This exercise encourages you to write a complete story using very few words, and helps you learn how to avoid overwriting. When undertaking this exercise, it’s essential to edit your work carefully. Strip out anything unnecessary and make every word count. Here’s how it works:
Take any novel from your bookshelf
Turn to page 9
Take the 9th word from the 9th line on the page
Use that word to start a story
Write a story that is exactly 81 words long
If you’re feeling particularly clever, use 9 sentences that are 9 words long
You can also feel free to visit this website and submit your story to the 81 word writing challenge.
Think of writer's block as a symptom, not a condition that can’t be remedied. When we’re stuck and can’t get to our creative work, there’s usually a reason — and therefore a way to move forward.
If you’re experiencing a block and can’t seem to work on your novel, try the following:
Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths. Connect.
How do you feel?
Nervous because you’re coming up on a tough scene?
Starting to wonder why you embarked on this project?
Bored with sticking to your thorough outline and not wanting to admit it?
Feel what you’re feeling without attaching or rationalizing or arguing. Now, refocus on your breath. Imagine gentle snow or waves. When you’re calm inside, grab a notebook and pen (computers can amplify pressure instead of opening room for free scribbling) and write without stopping for three minutes, starting with the prompt, “I’m not blocked because…” After that, go for another three minutes, using, “The path back to my writing looks like…” Let yourself go. Let your hand tell you whatever you need to hear.
This exercise is particularly helpful for those who write for children and youth. Study an old photo of yourself or your family from your childhood. It’s probably easy to remember the who, the where, the what. But for this exercise we want to go deeper.
Close your eyes and remember the details of the event. Then remember how you felt at the event in that photo. How did you feel when anticipating the event? How did you feel if it was a surprise? How did you feel if it didn’t turn out as you anticipate? How did others at the event treat you? How did you react/respond to them?
Now, translate those FEELINGS into an event, place, child that would take place today.
When writing emotion, it’s easy to become stuck on how to express what the point-of-view character is experiencing. An exercise to try is to pull from your own memory if you feel comfortable doing so. Sit back in your chair, take a few calming breaths, and think back to a time where you experienced this same emotion. Carefully draw up the memory, thinking about the situation, the location, the people involved. Remember the sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes.
Now, pay attention to your body. Are you relaxed, or tense? Are your muscles tight? Is it easy to breathe, or do you feel restricted? Is your posture curling up, an attempt to hide, or are you twitchy all over and want to leap out of the chair? Make as many notes as you can, and when you go to write, use what you collected to give life to the character’s experience.
Write a list of random, free-association words. For creative writing, list ten words across ten columns. Then go to each column and add nine more words so that the result is ten columns and ten rows, a total of one hundred words. Just reading the list and noticing the creative leaps your mind has made may surprise you. If you like, continue the exercise by using all one hundred words in a short fiction piece. For poetry, select the words that suggest a common theme.
Our subconscious minds combine items in unexpected, sometimes whimsical ways. Set a timer for twenty minutes and use at least three of these words in your draft. Write without stopping: a red scarf, windshield wiper, chrome, doily, blowtorch, spatula, CD-ROM, postage stamp, frittering, static cling, radio silence, kismet, calamity, heartburn, bandage.
Write a passage without the letter "E" or "A." This is known as a lipogram and has been used by authors in many languages to write their novels. You will use unusual sentence constructions, and it may slow you down for a while, but it will certainly force your brain to work in different ways.