The Roundabout Blog
Seven Writing Exercises to Melt Writer’s Block
Phil Whitmarsh on 04/22/2014
Writer’s block happens. You might be working on a novel or trying to share great information and writer’s block strikes. Whether you’re not in the mood or can’t get into your usual writing groove, writer’s block can prove a very frustrating thing. Here are a few helpful tricks to keep your fingers or pen moving. While these exercises might have nothing to do with your project at hand, sparking your creativity can help you return to your manuscript with greater confidence and a fresh perspective.
Look out the window and describe the scene in two paragraphs. Imagine what would be the most unusual thing to occur next and write it. Pay special attention to the details so as to confidently suspend any reader’s disbelief. Whether it’s a landing alien spacecraft, an emerging monster from below the street, or a streaker running down the block, describe the scene to put your reader in that moment, as strange as it may be.
2. Rewrite the Past
Choose an historic moment that you know something about and add a bit of whimsy behind the scenes. Pick something familiar and add a whimsical element. Report it as a journalist would. What did Jack Nicholson do during every commercial break during the Oscars broadcast? What unknown argument escalated into Chicago’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre? What was whispered between those two heavyweight boxing greats just before the first bell rang out in their last title bout?
3. Play Make Believe
Take that favorite question: “What famous foursome—living or dead—would you invite to dinner” with you and your spouse/significant other/cut up from work/Larry The Cable Guy? Imagine a conversation involving all of your guests about a current news event. What would George Washington say about the NSA’s domestic spying programs? How would Marilyn Monroe comment about a senator sexting pix of his privates to female coworkers?
4. "I'd like to thank the Academy..."
Write an acceptance speech. You’ve been awarded a Pulitzer or the Nobel Prize in Literature. Be honest with your words. Are you humbled because the committee made the right choice or anxious because you fear they’ve chosen the wrong writer? Maybe you’re being interviewed after your book screen adaptation wins the Oscar® for Best Picture. What would you say?
5. Play Devil's Advocate
Pick a political position that you are adamant and vocal about, and defend the opposing argument. Challenge yourself with a topic that you’d never flip on and try to write a reasonable opposing position.
6. Share Your Experiences
Write a letter of advice to your community’s youth. Offer them insights to make their transition to adulthood the most successful that they can experience.
7. Imagine Time Traveling
Reimagine a children’s story or Greek myth in a contemporary setting. Some of the best stories come from plots from mythology, the Bible, and legends of old.
Welcome opportunities to take a breather from your own work. Writer’s block has a way of giving us a needed break from routine or material to help us stay fresh and not lose interest or passion for our project at hand. Anticipate moments when you will need a break from your primary manuscript and enjoy the break by forcing yourself into uncharted territory with exercises like these.
Talk to others who write and see what’s worked for them, to either give them a needed break or get them back into the writing groove and returning to their project. Offer your ideas and what’s worked for you, so that they have the benefit of your experience, too. Helping other writers out when they’re stuck is paying creativity forward. It will come back to you.
Soon blocks won’t feel so scary, but will be accepted as the oases they can be, a change of pace, and an opportunity to try new writing exercises and other breaks from your current project. You never know when something will spark you and you’ll have an idea for a future book or project. Let it flow and let it happen.