Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Bit (More) PEP To Get Over Writer's Block

Welcome to a new week! I know we're a little slow on the uptake, but that's Monday for ya. Here's a bit of PEP (that's Productivity Ego Procrastination) from Sam, our lovely guestblogger, to get your writing week started off right. 


I tend to find that when I’m writing, no matter what it is, I start getting inspiration for other projects. This was a problem when trying to finish essays for class, but has proved to be quite helpful with my creative pieces. When I come to a block on one, I simply open a new document and write bits and chunks of something else to help get the ideas flowing again. There are two different ways that I do this; one is more character driven and the other is all about descriptions.

The first is writing something within the universe of the piece you are trying to work on. Use your exact same characterizations and history, just pick up your protagonist and drop them into a new scene. One of my original characters is a snob-nosed upper crust brat and when I get stuck I tend to put her in uncomfortable situations like being in a soup kitchen or a Walmart. Make sure to capture all of their thoughts, even if it seems mundane. Create a steady stream of consciousness and action.

The second version is to forget the project that you are working on completely and begin something else - but something short. Pick a place that you already know vividly in your mind. A favorite place, the very room you’re sitting in right now. It doesn’t really matter where. Don’t try and create a new plot for this piece. There doesn’t even have to be a main character. Just describe what is going on in great detail. Everything from the flower pot on the window sill to the color of the coat of the man who just passed through the door is important. If it doesn’t have a real point, you won’t feel bad about abandoning it.

The whole idea is to get words on the page/screen. You don’t want to simply stop writing when you come to a block, you want to try and work through it like a tough knot. You still need to get the knot undone, simply approach if from a different angle if you find yourself too frustrated with one part of it. When you think you’ve sufficiently limbered up enough, head back to your original project and give it another go. The key is to never stop trying.


Depending on how long you have been writing, this activity might fall a little flat for some people. If you have an archive of any kind, take a look back. It can be creative writing, essays, even a personal journal. Go as far back as possible and read what you have. At first you might feel a bit mortified at your mistakes, how poorly you conveyed the tone you had in mind. But after a few minutes you’ll begin to compare your old work to what you do now. It’ll be a picture of how far you’ve come, further highlight how happy you are with your skills today.

If you don’t have much to look back on, that’s okay! Starting an archive of your own can help your confidence grow, too. Watching that pile of papers grow or that folder fill up with files is more gratifying than a lot of things around. Keep everything that you start, even if you’re not too happy with it. It is a road marker for where you’ve been and those bits you’re not exactly proud of will encourage you to be better, write more.


This week, video games are the temptress. You’re free to play them, of course, but I’ve got something a bit different in mind. Head over to our trusty friend Youtube and get ready for hours of mindless gameplay without lifting more than a finger to click. Pick a game that you’ve always wanted to play or have played and love and type it into the search bar with one of several keywords tacked on the end. I usually use one of these: gameplay, game play (tags can be finicky!), walkthrough, part 1, #1, video 1 - you get the gist of it. Sometimes it’ll take a bit of searching to find somebody with enough videos to make it worth while, or somebody who had funny enough commentary, or even somebody who is good enough at the game. I’ve watched people play Super Mario 64, Portal, Assassin’s Creed, and a ton more.

With older games you’ll probably be able to find somebody who has videos of the entire game from beginning to end. But there are plenty of people playing new games and posting daily with their progress. It’s really easy to make an account if you already have a gmail or google account, it just becomes an extension onto them. If you don’t I think it’s a relatively short process for that as well. Once you find somebody that you’d like to track - for those of you who might not know - click the subscribe button above the video and voila! You can change your settings to be emailed when the person updates or to simply check your subscriptions box on the YouTube homepage. I’m currently subscribed to somebody who is working his way through Portal 2 and somebody else who is trying to play an expansion DLC for Amnesia: The Dark Descent - and failing, though that part tends to be the most hilarious. Happy watching!

Images thanks to Alun Salt and Nany Hoft on Flickr.com 

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