, or whatever metric appeals to you, and start every sentence with “I want to write about …” and let your hand fill in the rest. She recommends you do this exercise in longhand, so that’s what I do.

Trust me, your mind hates sentences with subjects and no predicates. It will fill something in, and then you too will know.

Here’s what I wrote the last time this happened to me:

I want to write about big meaningful stuff that shouts “Wisdom! Wisdom! Get Your Red Hot Wisdom Here!” I want to write about how we’re all swamped by our own loneliness and how joy and fear co-exist, living together in a too-small overstuffed apartment in my head. I want to write about how life calls for courage, we have no choice but to be courageous or die. I want to write about my cat using the couch as a scratching post even though she knows she’s not supposed to, is that courage to be herself in spite of my orders, or rebellion in the face of my orders, or simply because scratching one’s claws feels good and at this moment nothing else matters? I want to write about how sometimes I wake up with a song playing in my head, and how I wish I knew what this meant, or if it means anything at all. I want to write about the morning I woke up with Holy Holy Holy in my head, complete with crashing organ chords and an entire church choir – a song I haven’t heard for decades but somehow all the words were still there, holyholyholy lord god almighty early in the morning my song will rise to thee, and which lurked in the back of my mind the rest of the day. I want to write about how the very next morning I woke up hearing Zip a Dee Doo Dah sung by chirping Disney-esque bluebirds – what about that? I want to write about the juxtaposition of Holy Holy Holy with Zip a Dee Doo Dah and what that says about my mental state – or maybe I don’t because I’m not sure I want to know.  

And after this outpouring, it is much easier to sit down and write something sensible. Believe me, this trick works.



Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit http://www.primary-sources.com/.

15 comments :

  1. I like your plan. I'll try it soon. I'm afraid your friend Anonymous is a spambot.

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  2. Such fun -- turning the sub-conscious mind loose while in a waking state and letting it fly. Controlled thought can be so restrictive. Seriously, I can see how this could work to get the creative juices flowing.

    Love this post, Kim. Thanks for sharing it, Dani.

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  3. Gee, and all I do is think about cleaning the toilets. Gets me back to the WIP in record time.

    Terry
    Terry's Place


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  4. Unfortunately, my mind doesn't hate sentences with subjects and no predicates ... it doesn't know the difference.

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  5. OMG, Kim, we have the same songs playing in our heads. Scary. LOL. I can see a connection between the two songs. (smile)

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  6. @Kate thanks. We patrol the spam for two days after every post. Sigh. Thank heavens for a big blogging team. @Terry, I'm afraid I often actually clean the toilets rather than do what I should be doing. Double sigh. But that's usually related to editing my own words - crapping it out doesn't seem to be my problem. ;)

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  7. Definitely trying that one, thanks!

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  8. Terry, I count on people preferring to clean their toilets rather than write, because sometimes they hire ghostwriters. Good thing the thought of cleaning toilets has the opposite effect on you, though -- your WIP needs you. Maryann, how very spooky that we both heard the same songs upon awakening; now I really will have to ponder the meaning. And Christopher, your responses always make me smile.

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  9. I love this suggestion, and I loved following your train of thought through your personal example. I can see turning the exercise into a whole series of personal essays.

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  10. You're right. There's nothing for it except to dig in and make yourself do it when you're most resistant. Thanks for the kick in the pants I so needed today. : )

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  11. Freewriting is a great way to get yourself to write! It can be a huge surprise. I also recommend it, although I don't do it as often as I should!

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  12. Great idea and the added benefit is we got to see what's in your head freestyle and it was awesome!

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  13. I'm not sure if that would worth for me, since my mind is so attuned to the keyboard now.

    I have a very difficult time writing the old fashioned way, and can't always read it afterward.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  14. Kim, your example is chock full of creativity. Thanks so much for sharing it! I think the fact that you and Maryann awake with the same songs is a perfect start of a conspiracy theory plot. Holy zip a dee doo day!

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  15. Ha: Tried twice and Blogger WOULD NOT allow me to spell that last word "day"! The conspiracy grows!

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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