Sunday, July 11, 2010

5 Fun Ways to SMAAAAASH Writer's Block!

Makes you just wanna punch him, doesn't it? -- Find more fun comics at VG Cats!

As writers, we are united under a single fear. It happens to all of us, whether we be rich or poor, pros or amateurs. Writer's Block doesn't discriminate.

So what can you do when you're sitting at your computer, staring at the blinking cursor? Are your hands trembling over a blank notebook page? Or are you mindlessly punching the keys on your typewriter like the proverbial monkeys recreating Hamlet?

I'll tell you what you can do, my friends! Fight back with an old school--

-- Attack!  

That's right, I've discovered 5 Ways that will help you find that sweet Earthbound-style attack that wins you the decisive battle in the War Against the First White Page of Death (otherwise known as "Document1" in Microsoft Word). Bookmark these guys, because trust me, you won't remember them later when you really need them most.

1.) Explore the Seventh Sanctum
I love this site so much it's almost like visiting an old friend.

Seventh Sanctum is a collection of random generators, writing prompts and even some contests. They have everything from a simple name generator to the wild and crazy ones, such as my personal favorite: the B-Movie Generator. Check out their Writing section for writing challenges, random themes and other ideas. Now wait a minute Joanie, you might be saying, won't they technically own anything I create? Well as the creator of the website says: "I can't own randomness and I do this page because I like helping people create." Well said. Their sister site: Fan To Pro is also worth checking out.

2.) Assemble some Magnetic Poetry
I have a ton of these at home. I bet you've seen them too.

They're a collection of tiny single word (and sometimes singular letter) magnets that you can rearrange into sentences, phrases, or even just new make new words. But, did you know you can play with them online? Now you have no excuse to try them out. I think you'll quickly discover these magnets aren't just for the poetically-inclined among us.

3.) Give your Characters an Anime Face lift
"But I don't even LIKE anime!" You might say.

Well, even writers need a visual cue from time to time. When you give yourself a physical representation of your characters, you'll be able to imagine them more clearly in your head. Suddenly they aren't a mysterious shadow. (Was she a blond or brunette?) You can picture them laughing and crying, smirking and frowning. They become more real.

Aha, you say, but what if I can't draw? Since most writers don't double as artists, this is a frustrating conundrum. Thankfully there's talented artists out there who enjoy putting together what we like to call Character Makers or Doll Makers. Think of them like paper dolls with interchangeable physical features and accessories. For a Full-Body character maker, check out this one from Newgrounds. Maybe there's a new character there waiting to be born who can enter the story and SMASH that Writer's Block!

4.) Seek a Twist of Fate from a Magic Card
(After entering the website, click on the "Random Card" link above the main search box.)

This one's a little confusing at first. Let's say you're stuck on where to go next in your plot. What do your characters do next?

How about this method? My sister wrote an entire novel using only the suggestions from shuffled Magic: The Gathering cards for each plot point. So basically, each time she needed to make a decision for the story or introduce a new character, she flipped over a new Magic card. For example: Her characters stay for a night in a Tavern. She flips a card: "Inferno Trap" BLAM! Inspiration strikes! Someone sets fire to the Tavern while her heroes are asleep.

It doesn't have to always be literal either. Perhaps the card "Poison Arrow" means there is a traitor among the characters or the direction they're travelling is dangerous. The best part is you can interpret them however you want. Give it a try the next time you're stuck and click on the Random Card button. Maybe it will grant you the inspiration you need!

5.) Jumpstart yourself with Write or Die
The concept is simple: scare yourself into writing!

I admit there are times when our Writer's Block stems from something deep in our psyche, something that will take more than a few cute tricks to fix. But for all those other times the Blockage may not be as deep as we think it is. A good way to test if you're just slacking off is with the "Write or Die" program. Basically all it does is react violently whenever you stop writing. You can adjust how badly (or gently) it treats you when you're not meeting the word count and time goal you set for yourself. Sometimes we've just distracted ourselves, so we need a good old-fashioned cattle prod to get ourselves moving in the right direction.

This method is perfect if you're the type of person who needs someone to keep reprimanding nagging you to keep working writing. Every year thousands of NaNoWriMo participants use it to meet their daily writing goals, so perhaps you can too. Write or Die teaches that any word is fine as long as you're still writing.


At one time or another I've used all five of these methods to help me when I was stuck in the Swamps of Writer's Block. I hope that these methods will offer you a way out as well. But, if you take nothing else out of this article, make sure to understand this: the secret to SMAAAASH-ing Writer's Block is to keep writing, no matter how contrite, cliché, or confusing it might seem.

Remember that rewriting is for the second draft, so for the first, just keep writing one word after another. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how much you will be able to write once you stop worrying about how good it is and focus on what you want to write about. So often we're just burnt out, so having a quick burst of inspiration can help us think more creatively and rescue our characters from whatever corner we painted them into this time.


Author's Note: Joanie suffers from Writer's Block and oft
en summons the mystical powers of Magic Cards and Seventh Sanctum to jump-start her writing. You can often find her standing in front of her fridge shifting Magnetic Poetry around her eclectic collection of magnets and pictures.

1 comment:

  1. Cool posts. Thanks for the links! The part about the Magic Deck writing prompts reminds me a bit of the I Ching. :D


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