Saturday, November 14, 2015

Blocking Writer's Block - Weekend Mini Challenge

Hey Toads.

Before beginning this post, I want to extend my deepest condolences to the people of Paris and of France.  In the wake of these terrible attacks, I’ve had a hard time focusing on the prompt. But, here goes--

I offer today an exercise. (I hope everyone has on their work-out clothes.)

Writers’ block. The absent muse. A vacuum in the head--or the opposite--so much going on up there that there is no blank mental space. Worst of all -- a lack of faith that one’s ideas are worth setting onto the page.

I am often troubled by these obstacles, and even wrote a series of blog posts about them, but I am certainly no expert. All I can say is that for me, these are moments when a writing exercise may work as a kind of jump-start.

Essentially, the exercise is to make yourself write for a short and specific amount of time. As part of this forced timed writing, you are required (i) to move you pen across the page without stopping, and (ii)  to not go back and cross anything out (until the time is through.)

I tend to advocate a pen for this part of the exercise, but you certainly are welcome to try it on a computer. A computer seems more difficult, however, because the screen is a lot like a mirror--what you have just written stares back at you and can make it difficult to forge unself-consciously ahead--

Okay, so, here’s the exercise, if you wish to participate.

The starting point is :  “I remember” or “I don’t remember."   (Feel free to use the third person instead, thinking of he or she remembers, or  doesn’t remember.)

 With these words in your head, sit down somewhere where you will not be interrupted, and write for seven minutes with a timer. 

You should start writing immediately once you set your timer, and keep your pen moving until its little ping.

 If you cannot think of something to write, write down “I cannot think of what to write,” and “I still can’t think of what to write.”  Just keep your pen, or fingers (or whatever you use to write) moving.

 At the end of your 7 minutes, read what you’ve written (or not.) Then take that piece or take the place you are in and and use it as a springboard for your poem.   Your initial text is not your poem, but just a peephole into it.

Your final poem (or draft if you are me!) can be made up of edited snippets of your initial text, or it  can be completely different.  (Maybe what you wrote  opened a vein and you want to move on from there. ) Again, the forced timed text should merely be a springboard, not your poem.

 Note that you can stop and think about your poem! In fact, you are encouraged to stop and think about your poem! However, keep in mind that the whole thing is still just an exercise. Meaning, don't overly judge yourself!

To sum up--take seven minutes to write down what you remember or do not remember in this very instant--what comes actually to mind right now and for the minutes that your pen moves.Then take another little bit of time to turn that exercise into a poem.

 Keep in mind that the word “remember” does not need to be in your poem. The only thing you DO need to remember is to visit your fellow poets!  (Also--I am not asking anyone to post their timed write here--you should feel completely private about that.)

Finally, finally (!) if all this just seems to laborious--and it is-- just write a poem on the prompt.

(Only, if you don't do the exercise, maybe don't tell me!  Ha!)  (All pics are mine--feel free to use crediting Karin Gustafson, a/k/a Manicddaily.)


Kerry O'Connor said...

I join you in expressing my outrage at the latest attack against civilians, and my deepest condolences to the nation of France. There is so much senselessness in the world.

Hard to focus on writing, without seeming untouched by tragedy but I do love the exercise you have set us (and I love your little pooch hard at work - such a good example she sets to us all). I will set aside my 7 minutes tomorrow morning and see what may arise. It will be a welcome relief from my marking of exam scripts.

Outlawyer said...

Note that this is quite a hard prompt. My initial text was very quick, but my husband says that my poem, which is very little like the initial text, is incomprehensible! So, in other words--take your time! (If interested.) k.

Gail said...

Universal synchronicity!

I was kinda doing this before your post popped up. It fit the criteria.

Thank you.

Gail said...

Of course I had to mess up something! The first link was not complete so if you would like to delete is fine. The second link gets you there so...Sorry!

Kerry O'Connor said...

No problem, Gail.

hedgewitch said...

Certainly a difficult time to concentrate on writing, and I too feel maladroit posting something unrelated to the events in Paris. But it's not a topic I am ready to address. This is what I have after following Karin's 'unblocking' exercise earlier this week, and so am linking. Heartfelt sorrow for those who have lost so much in France.

brudberg said...

Oh what fun.. I decided to do minimal editing, so it might not make much sense to you.. but to me it did... I have been out travelling in business the whole week, so I feel a little exhausted.. I actually passed Paris on Thursday.. so it feels extra close to me.

Outlawyer said...

I have to say that writing the poem itself can take way longer than 7 minutes! (Though yours worked very well Bjorn.) Mine may make sense only to me as well. What I do like about the exercise is that it got me to write about something in a way I would not normally have done today.

People should feel free to post more than one poem if they enjoy the exercise. Certainly, I'm happy to look at other poems. k.

Outlawyer said...

The SECOND one is definitely easier--just mentioning if any want to try! k.

Jim said...

I like your dog, k. She reminds me of our toy poodle, a French dog named Katrin.
Katrin died earlier this year.. She and her made were regularly seen on my blogs.
Her mate was Adi, a beagle dog. Adi and I were a pet therapy team. She loved to visit or help kids read.

A few years ago I worked my way throught a "How to" book, using the technique you describe here
I wrote on a blog, a Blogspot private to myself only. It is still around but I haven't written there for ages.

Outlawyer said...

Thanks, Jim. I am sorry to hear about your little poodle. Your work with your beagle sounds berh satisfying. My thoughts here are based on techniques developed by Nathalie Goldberg in Writing Down The Bones. K.

Fireblossom said...

Pearl! And elephants, too! Yay!

Other Mary said...

Thanks for this Karin. I did link up and visit everyone after all. :o)

Outlawyer said...

Thanks Mary and Shay. I feel a little guilty using poor Pearl's old pics but she was so cute. K.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I LOVE the adorable photos of your dog, kiddo! I needed a prompt like this as I am in that very place of not having an inspired thought in my head....I shall return with something...hopefully. LOL.

Outlawyer said...

Thank you, Sherry. k.

Anonymous said...

pardon me for sucking.
calling it a night.

Susie Clevenger said...

I did the writing exercise. I would have shared a photo of it, but I could barely read my own handwriting. Love all your pictures! Thanks for the prompt!

jowrites said...

This was fun! Great to be here--I found this place thankfully through Blue Oran's blog. I miss doing this stuff!

Outlawyer said...

Thank you, Amy, for joining in. k.