Blocking writer's block

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Most of us have suffered from writer's block, but there are ways to alleviate the pain caused by the frustration of staring at a blank page. One trick I've used when faced with an overwhelming amount of information was to try to determine the main idea of the article or story. I would literally ask myself, "What do I want to say about this?" The first answer that popped into my head was usually the best. Then, I would create the overall theme or main idea, and list several topics or plot points I wanted to cover. Sounds simple, and it is.

Another way to overcome writers block is to write a letter to your protagonist, antagonist, or muse. Writing a letter lets you think out loud, and may help solve your problem.

Dear Mrs. Edelman, (my muse)

I hope this letter finds you well, and your vacation to Tahiti is everything you ever dreamed it would be. However, a hasty return to your duties as my muse would be welcomed, as I have taken to binge-watching reality TV and eating unhealthy snacks in quantities that are most unladylike.

As you can see, I am in dire need of your services. I've abandoned my protagonist, Charles, in a precarious situation, while the love of his life, Lady Judith, believes he may never return.

Do you know what it's like to be woken in the middle of the night from Lady Judith's sobs? It's awful. As a favor to me, gentle soul, please force yourself to stand up, brush off the sand, and come back to those who need you. I will forever be in your debt.

Your writer

If that doesn't work, try writing a letter to your protagonist, or have one character write to another.

Dear Charles,

I hope this letter finds you well (or just finds you) so I can ask, "What were you thinking by going to a country known for its rogues and scoundrels?" I know you are following your heart for a cause you truly believe in, but those of us left behind are concerned for your safety. Have you been kidnapped and tied up by an evil Boy Scout Troop earning its knot-knowledge badge? Or are you trapped in an abandoned building with venomous snakes? My thoughts are filled with images of your demise, and I pray for your safe return.

Lady Judith

If writing to each other doesn't work, try having the protagonist write a love letter, a letter to Santa Claus, or a grocery list. Be as silly or crazy as possible to let your mind wander into new territory where you may find the answer you need to finish the story.

Oh, and thanks to Mrs. Edelman, Charles returned to his true love, Lady Judith, and they lived happily ever after.

Mary Horner is a writer and teacher who occasionally suffers from writer's block.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--Your post made me laugh--especially your letter to Mrs. Edelman.

I am hoping I can use your letter-writing suggestion, because I've been stuck for a week...

Thank you.

Mary Horner said...

I'm glad it helped, doing this has honestly helped me in the past!

Margo Dill said...

I've also heard of this strategy when you feel like you are losing your character's voice: write a journal entry (but a letter would also work) in the voice of your character with a pen and paper--get away from the keyboard, and see if you can find the voice again. It is fascinating how a writer's mind works (I think we will call that fascinating anyway!) ;)

Mary Horner said...

Sorry for the delayed response, Margo, that's a good idea about journaling. And I love all the ways we work and think about our work! It's so interesting to find out about the process others use!

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