Writing About Writing | Easy Inspo for Writers’ Block Sufferers

 

So you have writers’ block. Whether you’re a blogger, creative writer, journalist or any other kind of writer, it happens to the best of us and boy is it bad when it does. There are times when nothing seems to get the inspiration flowing; no level of playlist making, book reading, exercising or meditating on mountain tops helps (okay, I may not have actually tried the last one and I know you’re all laughing at the idea of exercise, work with me here). Don’t panic, there is still some hope for you yet!

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I’ve been writing properly for about 5 years now, and in that time I’ve been struck with writers’ block several (hundred) times. In that time, I’ve done what I’m sure many writers do; tried thousands of fruitless google searches to motivate myself, given up and binge watched box sets instead until another idea pops up. I have, however, collected several unique and interesting methods of writing, ways of getting new ideas and general tips for getting over writers’ block – so while I do still succumb to the box sets more often than I should (I am in fact searching for the remote so I can put Merlin on as I type), here are some ways that can be used to deal with the dreaded curse.

Written Prompts

Okay, this is an obvious one, but definitely effective. Oneword.com is a site dedicated to this – they have a new one-word prompt every day. The set-up of the site allows you to write as much as possible on the word in 60 seconds before submitting it to their forums, however you can of course just as easily use the word without setting a time limit. Setting a limit can be useful, and of course you can extend and edit after the minute is over, but it isn’t everyone’s style.

If you’re looking for inspiration for an existing story, it can help to pick several mismatched or random words, and attempt to use them in a single paragraph, page or chapter. There are a lot of websites and sources (including other blogs) that have lists of words – I pick a list, then use a number generator and pick the words in line with 5-10 of those numbers. To get you started, have a few words on me – do with them what you will:

Stale

Jewellery

Ice Cream 

Undesirable 

Boiler

Strength 

Rain 

Jasmine 

Lucid 

Possibility

Photographic Prompts

I recently finished reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (come back on Wednesday for my review!). Ransom Riggs used photographs not only to inspire his work, but wrote them into the narrative. The peculiar children are based on real photos from Riggs’ collection, which are featured throughout the book. This is a style of writing that I’ve only tried once, but which can make for an interesting experience for both writer and reader – and with an image already there you don’t have to worry too much about description and focus on the story, which can be helpful when inspiration is waning.

Try this on for size:

 

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I’m sure it would seem a lot more mystical without my dog there, but there we go.

Music/Poetry

Try doing the same with music or poetry. Many writers use others’ works, particularly poems, as inspiration. They don’t have to be at the forefront of your work, but you could take the meaning or even just a line you like and turn it into a piece.

Found Pieces

Found poetry is where you take existing texts and use them to create something else – this could even work for prose. I once wrote a poem only using text messages from my inbox.

Be Nosy

Listen to conversations, people-watch, pay attention to things that seem interesting in your day to day life – you’d be amazed at where inspiration can come from. In the summer before my final year of university I worked at a charity shop. One day I watched an old lady eat her sandwiches on a bench outside under an umbrella on one of the hottest days of the year. 18 months later and I’m still working on a piece centred around that scene.

The Sky’s the Limit?

Try setting a time limit, or trying to write something to an exact word count. My first assignment for a university seminar was to write a love story of exactly 101 words. You could try only writing sentences with an odd number of words, or start every sentence with the same letter. Writing to strict rules can be difficult, but it’s also a really good exercise and could help get the imagination flowing in the way you write as well as what you write.

And if none of those work…

Take A Break – You Deserve It.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a step back, have a breather, and come back to your work with fresh eyes. Whether you go to work on something else or finish the aforementioned box sets, a break can be beneficial.

 I hope this has been somewhat helpful in curing writers’ block, or providing some new ways to approach writing. These are all things I’ve tried and while they don’t always help, they are a challenge and fun to try. Let me know if you give any of these a go and how useful you found them! (Or useless, as the case may be). 

See you soon,

 

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Me Monday | Creative Piece: Commuter Conundrum

So I got this idea on the train (unsurprisingly) this morning. I haven’t done more than a cursory initial edit so apologies for any spelling mistakes/grammatical errors! The image of the two doing puzzles has been bubbling away in my head all day, and while I did consider lengthening it and giving them a proper story I quite like the snapshot as is right now. It’s been a while since I’ve posted something creative, so I hope you enjoy!

