The Page a Day Writers Group

What Writer’s Block?

Posted on: April 25, 2010

Have you ever sat in front of a blank screen and hoped the words would magically appear?  How about sitting holding a pen just praying divine intervention takes over and the words will write themselves?  Sound familiar?

I’m convinced writing is more perspiration than inspiration.  As Claire, another Page a Day Writer, reminds us it’s important to get our “butt in the chair” and just write.  Sometimes this is easier said than  done.  Never have I had a cleaner house or my bills paid on time when I’m trying to write and it just ain’t happening.

When I started writing fifteen years ago, I went to Thursday Night Writers’ Group. Part therapy, part writing, I’d pay my five dollars, get a prompt from Judy Reeves, the founder of the San Diego Writing Center (now San Diego Writers’ Ink) and for the next twelve to fifteen minutes a group of writers and me would write.  If we wanted to we could share what we’d written with the group.  Reading out loud without editing was important to the process.

This Thursday Night Writers’ Group “exercise” or ritual contains numerous elements to unleash the writer’s block, and one I’m offering to you when that pesky block rears its’ ugly head.

First, try writing with a pen and paper instead of a computer.  There is something about the physicality of writing that opens up the floodgates.  Or if you are always writing longhand then try writing on computer.

Second, make sure you have an egg timer.  I recommend setting it for fifteen minutes.  If that’s too overwhelming try seven and work your way up.

Third, find a prompt.  I’ve listed some prompts below from Judy Reeve’s “Writing Alone, Writing Together.”  The best thing to do is put each of these on a piece of paper, fold each one up, put it in a jar, and then choose one.

  1. Write about being in bad company
  2. It was her best idea
  3. If I’d known then
  4. Write about falling stars
  5. You’re asleep.  You’re not home.
  6. Write about cheap thrills
  7. Write about stolen moments
  8. Write about leaving town
  9. Nighttime rituals
  10. This is what I want

Finally, write.  Once you’ve picked a prompt,  set the timer, and write.  Don’t think.  The prompt is meant to be just that a prompt, a jumping off point.  Don’t pick up the pen from the paper while the timer is going.  No editing or thinking allowed.  And let me tell you when you do stop, you will be surprised what comes up.  For the first year or two of Thursday Night Writers’ Group, no matter what the prompt was I wrote about my dad.  “Write about an ear of corn.”  “Write about the color of blue.”  And I was off writing about my dad and my childhood.

I  have never been without words or had writer’s block when I’ve done this.  So put your butt in the chair, pick a prompt, set the timer and write.

Happy Writing!

Michelle Murphy Zive

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3 Responses to "What Writer’s Block?"

Write no matter what; that is the mantra I try to abide by. But why do we get blocks? Is it the dormancy before the growth? Great post.

This is a fantastic remedy for the stalled blues. If we just slog on, it begins to flow again. Thanks, Michelle!

I can’t recall who first said it, but I follow the “don’t complete the last sentence” method. When I return to the screen next day and have to complete that last sentence, I’m back in the moment and the writing continues.

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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