Break through those blocks! Get un-stuck. Pry open those mental doors!
It’s one of those days. Or maybe it’s been one of those years. You look at the paper, or computer screen. Nothing. You may be on deadline. You may just want desperately to write something for yourself. Doesn’t matter – nothing is coming up. Maddening, isn’t it?
Not the first time, right? And you just know there’s no way out.
Well, maybe that’s not true, even though all the tricks you’ve tried before aren’t working today.
You’re looking at this book because maybe, just maybe, there are some ideas that could blast you through that godforsaken wall.
I hope these will help. They’re block busters that have worked for me, and for people in the classes I conduct. What we like about them is they don’t take a lot of hard thinking, nor do they require you be in tip-top creative genius form. The expectancy that brilliant genius mode is the only place you should be when you write is probably high on the list of what’s keeping you stuck to begin with, no?
So, willing to give it a try? OK, the first trick is to let go. Not just by willing yourself to. You can actually take steps, easy steps, to unwind and move out of the box.
Tip #1: Breathing
First, sit with both feet on the floor, legs uncrossed. Take a deep breath, in through your nose. Hold it for ten seconds. Release the breath through your mouth. Look at the paper or computer. Write whatever comes to mind. If you’re trying to move ahead on a project and that isn’t what comes up, it’s OK. Do not force yourself to make it about your project. Just write whatever comes to mind. See if it leads you into the project after all. Or if it leads you to a totally new writing path — See Trick #2.
Tip #2: Journaling, a way to cleanse the brain and ease into your project
Start your day with getting the things that are on your mind out on paper. By simply writing down your first feelings of the day, you will clear your mind of underlying issues, and free your creative self to leap out. As you’re doing this simple exercise, good ideas can spring to life at any time.
Another way to think of journaling as a springboard to writing — just do it! Sit down with paper and pencil/pen, or computer, and start writing about what’s going on in your life today. Write for as long as you feel you need, or give yourself a reasonable amount of time, like 10 or 15 minutes. At some point, you may find you’re switching gears and starting or resuming your project. If not, that’s perfectly OK. Just get those often confusing, negative first thoughts of the day out of your head. You’ll find you can tackle your project with a lot more energy.
Tip #3: Set a time of day to sit down and write. And stick to it!
Get regimented. Make an appointment with yourself, and don’t let anything interfere. If someone wants to meet for coffee, tell them you have an appointment until the hour you have pre-set to stop, and make your coffee date for sometime after your writing date. Now here’s the tricky part: sit in front of the computer or paper for the whole time you’ve set aside. Even if nothing comes, it’s important to keep to the commitment. This is a trick some of the most successful writers have used. It’s the commitment to yourself to write that’s the motivator.
Tip #3A Alternate to #3: Set a goal of a certain number of pages, or words, for the day
Some writers use this trick instead of choosing a specific time of day. Also, some writers use both time of day and specific number of pages or words. I say, whatever works!
Tip #3B Make sure you keep to your stopping point!!! That’s as important as the starting point in keeping you motivated.
And remember what Dorothy Parker is supposed to have said, “The art of writing is the art of applying the ass firmly to the seat of the chair.”
Tip #4 If you're having a hard time getting started, think back to your very earliest memory.
Get as specific as you can. Think of where you are, who you are with, what is going on. What smells are in the air? What colors do you see? Any sounds? How are you feeling? Capture this on paper (or on the computer screen), and see where this line of thinking back takes you.
Tip #5 Don't worry yet about structure, unless you already have an outline in mind.
Just let the memories flow. A structure will emerge. If it doesn't, try taking a look at some ideas for structure in my first book on the topic, "How to Write Your Memoirs...Fun Prompts to Make Writing...and Reading...Your Life Stories a Pleasure!" Yes, shameless plug, but you will find a number of suggestions to help you organize your memories.
Tip #6 Use photos to jog your memory.
You see the one at the top of the page? It's my own grandparents, done up a la the Great American Gothic. If it were in color, you would see a special addition my father put on a copy of the original ... red paint on teh tips of the pitchfork. But only the outer two tines. For me, the photo is as much about my dad as my grandparents, and calls up memories of how his quirky and delightful sense of humor kept me laughing even through countless cross country drives. And of course the picture brings up memories of my grandparents, too. How they came to the U.S. at 15, with nothing, found each other here, and fell in love. I always considered them very brave, and unusual. There's a lot more; this is the tip of the old iceberg.