Tim looked up as someone sat down heavily opposite him. A young woman was going through her bag, a dark green headscarf wrapped neatly around her hair. She must’ve only been in her 20s, he thought, and reddened as he considered how he may appear to her. An older, white male with the Daily Mail in front of him – he was surprised that she’d even considered sitting there; he certainly wouldn’t have.
‘Rough day?’ He said with a smile, noticing the stressed look on her face.
‘You could say that.’ She smiled back meekly. She looked down at her hands, and by extension his newspaper, on the table.
‘I don’t read this drivel, for the record. Unfortunately it seems to have the best crossword; I suppose there’s no need for fact checking there.’
Some fellow commuters turned to stare at them as she laughed.
‘I’m a Sudoku fan myself.’
‘That’s on the opposite page, if you’d like to take a look? I’m awful with numbers, could never get my head around them.’
‘I’d love to, if you don’t mind.’
‘Of course not, it’d only on the fire with the rest of it otherwise.’ He tore the page, handing her half of the newspaper to lean on.
‘Thank you. I’m Aliya, by the way.’
‘Tim.’

See you soon,

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Writing About Writing: Is Gender Important?

I recently had a discussion with a few friends of mine on the relevance of gender in prose. One of said friends is writing a novella in which the main character’s gender isn’t specified; the other is an astrophysicist with very little knowledge of creative writing. To me, gender isn’t important (in literature or the real world, but we’ll stick to literature for the time being) – so long as a character interests me, I have very little need to know what gender they are. The astrophysicist however claims that for him, gender is part of how he as a reader familiarises himself with a character and the setting of the text. I understand where he is coming from; some description of a character is helpful and allows the reader to form a better picture of the scene, however I struggle to see how gender would be the best way to achieve this.
During the conversation my astrophysicist friend made the point that gender allows for the reader to better understand the motives and thoughts of the character. In using gender to describe a character, we must be aware that a reader may press traditional gender roles onto the character. For my astrophysicist friend, this sets up how the character will act; a genderless character therefore would be harder to pin down. He doesn’t like if a character acts outside of how he expected them to, and he claims that a character with a non-specified gender may go against the image he has of them. A counterpoint for this is of course that characters can go against their gender roles just as easily as they can comply with them – in fact, characters can and do behave differently to how we expect regardless of gender.
The astrophysicist’s point is an interesting one, even if I’m not sold on it – say we describe a character as having long hair and wears a bracelet, for example. We discussed this at the time; just saying that would make most people assume that the character is or presents as female. Whilst we were having the conversation, however, both me and the (male) friend who is writing a novella had long hair and were wearing bracelets. For the astrophysicist, this description poses a problem – if it was later revealed that the character was at least biologically male when he’d pictured them female, it would disrupt his reading of the text. Of course, many texts with characters of non-specific gender don’t reveal their character’s biological sex, and we surely shouldn’t expect them to unless it’s relevant to the text. It may be necessary, however if a writer decides not to specify their character’s gender the chances are they won’t specify their biological sex if possible either.
Although I personally believe gender isn’t relevant, it is interesting to consider that readers will have a predisposition to wanting specified genders and traits for the characters they’re expected to relate to. We undeniably still live in a society with clear gender lines. It is ingrained in our minds from a young age that we should fit certain roles and play certain parts depending on what genitalia we are born with. We are given a gender that ‘matches’ our biological sex, which dictates our place in society – boys have blue, adventure, leadership, strength. Girls have pink, domesticity & submission. Despite this, we are moving towards becoming more accepting of the fact that these genders and their predetermined roles are simply outdated and wrong; a person’s gender isn’t equivalent to their biological sex, nor does a person’s gender or sex stop them from doing certain things. I can’t believe that anyone fits into these male or female boxes 100% – everyone has aspects of their personality or enjoys doing things that are traditionally associated with the opposite sex.
Is it societal teaching, then, that makes readers like my astrophysicist friend uncomfortable with the concept of a lack of gender? Gender can be confusing and complicated, especially when adults who have been taught from day one that there are only two genders and everyone fits one of them are now being told that there are a lot of different genders and that gender roles they have been taught to fit from day one aren’t relevant. Even for the most open minded person, it can be a process to reverse the lessons we have been taught throughout our lives, in order to fully understand how gender really works. I myself find that I have to remind myself if someone uses pronouns that don’t match their biological sex, even if they’re a close friend. It’s almost like training your brain to make these corrections as you learn.
In literature, however, gender isn’t necessarily a political thing. It can be beneficial to a text not to reveal a character’s gender, and we don’t always see this as an issue; if a character’s identity is hidden on purpose, for example, we wouldn’t expect to know their gender – especially if they aren’t an active character. I believe that gender is only important in literature if it serves a purpose. If gender doesn’t play a significant role in the text, the character’s personality and the way they are written are more important – so long as a character grips the reader, their pronouns aren’t massively significant. A character’s personality should resonate with readers enough regardless of gender or lack thereof.

Let me know your thoughts – does gender affect the way you read a character?

See you soon,

Ro x

[PS- I should note that I didn’t refer to my friends by name on purpose, and wasn’t trying to sound smart by referring to one as ‘my astrophysicist friend’… but did I mention I know an astrophysicist?]