Curing writer’s block

Created on Wednesday, February 4, 2009.
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There’s not much excuse for thinking you can’t write. It’s like someone coming up to you and saying, “You know, I’ve always wanted to breathe really efficiently.” If you want to breathe, then you breathe; if you want to write, then you write. There is no other way to get better.

The hardest part of writing is knowing where and how to begin; once all the setup is done, I find that a story rolls to its finish on its own steam, and all I have to do is document everything. My favourite technique for finding a starting point is using subject words.

You make a list of random words, pick as many as you like, and make a story out of them. I prefer to pick one word, so that I can turn it over in my mind and approach it from any angle, a freedom you lose when you’re worrying about forming several unrelated words into a coherent story. As long as you make your list as random as possible, you stnad a good chance of scoring a story. For example, it’s not a good idea to take words from the spines of books on a shelf because those books probably have a common theme and vocabulary, which may hem you in so restrictively that you won’t be able to think outside those lines.

In high school my subject words were everyday objects. Iron, faucet, radio, broom. I would start by tying this object into the world of my story while implying that this plain object had greater than usual symbolism, and as I did so, the story would begin to take hold and direct itself. A paragraph about a phone hanging on the wall turned into a five-page account of the strength of the human spirit in the face of abject loneliness, for example.

For informal writing here on the internets, my subject words come from a giant list of nouns. I programmed software around that list to make it easier for me to use those subject words. It gives me a list of words I’m allowed to use, I pick one, and I’m off. I really like this story, which started from the subject word back.

And there you have it. Make a random word list, pick some words, get cracking. It gets easier the more you do it.

That's all there is, there isn't any more.
© Desi Quintans, 2002 – 2018.