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Staring at the blank page

16 Aug

Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”

– Gene Fowler

Suppose for a minute you are sitting at your computer or with a piece of paper in front of you. You want to write something but all that stares back at you is the blank screen or page. You haven’t a clue what to write and that blankety-blank glaring into your eyes isn’t any help.

What do you do? Don’t give up. There are a number of ways to get over the hump of writer’s block.

  1. This is one of my favourites and one I use when writing nonfiction articles.  My late journalism instructor, Paul Nowak used to drum it into us about starting our stories with a good lead – one that will hook the reader. That got me into the habit of not going beyond writing the article’s beginning until I got the lead right – at least the gist of it – the wording might be changed slightly in the rewrite. Fiction – short story and novel – needs a good beginning to lure in the reader. Try focusing on writing a good lead.
  2. What if you are swimming around among several leads? This happened to me once with a story I was writing. I can’t remember the story itself but I do remember I had four leads written to express two ideas. Do you think I could decide which one was best? No. I phoned a writing friend and read all four out to her. She chose the best one to her ears. That’s the one I went with.
  3. If sticking with the lead isn’t your forte for the first draft and/or you can’t even get going at a first draft, try freefall writing. I mentioned this in a previous post with Brian Henry’s workshops. So, in a variation of that exercise, pick a word or phrase that has been lurking in your head (come on; you really don’t have a blank mind; only the screen or page is blank). Put the phrase on your paper or computer screen and keep on writing. Write whatever comes into your mind and go with whatever feeling is there – anger, sadness, joy. Don’t be afraid to go with the deep dark feelings. Unleash them and you will unleash your writer’s block.
  4. If none of the above seems to work, then try temporary avoidance but make sure you do something that relaxes your mind. Go into your garden and pull weeds or deadhead the dead flowers; sit out in your garden; do some Yoga; meditate, or go for a walk. Guaranteed, something will pop into your head, something you can write about. And you may be scurrying to get back to your pen and paper or your computer. This latter also works when you are mid-story or rewriting a story and for the life of you can’t figure out where it is going. I’ve done that many times with some of the situations my female private eye, Dana, gets into. In “Saving Grace,” I knew the beginning and knew the end but got into several tizzies in between, especially sorting the whys and wherefores of all the cars showing up in the story (You’ll have to read the story in the book to find out. I’m not telling).

Dana also has to deal with eccentric Great Aunt Doris in two of the linked stories in Beyond the Tripping Point. But that’s something for next week’s post – creating eccentric characters and making them work in your story without coming across as  too eccentric.

Meantime check out my publisher’s page http://www.bluedenimpress.com.The cover of my book and some more info is now posted there. Or click under My Publisher – Blue Denim Press from the links to the right. When I figure out how to get the book cover icon on this blog, I’ll do so.Hey, I’m a writer, not a designer.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

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