So now, we begin:
I actually attended a class on Writer’s Block in spring solely for the purpose of addressing this concern in my column. I will now share with you what I learned. But be forewarned—you’re gonna have to put up with some less-than-lovely samples of my hideous handwriting. But hey, it was the only way I could do some of these charts.
Here’s the first suggestion I’ll make: Dream-writing. Keep a notebook by the bed and when you wake up, write down everything you remember, no matter how demented it may seem. I’ve come up with some darn interesting (and occasionally rather twisted and gory) stories doing this. What you write doesn’t necessarily have to be based on dreams, but it’s helpful.
Another version of that is the technique of everyone’s favorite surrealist (okay, I’m just saying that) Salvador Dali. From what I understand, when he was trying to come up with his next painting, he would often sit in a comfortable chair with a set of keys in his hand. He would hang his hand over the arm of the chair, over a plate set on the floor. When he fell asleep, he’d lose his grip on the keys, which would then hit the plate and wake him up. On waking, he’d quickly capture the images he’d seen in that moment between sleep and wakefulness, just before you go under. Neat, huh? The column just turned educational—God help us all!
The second technique I'll tell you about here is the well-known free-writing method. Here, you sit and write whatever comes into your mind, no matter how dumb it may be. (Hm, I think that may be how I write this column... especially tonight with all these ridiculous asides...) Another good example of free-writing goes like this:
Okay, so I'm supposed to write something about free-writing. I don't know what to write. I'm just writing. My fingers are moving and nothing intelligent is coming out. This is boring. I'd talk about what I watched on TV last night, but I didn't watch TV last night. In fact, I haven't watched any TV in a while... no, that's wrong, cuz I watched Batman this morning. There was nothing else on and I didn't have to go to class, so what was I supposed to do? Not that I really watched it, I spent most of the time cleaning up the mess from when I brought everything up last night. And it's a long hike to the 4th floor, believe me! If it weren't for the size of the room and the convenience of that little workout-place on the next floor, I'd move. Well, that and that I don't want to haul all my stuff out of there till around May or so when I move out. That's why I'd rather have my roommate move out. That, and someone else wants to move in with me. Which reminds me I've got to find some people to hang out with tomorrow when there's no classes or I'll get bored. And I screwed that up, telling someone I'd bring an AD&D book for them to look at to a class that's been cancelled. Stupid.Yeah, it goes nowhere, doesn't it? In fact, I'd honestly be surprised if you read the whole thing, where all I did was babble. But that's the point of free-writing: to get the hands and mind going. As you write, story ideas may jump into your head unexpected. In fact, that usually happens for me, but I didn't do it this time on purpose. Why? Because once you get to a story snippet, it's no longer free-writing. Now you're actually telling a story--you've broken the block!
Now, remember earlier when I said you'd hae to put up with my handwriting? Well, here it is: the Tree or Web method. This is kind of a neat one. You start with a random word, and make branches off of it to whatever jumps into your mind when you think of it. Then you pick a branch and do it again. It's like word association, but without the shrink! Here's a sample I did while working on this column:
Works out kinda neat, but it's a disaster to sort through. As you make associations, plots may start to form. If nothing like that happens, don't get upset. Just try again with another word and see if you can find something more interesting.
And if all else fails, steal something as a starting point.
Now what am I talking about?
Oh, it's not as bad as it sounds. I can't vouch for anyone else,
so I'll put myself on the spot again and cite my own thefts. To help
this make sense, these are all titles I've stolen in some way or another.
|Beyond the Door||A story that showed up in a dream, but showed up title-impared.
So I did one of my theft-techniques: I "borrowed" part of the song
"Tears In Heaven"--Beyond the door, there's peace I'm sure...
|Things Past||Heehee... I wanted to do a story about Lex's past. This was the title
of an episode of Deep Space 9 about Odo's past... it just seemed
|2004||Hope I didn't give anyone nightmares! This evil vision came in a dream
and reminded me so much of the novel 1984 that it just seemed fitting
to "adjust" the title for my own uses
|The Sound Of Thunder||This is one of my worst thefts.... I had the story itself written,
but with the lousy title "An Unsolved Mystery." Read a story called
"A Sound Of Thunder" and changed a word.
|After the First Death||Wanted to do a story about death, of course. So I went to one
of my favorite reference books: Bartlett's Book of Familiar Quotations.
Using the word "Death" as a starting point in the index, I just started
snagging quotes about it. And the one
that went after the first death, there is no other inspired me enough
to start a story.
|Dystopia||It might LOOK like the same as 2004, where I used the title of Utopia as a jumping-off point. Nope. I was thumbing through the dictionary and found it as a keyword. Having recently read Utopia, I was inspired to write the reverse.|
Now don't go five-finger-discounting (or four-finger, as the case may be) just cuz I told yas to steal! I'm not taking the rap!
Until later, sayonara to all!