by Shelley Widhalm
Writing can be a struggle for writers of all levels, from beginning to professional.
The struggle has a dreaded name: writer’s block.
Writer’s block refers to not being able to write while facing the blank page or the middle of a project. It can be a matter of losing the inspiration or motivation to write, or not having the time and space.
Maybe the writer wants to write but does not know what to say or how to say it. Or the writer does not have anything new to think about or ways to describe things.
Or, could it be a matter of the writer not knowing where to go next?
Every time I face writer’s block, I engage in a little bit of B.S., my form of freewriting where I don’t care about anything but putting one word after another, placing speed above content.
I quickly think of a setting, situation or character and start writing, not caring about what I’m saying, aiming for quantity, not quality. The quality comes later when I get started and realize I have something to write about, can scrap the beginning bits and edit the rest.
Here are ways to get yourself to write:
- Make up a writing prompt or use an existing prompt, which can be found online or by visiting my blog about ideas for writing prompts. Prompts can serve as a freewriting, block-freeing exercise.
- Go to the dictionary and pick a word, using that as your starting point.
- Try to write as many words as you can in 10 or 15 minutes, or even in an hour. Experienced writers can write 1,000 or more words in an hour—though what they write likely will need editing.
- For fiction writers, start with a setting or a situation. Or develop a character identify and think about what that character would do in a certain odd, unwanted or awkward situation.
- For nonfiction writers, think of a topic you want to learn more about and look up three ideas about it. Relate your personal experience or knowledge to that topic and aim to write 500 to 700 words, the typical length for a blog.
Why freewrite and use prompts?
The idea of freewriting and using prompts is to let go of the editor self and just start writing, not thinking too hard about the words and sentences and whether or not they are written correctly and make sense.
Freewriting allows for free association as you let the mind go, letting subconscious material arise to the surface. It’s a way to get ideas for a blog, article, short story or a novel you’re already working on. It’s a way to think of new ways to describe things and new approaches to what you’re already working on.
It’s process, then product.
What you write is rough, and then with the editing and revision process, you give it shape. You cut and paste and rework until you get what you want, seeing that you have something to write, say and do.
Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell’s Ink Services, a writing and editing service based in Loveland, CO. She has more than 15 years of experience in communications and holds a master’s in English from Colorado State University. She blogs weekly about writing, editing, and the writing life. She can be reached on her website or at firstname.lastname@example.org .