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KNOCKING THE BLOCK OFF WRITER’S BLOCK
Your creativity has taken vacation, but you have no idea where to. You need to write, but have no idea what to write. The dreaded writer’s block has knocked your block off. But you can beat it. Try these easy steps:
(1) Take your pen and pad outside. Write down everything. Types of cars passing by, the beautiful mauve caterpillar easing over and through a green bladed jungle. Geese flying overhead. The daredevil squirrel crossing a telephone wire. Listen. Hear an engine’s whir getting closer, louder, and fade into the distance? Construction a few blocks over? Listen through obvious sounds. A pinecone falling to the ground. Leaves rustling. A far away bark. A child’s cry and mother’s call. What do you feel? The wind? Warmth? Coolness? A coming rain? Does the grass feel itchy? Soft? Prickly? What do you smell? Rain? Pine? Honeysuckle? Newly poured Asphalt? Freshly mown grass? Diesel fuel? Stagnant water? Dog poop? Jot them down. Log the date to remember the time of year.
(2) Visit a playground and watch the children. What do they say? How do they relate to one another? Is one kind, the other demanding? Does one crouch at her mother’s feet? Is the mother sad? Happy? Pre-occupied? Remember the squeaking swing and rattling see saw. Log and date these as well.
(3) Go to a G or PG movie. Watch how children and adults react to different scenes. Attend church where parents try to keep their children quiet while attempting an impeccable persona. Is a parent with the child? Sibling? Grandparent? Children will shift, lie on the floor, play with their hair, their guardian’s hair, whisper constantly, while their guardians grit their teeth.
(4) Baby-sit for a friend or family member. You’ll learn so much by simply playing and talking to a child. Note how he approaches things, how he gets you to do things. Is he introverted? Outgoing? Talkative? Quiet? What does he like to do for fun? What does he watch on TV? Does he like music? Nintendo? How does he dress? What does he smell like? Don’t ignore him and only write in your journal. Play, laugh with him, and enjoy his company.
How will all this knock the block off your writer’s block? Your journal is now filled with sounds, smells, sights, dialogue and personalities. Now, you must become a reporter for the National Inquirer. Form a story by twisting, exaggerating, and downright lying to create a conflict. Use your scenes, senses, interesting characters, and dialogue. Make the pre-occupied mother one who left her abusive husband and the brother one who takes his little sister to the movies because his parents are busy socialites. Get the picture?
Here’s another idea. Take a favorite book. What grabbed you? Plot? Characters? How it was written? Study it. Highlight vivid descriptions and laugh out loud humor. Steal material? Shame on you. But -- now that you mention it.
Look what Gail Carson Levine did to Cinderella. She won the Newberry Award for Ella Enchanted. She took a famous fairy tales, twisted the plot, changed the characters, the curse, transformed hero into heroine, until it was nothing like the original, and voila, a Newberry winner.
Now, take a short story line by line. Change the opening scene, setting, and characters, twist the plot, and climax. Ask yourself, “What if this had happened? What if she had been an extroverted blonde instead of an introverted brunette? What would have happened had she not forgiven him and realized she could live without him?” And so on.
Is this the cure all for writer’s block? No. But it will get you on track, and your fingers back on the keys. What prolongs your writer’s block is to write only when you feel like it, or when the muse knocks you off the couch. You’ll become as stale as bread left out overnight. So, grab your journal and get to work. You’ve got a job to do.
Richelle Putnam is a former writer for All Headline News. She has been published in Common Ties, E2K Literary Journal, World Wide Writers, Orchard Press Mysteries, Southern Hum, The Copperfield Review, Cayuse Press, Writer’s Journal, Obadiah Press’s Living By Faith Anthology, A tribute to Mothers Anthology, A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Daughters, and more. Her children’s literature has been published on the Institute of Children’s Literature’s website, Writing Korner, and Wee Ones, Boy’s Quest, Appleseeds, and Hopscotch Magazine for Girls; Her work is soon to be released in Flashquake, Fireflies in Fruit Jars Anthology, and GCWA “Mississippi” Anthology. Her novel, Fallout, was released in 2000; She is the Founder and President of Mississippi Writers Guild. www.richelleputnam.net