Creative Writing Strategies to Break the Block

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National Day on Writing may have been last Friday, but there’s still plenty of opportunities to improve your written word.

Writing is an incredibly difficult activity. People who do not write on the regular do not realize the strain writers go through to master their craft, or at least produce work they do not want to encase in concrete and drop in the Red River.

For writers, writing sometimes can feel like an emotional drain. But writing as an activity has the complete opposite effect. Writing is good for your brain.

Any writer will tell you there is no better way to emotionally purge other than writing.

Psychologist James Pennebaker studied the effect of writing by having participants write for a set time over three to five days. The participants were asked to write about different topics, but Pennebaker found that those who wrote about their emotions gained confidence and reported more happiness.

The National Day on Writing may have been last Friday, Oct. 20, but that does not mean the writing must stop. Any time is a good time to take advantage of the benefits creative writing provides. Here are a few activities to get started:

Timed writing

Set a timer, get some paper and a pen, or open a Word Doc and write. Turn off your inner editor and just let the words flow.

This is an especially effective activity for dealing with writer’s block. Any blockage that is in one’s brain is bound to be knocked loose during a 10-minute stream of consciousness writing session.

7x7x7

The numbers here are irrelevant, and the structure of this activity can be used multiple ways. The idea is to find the seventh book on a bookshelf, open up to page seven, look at the seventh line and then write a seven-word poem.

This can be tweaked for short story writing too. Drop in a zero for the 7x7x70 activity and write a 70-word story. Why not try a 10x10x100 too?

Emotional labor

This last one is my personal favorite. Make a list of the top five fears in your life. Write a character who is forced to confront one of those fears.

I like this prompt for a couple of reasons. Mainly because it is a straightforward way to generate conflict, the crucial part of any good story. I also like how the plot sets up a writer to fill in the blanks about how and why a fear must be confronted.

These are just three ways to start writing. Writing may seem like demanding work — and it really is if you are serious about it — but writing can be as easy and pleasant as you want it to be. Anybody can write a little bit every day and feel better in the process.

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