by Shannon Naylor
Every writer, however serious or casual, experienced or novice, will encounter writer’s block at one point or another. To some it feels like suddenly running into an insurmountable mental wall. To others it means not knowing where to start. The thing about writer’s block is that you can always chisel away at it. The question that remains is: how? Here are some strategies that I like to use in my own writing.
#1: Don’t give up. This is less a strategy and more of a philosophy, but it’s important. Writing is not an activity that you can limit to times when you feel inspired. When you encounter block, acknowledge it and challenge it to a write-off. You will win every time.
#2: Talk to someone. It can be a friend, a roommate, even your cat. If nobody is around, talk aloud to yourself. Generally, we are accustomed to putting ideas into words verbally, but sometimes we block ourselves by thinking too hard about writing our ideas down. So take your ideas into an environment that they are comfortable in and put them where you can hear them. Test how they sound out loud. I often record myself talking through ideas when I’m struggling to write a paper because I’ve discovered that once I play it back it gives me a better understanding of what I want to say.
#3: Put your ideas in a different shape. I find that this is most useful when I’ve been working with an idea for a while and I’ve run out of fresh ways to approach it. So I draw my paper as a picture. Try dancing your essay, painting your story, drawing a map of the term paper. This will force you to examine your writing from a new angle and will hopefully generate new ideas about it. At the very least, you will have given your brain a way to recharge through a creative outlet.
So be brave, fellow writing adventurers, and slay your writer’s block.
Bonus feature: What follows is a model of the combination of strategies 2 and 3, slaying writer’s block by talking to someone and putting your ideas in a different shape. Enjoy!
Sir Stu Dent makes his way through the canyon along the winding way to the peak of Mount Capstone when a massive dragon lands in his path. The dragon’s name is emblazoned across his belly scales, a customary vanity among their kind. Wrytur Blok—a dragon that had claimed this peak as his home and terrified many of the knights who had come before.
Though Stu trembles before Wrytur Blok, he knows that the beautiful Princess A awaits him at the peak of Mount Capstone and he makes the bold choice to face down the dragon. He isn’t sure he knows how to defeat the beast, so he calls upon his trustworthy, wise companion—a magical talking book called Tudor.
“Tudor,” Stu cried. “How can I get past this accursed dragon, Wrytur Blok?”
Replied Tudor, “Quick, duck down behind yonder rock. He won’t see us there and we can form a plan. Dragons are susceptible to the human voice. If you speak at length, you may lull him to sleep.”
“Brilliant as always, Tudor,” said Stu, as he dodged a fireball and dove behind the rock.
Out of sight of the fearsome dragon, Stu described his ideas for winning the hand of Princess A by completing his quest up Mount Capstone. As he spoke, he found that the faulty parts of his plan became clear and he was able to mold it into something more viable. And as he discussed these schemes with Tudor, the angry huffs and puffs from Wrytur Blok dwindled and ceased until the rumble of the dragon’s snoring shook the walls of the canyon.
Stu crept from his hiding place and examined his situation. Wrytur Blok was far less intimidating now, but his bulk was still filling up the canyon’s mouth, thus preventing further passage up the mountain. “What now, Tudor?”
“I used to know a spell that would transmogrify a creature. There are a few ways to do it. Let me see… You can’t very well dance in armor. We didn’t bring any paints. That means you must draw the spell. Take the stick and draw the path to the peak while picturing the fearsome dragon as something harmless.”
Sure enough, a few moments of artistic endeavor resulted in a very bad-tempered frog hopping down the canyon and Stu hastening onward to win the hand of Princess A where she lived at the top of Mount Capstone.
Shannon Naylor is a junior studying creative writing and theatre. She performed most recently in Principia’s production of “Hush: An Interview with America.”