Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Bit of PEP to Get Over Writer's Block

Today's PEP Rally post is brought to you by our very special guest blogger, Sam Spellman. Sam is currently an undergraduate at Beloit College and hopes to obtain a degree in Creative Writing, with a possible double major in Psychology. When not tackling school, Sam spends time with her friends and Kappa Delta sisters or re-mastering old school Mario Video games. She works in the technical services department of Beloit’s library.

For those of you who never experienced the Monday doldrums, consider yourself lucky. Those of you who know exactly what I’m talking about can attest that if you don’t get something done on that first day to set the tone, the entire week will be ruined. That’s where a PEP Rally comes in. PEP stands for Productivity, Ego, and Procrastination, the three most important things to a writer after their computer or favorite pen. Even though the Rally was created to start a week off right, it can help combat the dreaded writers block any day of the week. These tips and activities will get you moving towards that word count in no time. Well, maybe not the last one, but who said you have to be all work?


This week there are two activities, though one of them is also a tip. For the first one, I want you to take a look around you and assess the environment you are trying to write in. Is it cluttered with distractions? Do you have room to spread out? Are the people around going to be interrupting you every five minutes? Every writer needs their own space specifically for working and nothing else. Don’t park in front of the TV and expect to be able to get some serious work done. If you’re not in a place where you can focus solely on writing, nothing is going to come flowing from those fingers.

If you’re fortunate enough to have an office or a room to yourself, spruce it up. Remove the clutter from around your workspace, vacuum or sweep the floor. Heck, run down to the florist and buy a small bouquet of the cheapest flower they have to add a bit of color. Do something to change the space around you so that when you’re in it you can think, “Hey, I‘m writing” and not “oh look at all these knickknacks, lets play with these instead.” Do whatever you need to remove distractions and get down to business.

If you don’t have someplace for yourself, create a new space. Switch up where you usually sit, make sure the lighting is right, keep non-greasy snacks and your favorite drink at hand so that you don’t have to get up and pop the writing bubble. If it’s in the budget, check out Walmart or Target or your local thrift store for a small desk that will fit in a corner somewhere. Writing is all about how you feel in the moment, so you have to make sure you’re comfortable and ready to go. Last semester I strung up sheets between my desk and the rest of my dorm room so that I knew when I was sitting down it was time to write my term paper, not to nap or watch a movie.

The second activity is to keep a time diary. Go grab an old notebook, head to the dollar store for one of those 3 packs, or buy a brilliant new Moleskine for the occasion. Whatever tickles your fancy, so long as you’re going to be willing to carry it around for an entire day or more. Now find a pen that won’t quit on you in the middle of the day - depending on your schedule, you might be doing a fair bit of writing.

Now, keep track of everything. Nothing should be left out, this is for your eyes only after all. How long you're in the shower, how long your lunch break is, how long your commute is. Nothing is too short to be overlooked. Next, what you want to do is set aside the time you’re at work (if you are unable to write there), driving time, exercise, seeing the family - basically things you are unwilling to give up. Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t count, as much as I wish it did. Everything that is left gets a fine toothed comb taken to it. I know I take 20 minute showers when 5 minutes is more than plenty. That's 15 minutes and who knows how many words (not to mention all that money) down the drain! You can catch your doctor drama via DVR or online tomorrow night, after you’ve hit your word count!


Let’s face it, we all think we’re the best. It’s a simple fact of life. Pride in your writing ability is what makes you want to keep writing, what gives you the confidence to send in that first manuscript, to turn in that paper. Own up to it and be proud! There is nothing wrong with a little self love. This weeks Ego activity is to find a piece of writing, be it what you are currently working on or something hidden in the depths of your hard drive, and give it a second look. For each sentence or bit of dialogue or whatever that you’re proud of, make a hash mark on a piece of scratch paper. Write the total nice and big somewhere, surround it with hearts and stars or swirls and flowers. Whenever you feel like crap or can’t get something to work, take a look and remind yourself how awesome you can be.


Even though this completely contradicts the productivity section, everybody loves a good game. It’s here for when the stress levels get too high or when you simply just want something fun and shiny to do instead. This week’s game is Red Remover, a personal favorite of mine. There are 45 levels, some easier than others and so many ways to play. I usually go through all 45 levels and then go back to try for the par score of each one. After that, you can choose play them all over with a feature that is a bit like flashlight tag because the whole screen is black save for a circle around your cursor. AND THEN! If you’re still unsatisfied, you can build your own levels or check out the Red Remover forums for levels that other people have made. This game is addicting to the highest level, so beware! Happy removing!

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