Tag Archives: Writer’s Block

Just Take It Bird by Bird


How do you view the world right now? For some, the world seems smaller as we weather this pandemic together. Others feel overwhelmed by a world filled with pain, suffering and conflicting information. Maybe everything that’s going on in the world right now is affecting your ability to write. If so, you are not alone.

When you quarantined at home, you celebrated having plenty of time to write. You set goals: I’m going to start writing my novel. I’m finally going to finish my novel. I’ll write a thousand words a day. Two thousand. Three. Four. Five! Chances are those lofty goals fell by the wayside leaving you in a slump.

American novelist, Ann Lamott, keeps a tiny, one-inch picture frame on her desk as a reminder to give herself short writing assignments. Viewing the world through a frame the size of a postage stamp helps her to zero in and focus on one thing at a time.

In her book Bird by Bird, Lamott shares this autobiographical story:

usps_1_0“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table, close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

Maybe today you are sitting at your kitchen table staring at your computer screen or an empty sheet of paper. Maybe you feel immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.

Stop. Breathe.

Peer through that one-inch frame. It can only hold the image of one bird. So sit down and write “bird by bird”. Just take it bird by bird by bird . . .


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Filed under Encouragement, Inspiration, motivation, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, Writing Tips

Six Unusual Ways to Get Your WIP out of a Slump

2013spring-smells5Is your work in progress in a slump? Here are six techniques to help you come up with some fresh, new ideas.

1. Sniff Something! Your sense of smell connects directly to where your brain stores emotional memories. Think about smells you associate with specific events or people—your grandmother’s perfume for example, or a camping trip. Better yet, sniff things—herbs, spices, flowers, cologne. See if they evoke your own memories.

Visit some of these “smelly places” and think about how they might fit into your WIP:

fish market
antique shop
botanical garden
fertilizer aisle in a garden center
spice shop

woman-doing-laundry-pf.jpg2. Borrow a Character’s Personality. Share this activity with a writer friend. Plan an outing where each of you take on the personality of a character in your works in progress. React and interact as your characters might. Along with having loads of fun you will get deep inside your characters’ heads and come away with a fresh perspective.

Go shopping.
Have lunch in a restaurant you haven’t been to.
Do a project together.
Take a short road trip to an unfamiliar destination without using a GPS.

CilkWChWsAA813C3. Read Fiction Outside Your Genre. Pay attention to how characters react and interact in the situations they face. While you read ask yourself:

How would the characters in my current work in progress react if they faced the same situations?

Could I borrow a situation from this book to create a plot twist in my current work?

get_smart-tv4. Watch TV shows from the 60s and 70s. Television writers from the 60s and 70s created entertaining stories with straightforward plots, interesting characters and witty dialogue. Watch shows from these decades to discover ideas for your WIP. Find these and more on YouTube and other online sources:

Gilligan’s Island
The Beverly Hillbillies
Green Acres
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Andy Griffith Show
The Twilight Zone
Get Smart

improve-your-cash-flow-by-leasing-business-equipment5. Think Like a Kid. When your plot gets complicated, your characters might act out or act addled in ways you don’t expect. It’s enough to make you threaten to delete your work in progress and start over. Stop! You might be stuck because you’re trying too hard. Get back to the basics by allowing yourself to think like a kid.

Get to the root of your plot. How might a ten-year-old describe the story?

What adjectives might an eight-year-old use to describe each of your characters?

psychologist6. Be Your Character’s Therapist. Imagine that you are a therapist and your character is your client. Work to unravel the confusion in your character’s head. Sit down with that unruly character and ask him or her to explain what he or she is feeling and why.



What other methods have you used
to get your work-in-progress
out of a slump?
Please share by leaving a comment.

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Filed under motivation, Uncategorized, Writer's Block

How to Use Quotes to Smash Through a Writer’s Block

Do you struggle with writer’s block? Then smash it by using quotations.

Here’s how: Think about the following quotes and apply them to your writing. I’ve included some application ideas, but go beyond what I’ve suggested and see where the quotations take you.

Ready? Here we go.

“The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the Universe which runs through himself and all things.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Application: Look outside yourself. What inspires you? How can you incorporate those inspirations into your writing? Get back to the basics and ponder how your environment affects your senses.

“Wait until you are hungry to say something, until there is an aching in you to speak.” — Natalie Goldberg

Application: Find a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts. Bring a notebook and a pen. Empty your mind, relax, enjoy the surroundings. Wait for a passionate thought to fill you. (It will!) Write it down. When you sit down to write, revisit that thought and use it to fuel your writing.

Now, consider these two diametrically opposed ways
of breaking through a block.

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happily, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another.” — Brenda Ueland

Application: Write slowly. Carefully consider each word, sentence and paragraph. Think of them in terms of sizes, shapes, colors and patterns. Ask yourself if your writing lacks variety.

“The faster I write the better my output. If I’m going slow I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.”– Raymond Chandler

Application: Write like a maniac. Don’t control the words; let them control you. Write without thinking. You may be surprised by the words and ideas that flow onto your paper or computer screen.

“If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph first, and then I go back and work towards it. I know where I’m going. I know what my goal is. And how I get there is God’s grace.” –Katherine Anne Porter

Application: Begin at the end. Maybe you already know how your story ends, but how about the next chapter or the next paragraph? Write its ending first. Then go back and write toward the end.

Give it a try.
See if quotations can help break your block.


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Filed under Inspiration, Writer's Block, Writing Tips