Yesterday I told you my personal pep talk which I use to fend off writer’s block. Today I want to share a couple exercises I use to get my writing back on track. Or to just get back to writing anything 🙂
I’m sure most are familiar with free writing but for those of you who are not, free writing is simply sitting down and writing (or typing) whatever pops into your head. The rules are that you must keep writing for a set amount of time and you must write the first thing that pops into your head. With free writing there is no editing as you go or changing anything once it’s written. Ideally you would write as fast as you could to prevent any errant thoughts from creeping in and disrupting the flow. And flow is what you’re aiming for.
The idea behind free writing is that it gets you out of a self-conscious state and into your writing groove where the thoughts can flow naturally and without filter.
I like free writing, but I’ve found that a bit more direction helps my free writing sessions become more productive. Free writing in its purest form often produces an abundance of incoherent ramblings with a hidden gem or two. Here are two methods I use to make my free writing session more productive and fun.
Get into character.
This exercise is free writing in its purest form except you get into your character’s head instead of your own. First visualize your character, how they talk, walk, smile, frown, etc. Think about all their physical and emotional characteristic. Now let your character talk. Maybe you imagine your character walking down the street, what do they see? How do they interact with the world around them? I like this exercise because it accomplishes two things, it gets me writing and I get to know my character.
Pick a scene.
Sometimes I have a great idea for a story but I just can’t get the beginning right. I hate every first sentence I create so I end up not typing anything. But I will have a great idea for some other scene in the story. If you find yourself stuck in the beginning of the story (or the middle or even the end) start writing any scene that pops into your head. Don’t worry about where it will fit in the story just focus on getting those words on paper. Maybe the scene you write will never make it into your final story or maybe it will. Maybe it will reveal something about your character you didn’t know or reveal an underlying theme you hadn’t considered.
Sometimes when I’m feeling especially uninspired, I search for writing contests. For the purpose of beating writer’s block I search for flash fiction contests. I find writing contests help me beat writer’s block in a few ways.
Changes up the writing routine.
Contests often have specific word counts, themes, etc. By adhering to these specific guidelines and having to meet a deadline it changes the way I approach the project.
Sets an attainable and specific goal.
Completing a piece specifically for a contest achieves a goal. Even if you don’t submit the piece or don’t win, you finished a project! There’s nothing more satisfying than finishing a piece.
For me, contests are fun. All writing is supposed to be fun…right? But sometimes I put too much pressure on the projects that mean the most to me and are closest to my heart. A contest piece however, can be viewed as an exercise in writing. I tend to put less pressure on myself and so the words come easily. Maybe the contest piece turns out great, maybe it doesn’t, but it gives your brain a writing workout.
Writing contests, like writing prompts, add a little fun and motivation when your existing projects might feel overwhelming.
I have started compiling a List of Free Writing Contests and I would invite you to check it out. There might just be something that spurs an idea or sounds like a lot of fun.
Happy (free) writing!