Question of the Month

How can I overcome writer’s block?
When I stare at my computer screen and no thoughts come to mind I look for excuses to do other things. The refrigerator needs cleaning, the rugs need vacuuming, the tarnished silver suddenly needs polishing even though I do not plan to use it anytime soon. These excuses work for awhile but basically I hate housework and feel guilty when my computer is idle.
Yet the committee that lives in my brain picks apart every thought that crosses my mind as stupid, ridiculous, trite or “It’s been done before.” My wastebasket overflows with discarded false starts and no new stories or essays present themselves. I have a big dose of writer’s block but what should I do?
It happens to every writer at one time or another, and each deals with the dry spell differently. Sometimes I succumb and stare off into space for long stretches of time. Other times I force myself to write through the block and type whatever comes to mind no matter how disjointed, ridiculous or fragmentary it may seem. I might explore the voices of the committee — play word games with their objections, or name their personalities. If I take their criticism to the extreme the objections will eventually have no more emotional punch.
My old standby — a CD of classical music — preferably Mozart, a fire in the fire place, and Emily Dickinson usually puts me into a reverie where images float through my mind and coalesce into usable ideas before very long. If that doesn’t work a leisurely walk in the snow, rain, sunshine or breezy afternoon could jog my creative juices. It might take a change of scenery — a visit to some awe inspiring place: the overlook at the Perrine Bridge, the viewing area beside the Bruneau Canyon, Shoshone Falls, or the Stanley Basin. A drive in the country, mountains, a visit to a ghost town. Where is your favorite gazing spot? Your favorite exploring place? Your favorite get-away?
There are many books available with writing prompts or sparks — exercises guaranteed to budge even the most stubborn case of writers block into action. One of my favorites is THE VIRGINIA WOOLF WRITER’S WORKSHOP.
Another trick I often use when I get stuck is to take a short piece by one of the old masters and write a story doing exactly what he/she did only set in my own town, current day and use my own characters. Usually before I am finished with the first page I have shed the writing blues and am off on another venture. Try it. It is amazing how well that trick works.

Dixie Thomas Reale


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