Beating Writer’s Block: Read

Read

I know what you might be thinking: you’re currently reading about how to get rid of Writer’s Block, and the author suggests you read. Let’s be a little more specific in this. Read something you wouldn’t normally read, or read something you’ve chosen not to read so you can stare at the screen unable to think of the words you need to write.

It’s as simple as that. My suggestion is that you read poetry, or a flash story. There are literally thousands of poems online for your reading, and every Friday lots of authors share stories under the #FridayFlash tag. You also have the option of signing up for a daily story from Every Day Fiction, or heading to an author’s blog that you know posts fiction and/or poetry.

Read an article from the Guardian website, or the New York Times. Read a blog post written by a friend, or click on a tag on WordPress.com and see where it takes you. Try searching for a tag that you think relates to your work in progress. What are other people saying about what you’re writing about? What are bloggers and journalists saying about the places your characters are visiting, the genres you’re writing in, the books your characters are reading, the music they’re listening to?

Read something, and we’re making a good start.

Action Time! If you chose to read fiction – because you write fiction – I want you to do something for me now: write the next part of the story.

If it’s a flash story with a clear end, write an unauthorised sequel. You don’t need to share it. I just want you think about the story. If you can work through one plot, you can work through another. How does that sound?

Action Time! What about the poets out there? Did you read a poem? Respond to it.

That’s right, respond to the poem you just read. Pick a line, or a theme, or a feeling you felt from it, and write your own poem in response to the original. Go one further and mimic the rhythm and the rhyming scheme of the poem you read. Try to make what you just wrote seem like something the other author wrote. The attention to detail against someone else’s template should help you refocus your energies on the words you use, and how you use them. When you’ve responded to the poem you read, return to your own work and see where it leads you. How well can you respond to – or continue – your own poem?

Action Time! If you chose to read non-fiction, there are a few different options open to you.

You could dissect the piece you read for key points. You could choose a favourite quote from the piece and write on the same topic, inspired by that line. If you’re a fiction writer, why not write the story of what you just read, but as fiction? Make it up. Add in details where there were none. Poets, turn what you read into a work of poetry. Choose lines from here and there and throw them together, or write about the topic using the piece you read as research.

In the end, you should have been able to write something. You have three attempts at this, after all. The poets can all respond to works of fiction they read, even sticking to poetry. The fiction writers can convert a poem into a story. The non-fiction writers can take a setting from a story, or a description from a poem, and write an article or a blog post on them.

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About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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