Banish Writer’s Block
Submitted by Guest Writer E. Adam Porter
Many, if not most prospective writers are born storytellers. Sergeant Friday would hate us because we rarely, if ever, stick to “just the facts, ma’am.” We love to recite even the simplest activity in narrative form. Whether it be grocery list or childhood trauma there must be action and there must be drama.
But at some point every writer has to answer the Difficult Question. “What do you write when there Is No Story?”
Without a topic and absent either hero or villain, the very process of writing can morph into an exercise in futility and an untapped watershed of frustration. But a professional writer cannot just hit the wall and succumb to the nightmare of the void. You have a blank page in front of you that must be transformed into a paycheck. Let amateurs and wannabes whine about writer’s block. You have bills to pay.
So stop staring into space and thinking yourself into a raging migraine. The more you work as a writer, the more you realize some of your best work can begin with a cloudy weather forecast.
So let’s cut right through those storm clouds and put your talent and want-to on a paying basis. Let’s banish writer’s block once and for all with a single, simple Creative Writing Prompt.
All right, clear your mind. I’m talking total whiteboard here. Channel your inner Forrest Gump…before his mama told him anything.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Clearing your mind when you are trying to think of something feels antithetical to your end goal. Just trust me on this one. After all, you’re a born storyteller, right? Well, nature abhors a vacuum … and so does your imagination. There are writing topics all around you, if you are willing to take a moment to get off the mental merry-go-round and refocus. Literally leave your computer, grab your Idea Notebook and a pen. Now drive somewhere relatively quiet and Leave Your Phone in the Car.
Now let your mind slowly clear of anything and everything. Don’t worry, your subconscious knows about your assignment and will continue to work overtime. Then, slowly allow a character to form. Now, examine that character. What is he or she doing? Who or what is that action impacting? What may be this character’s possible motivations for doing these things? Where is this action taking place? The idea here is to slowly build a context, layer by layer, around your main character.
Now do exactly the same thing with a second character. Build them completely from the inside out. Now consider, each of those characters want exactly the same thing … but they want it for different reasons, motivations that make sense to them. Suddenly you have conflict, context and the beginning of a plotline. Your curious writer’s brain will demand to know more. Who are these people? Why are they connected? What is the tension between them? Let your imagination run wild.
You can do the same thing with a topic for any nonfiction work. Think about your assigned topic. Now look around at all the people you can see. How would you explain that topic to each of these people individually? You would take a different approach when sharing something with a 22-year-old nanny or a kid or a middle-aged stockbroker, right? So embrace those various approaches. Consider why that topic should be important to those people, the benefits and the applications. Suddenly you have multiple core ideas about a Single Concept.
If you don’t know how to communicate the nuances of the topic or what to say to convince five very different people why it should matter to them, then it’s time to hit the books and research. But, no matter what, you will have More Than Enough to fill the page.
E. Adam Porter is a writer, editor and story consultant with nearly two decades of professional bylines and book covers to his credit. Connect with him at eAdamPorter.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/e.adamporter.