That Blinking Cursor

It doesn’t matter what one writes: fiction, non-fiction, technical writing; we all dread that blinking cursor. It sits there, expectant, endlessly. A full-page of blankness falls underneath it, waiting to be filled. You place your fingers on the keypad–and freeze. Nothing comes out, no impulses tell your fingers what to type. And still that cursor sits there, blinking at you.

Why do we get writer’s block?

 “The possible reasons for it are myriad: fear and anxiety, a life change, the end of a project, the beginning of a project…almost anything, it seems, can cause that particular mix of fear and frustration upon confronting the blank page”.*

 Whatever the reason for our own personal blockage, it can be painful. We are filled with doubt about our abilities when we can’t make those little black characters appear on the page. So what do we do?

1. Just start, it can always be changed later. This is my preferred method. Usually by  my second paragraph it starts to flow. Once you are in the story, going back and changing the beginning to fit what you want is easy. You already know where the story went, so now you just need a bit of editing to make that piece of crap first  paragraph (or more) work for you.

2. If you are writing fiction, writing prompts  are a great way to start. Say you have an idea but haven’t fleshed it out. This character has been beating at the inside of your head trying to get out; but you don’t know where they live, or what kind of story they have. Find a picture or writing prompt  and write a 100-500 piece of flash fiction with that character. By the time you are done you will know if the prompt worked for that character; or if it didn’t you will know why and where to go with your story. And you have a great little prequel with your character to whatever story you do write.

3. Write about your anxiety. If you don’t have a set story to write, start writing about your worries about not writing and examine what might be stopping you. Even if you have a set subject you need to write about, doing this can get the words flowing. You might learn something new about yourself–and have an interesting piece to be used later.

4. Do something mindless. Errands, exercise, or chores are a great way to take your mind off what you are trying to write. Generally as soon as you stop trying to write, ideas flood in faster than you can keep up. The hard part is keeping them in your brain long enough to get them out your fingers.

5. Talk to an imaginary friend: Instead of writing  for your intended audience, create an imaginary friend. Your friend is a real fan. He (or she)  loves everything you write. He supports everything you do. Give your imaginary friend a name. Create a little drawing or find a picture of a lookalike. Pin this picture on the wall above your desk. Instead of writing a blog post, or story, or whatever, start a conversation with your friend. Or write him a letter (maybe he lives somewhere fabulous). Discuss his dreams and challenges. Help him with whatever he is struggling with. Be a good friend. **

6. Change your medium. Get away from that b$#@king cursor and pull out a notepad. A paper notepad. And a pen. Sometimes the hypnotizing flow of ink across the paper can inspire you. When you transcribe it into computer, you have a great chance to expand parts and edit the piece.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “That Blinking Cursor

  1. All good ideas. I prefer the ‘just write through it’ method too. And to be in the habit of writing helps. I had a self-enforced day off from scribbling yesterday, one of my ususual writing days, and was itching to get going come this morning.
    The late Terry Pratchett said on the subject –
    “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”
    Harsh, probably a little unfair on us mere writing mortals, but it made me laugh 🙂

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  2. Thank you for sharing these. These will come in very handy for a person like me, who is constantly affected by the writeritis. There are multiple periods in my life, when I just can’t write for myself. Of course, I can always comment on others’ blog posts. 🙂

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  3. What helps me is purposely trying to write “badly.” Meaning just throwing out all the effort and thinking it takes to write good prose. Writing in passive voice with lots of adjectives and adverbs, run on sentences, no regard for grammar, spelling or eloquence. Then, wah-lah! Crappy first draft accomplished.

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