Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beyond the Block

by Allison Onyett

We’ve all been there: sitting in front of a blank computer screen, watching the curser blink at us impatiently, without a thought in our head – writer’s block. We’ve all heard of it, many of us have struggled with it, successful writers have been haunted by it occasionally during their careers. Hollywood has even made a feature film, Stranger than Fiction, on the topic, proving that we’re not alone.

There are endless suggestions and tricks for overcoming writer’s block. A simple Google search brings up countless websites devoted to the topic, offering insightful suggestions on how to get your creativity flowing again. For example, I’d recommend which, among other things, offers 101 ideas on how to get past your mental roadblock and caters to various forms of prose. I was equally impressed by the extensive amount of free content devoted to helping writers produce quality work.

I also came across many articles that suggested allowing your originality to break free through other art forms, such as painting, drawing or simply “playing.” This makes perfect sense to me, since as children we often generate ideas through creative play. As adults we tend to forget to make time for “play,” a leisurely way to practice being inventive.

Personally, I find that as soon as I stop focusing my ideas start to come naturally, which is why I’ll go for a run or take a long shower if I find myself struggling. I also always carry a notebook in my bag, which I started doing when I noticed my purse overflowing with ideas scribbled down on napkins, post-it notes, and old receipts. I’ve also found that bouncing ideas off of a friend is a great way to generate a topic. Lastly, yet probably the most obvious, is reading. Growing up we learned at school that reading and writing go hand in hand. So when you’re stuck writing, try reading. Another author’s work can be very inspirational – hearing their tone, word usage and subject matter can often conjure up new ideas of your own.

All in all – there are many useful suggestions out there to help us get beyond the block. What works for one person may not for another – so on that note, I’d love to hear what works for you. Who knows, you may save a fellow writer from those stressful hours of staring at a blank screen.