Shelley Widhalm

Getting out of writer’s block with freewriting

In Writer's Block, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Processes on February 28, 2016 at 11:00 am

DinneratHouse3 12-15I love to write, but it can be a struggle.

Writer’s block is the common term for not being able to write as the writer faces the black page or the middle of a project. Is it a matter of losing the inspiration or motivation to write, or not having the time and space? Is it wanting to write but not being able to access the words? Is it not having anything new to think about or ways to describe things? Or is it 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.

Over the past week, I wanted to write a couple of short stories after finishing a novel in January and not wanting to edit/revise it—not my favorite part of the writing process, though I love to edit other people’s work. So, I made up my own prompt—I’ve used prompts multiple times as a freewriting, block-freeing exercise—and found it to be particularly successful.

I picked a setting and a situation and started writing. Twice, I selected a coffee shop and for the situations, a bad date gone worse and a mother-daughter argument turning to forgiveness. For the third prompt, I engaged in freewriting with another writer—she picked the setting of a forest, and I picked a camping trip.

With all three freewriting exercises, I let go of my editor self and just started writing, not thinking too hard with my characters already in a situation and not having to come up with some great plot idea. I let them act and talk, not analyzing what they said and how their words and gestures revealed personality, behavior and motivation.

Freewriting allows for free association as you let the mind go. It’s a way to get ideas for a short story or a novel you’re already working on. It’s a way to think of new ways to describe your characters and come up with new plot elements or snippets of dialog. It’s a way to get into a scene but not worry about its importance to the overall story, or if what you write can stand up as a short story.

When the prompts have nothing to do with your current project, it allows you to think of your writing in new ways. Sometimes ideas come, and you discover where and how you can use those ideas. If you get something down, it can be rough, and then with the editing and revision process, you can give it shape.

It’s process, then product.

It’s at the subconscious level coming out, then the more careful conscious cutting and pasting and crafting into the shape of story.

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