Try a picture of one of your parents and see what comes up for you.
Tip #7 The Music Break
Get up from where you’re sitting — no remotes — and turn on some music. Any kind of music. If you feel like dancing to it a bit, so much the better. My own favorite is Brazilian.
Look for more in blogs to come, and meantime, keep writing!
NOTE: This blog was originally published in my Footprints Blog. I'm consolidating here, and hope you find this easier!
The above is excerpted from the upcoming book by Hillebrandt, "How to Write Your Memoirs...The Toolbox Edition" (c) 2010 Ina S. Hillebrandt. All rights reserved. Except for review purposes, not to be reprinted in part or in whole, in any media, without permission from Pawpress. For inquiries Contact us.
What is it with nicknames, I mean, why do some people resent them? In my family, we all had them, the more the merrier. Nicknames were a normal part of our lives, and when we were called by them, we felt fuzzy and warm.
My dad was dubbed Moose, and called Moosie at times, by his four brothers and sisters when they were growing up in Bryn Mawr, PA. He was tall and broad, not fat, just substantial. As a grownup he not only created his own furniture wearing his interior designer hat, but could carry even a sofa by himself. I wish I knew everyone else's names from that generation, but sadly they're all gone now and I can't ask. I think one of my uncles, Kal, might have been nicknamed Cream Cheese for his Cream Cheese Theory of Politics.
I called my brother Conrad by a lot of different nicknames, Cornrad one of the earliest. At one point, because he got a little chunky around the midsection and loved French fries, I alternately called him Cornfat and Crinkle Cut. For some reason, my brother didn't like either of these. Which of course made me use them all the more often, especially in front of his friends.
My own nicknames, coming straight from my dad, were always a marvel to me. He'd referred to me as a little minx, but the way it came out when I said it was "Binx." So, first came The Binx. Then, Binxley, and when he was being formal, Binxleigh. Earlier I'd been called Ina Wee, my middle name being Lee, which I also couldn't pronounce. In due time, my official nickname became Ina Wee the Binx Bunnicle. Bunnicle came from Bunny of course, and the bunny was because I only had two front teeth for a while. Plus I loved carrots. Still do, but no one calls me the Bunnicle nowadays.
My former husband's name was Charles Barry, and in good southern tradition (he hailed from Lake Charles, Louisiana), his best friend always referred to him by the initial of his first name. So to JB, Barry was always, "C."
When my daughter Nicole came along, tradition naturally took over. She laughed a lot when she was on the changing table, but was also fussy, colicky for a while. So she became, "Fussy Fuss Pot," when she wasn't being referred to as "Rooster" for the early morning wakeup calls.
One day a southern friend of Barry's came to visit. He asked, "Where's the tot?" Next time he visited, it was, "Where is T. Tot?" Soon it was just "Where's T?" Then, I began calling her by the Dad-type amalgam: T. Pot. I used to try to get Nicole to use the French nickname, Coco, which I think is elegant and fun, and of course reminds me of Chanel. But, no dice. So I still call her T, and when I'm being formal, T. Pot. This is a name known to a few family members only, so please don't spread it around.
The reason I'm thinking about all this is that recently I referred to a new friend I'm working with, whose name is Todd, as Toddlette. He shot back, "That's Toddwyn." Seeing that's far more elegant, I immediately switched over.
Then another person we're working with, Nicole, asked how Toddwyn came about. Todd's reply, "I don't want to be called anything that sounds even remotely like a toilet." Fair enough.
Now, I'm working on a nickname for the new Nicole. She's already known as Nikki, and I am of course calling her Nik, pronounced "Nick." But something better will emerge…maybe Nik the Twoth.
NOTE: This post, along several others you will find here, was originally on the Footprints blog. I have moved it here to connect with my new website.
Hi, and glad to see you! My blog features memoir and fiction writing tips for you out there aiming to create enchanting memoirs and flights of fancy of your own; new "Pawprints," those close encounters of the furry kind, by moi; and topical comments as they bang on my head to be written. Plus: videos featuring talented authors I'm privileged to work with, reading live, Coming...your life stories, here. Got one you want to share? Use our form to be considered.