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Short story writing: writer's block, part 2


Why I do not want to write

In the situation where we want to be writing but can't it seems we are in a state of conflict. It may be helpful to assume that there is part of us which doesn't want to write, and this exercise is intended to help us allow that part to speak.

Take a piece of paper, or open a fresh file on your word processor, and under the heading 'Why I Do Not Want To Write' use free-association to put down absolutely any thoughts that come to mind. They can be possible, or theoretical, or even fictitious reasons, or you can imagine you are speaking for some hypothetical other person and not yourself. Just 'listen' for any reasons which might pop up. If you were part way through a piece of work when the block came up you might look out particularly for any thoughts which might be associated with that particular piece of work.

No one is going to see this so you can write absolutely anything, no matter how far-fetched it may seem. The idea is to give whatever is blocking you free rein to express itself without censorship. When you have written all you can think of you can then stop and think about whether there might be any validity in any of the ideas which have come up, but even just doing the exercise might help shift the block, and you might even find yourself getting an idea for your next story in the process.

Free-form writing

Another useful exercise can be to set a fixed period of time, perhaps half an hour, and sit down and write non-stop as fast as you can for that period of time. Start with a blank mind and just put down the first word that pops into your head, then the second, and keep going. The important thing is not to stop. Don't worry about making sense or about grammar or punctuation - it can be nonsense, just a stream of random words. No one is going to see it and you don't even have to read it yourself. The idea is to get behind the conflict over whether you do or don't want to write and kick-start the creative process. You don't have to be struggling with writer's block to find an exercise like this enjoyable and helpful.

If we persist in trying, or if we take a holiday from writing if we decide that is what we need, then sooner or later, one way or another, the block should begin to give way and we should find ourselves getting back to work again with a sense that we have won a battle. This should be a good experience and it will help us not only this time but next time too, because our memory of having won the battle once will reassure us that we can win it again.

When we have been struggling with writing over a number of years we should find we come to recognise the particular kind of block we have come up against and know instinctively which method of approach will help.

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