Guest Post: How to Beat Writer’s Block (A Few Tricks I Learned in School)
Inspiration is the soul of creativity. Without it, characters fall flat, stories feel contrived, and the writer struggles to create a narrative that resonates with herself, much less readers. Often, creativity seems more like a precious drop of rain than an endless well of ideas.
There is no cure-all for writer's block, but one thing is sure: finding a vein of inspiration is like striking gold.
These veins come in many forms: culture, love, family, experience, and imagination. One of the most valuable forms is your childhood. If you hit writer’s block like a brick wall, revisiting the past may be the perfect way to discover new ideas and characters for the future.
Why Your Childhood is Valuable
You only get one chance to see the world through the eyes of a child. It’s a radically different perspective than an adult, but don’t discard it because you were young. In fact, a nine-year-old knows enough about life and love to fear death and flee pain.
These, consequently, are the most basic and essential ingredients of story. Why not use your early years, when everything was new and interesting and bright, as a starting place for inspiration?
A Few Words About Power Rangers
Power Rangers were a new phenomenon my first year of school. I was five or six at the time, and my mom emphatically told me I wasn’t allowed to watch Power Rangers because it was violent. My classmates, on the other hand, were obsessed.
Not only did they watch the show, they became the show. When the bell rattled for morning recess, the kindergarten playground exploded into a dusty battle between humans, monsters, and power rangers.
There were specific rules. For starters, there could only be one of each power ranger. This meant two things: First, roughly 60 percent of the class had to play civilians or bad guys. Secondly, all the girls would fight over the pink power ranger.
I didn’t watch the show, so I spent these recesses taking mental notes on the battles instead of participating. This didn’t bother me; I enjoyed observing the game as much as the idea of participating in it.
One girl, Cameron, was always the pink power ranger. She would flit across the monkey bars, firing an occasional pew! pew! at the boys and run away, a blonde ponytail bobbing in the wind behind her. Another classmate, whose name was Robby (he was also my kindergarten boyfriend, but that’s another story), was the self-proclaimed red power ranger. He spent most of the game saving civilians from the jungle-gym-turned-jail.
I tell you this story not because it’s fuel for great literature, but because it sparked a chain reaction of memories, people, places, and events from my past.
What do you remember from your first year of school? If you’re struggling to find new ideas, flashbacks like these can kick start your creativity. You may even find a character from these ramblings wander into your next story.
A few prompts to help you overcome a creative dry spell:
- Who was your favorite elementary teacher and why?
- Who were your friends? What did you do together?
- What did you talk about around the lunch table?
- What was your favorite subject in the first and second grades?
What happens if I can’t remember the details?
When people ask me what I write, I usually say “fiction,” and follow it up with a comment about fictionalized autobiography. Fictionalized autobiography is a great tool for writers. Firstly, it gives you the freedom to bend and shape memories into a cohesive story.
It also helps you fill in the blanks. If you don’t remember your best friend’s name from the third grade, that’s okay. Make one up. If you don’t recall exactly what the weather was like your first day of school, no one is going to travel back in time and correct you if it’s wrong.
In fact, one could say there is a very thin line between autobiography and fictionalized autobiography. After all, the way you remember the past reflects you, even if it isn’t 100% factual.
Childhood is full of first impressions. I am not blessed with a reliable memory, but I recall certain experiences from my early years with startling accuracy. I remember the first time I felt ashamed for failing in school, the first time I regretted being tall because it made me different, and the time I won a class prize for the second-best finger painting of a pumpkin.
Step away from your computer or close your notebook. Take a few minutes to revisit some impressions from your childhood. Chances are, somewhere in the past, you’ll find an experience, situation, or person worth writing about.
For more tips and blogs about the writing craft, visit Emily Brady at www.plotboilers.com.
What are your tips for overcoming writer's block?
Check out this guest post from Emily Brady on @brianawrites' blog with tips for overcoming writer's block! (Click to tweet)