Writing can be hard. It can seem like a massive brick wall just appears in your head and there’s no way to get those ideas, words, and scenes down on paper. At times, getting through the wall requires not thinking about writing as your great “masterwork” but rather, setting up a series of creative problems to work through. Sounds like a little creative slight of hand? It is! Nevertheless, these “games” or writing exercises can be real gamechangers when it comes to moving past the block, clearing out the cobwebs, and firing up your imagination. Think professional screenwriters are beyond games? Think again. They use them all the time.
Talking about first experiences is always a good way to get into a creative headspace. Try writing a story about your first crush. Rediscover that first kindling awkwardness your felt towards someone else, that first flutter. Or write a story about your first dog or cat, the first house you lived in, the first car you got, the first time you can remember seeing a movie, or even the first memory you have. Writing a short story or a short screenplay based on these experiences is a great way to dust the cobwebs off. Although these ideas may sound pat, come to them earnestly, see what else they jostle up. There’s stuff in there, and this is one way to access it.
7, 7, 7
Go to a bookshelf you have, pick the seventh book from the left, go to the seventh page, and then pick the seventh word. Then write about it. What does that word mean to you? Who would that word be if it was a character? How would you work that character into a story? What would it be about? How does this relate to your life? What does this say about the world we live in? These are all important questions to ask yourself. And then just start. Just begin writing. You’ll be surprised with the results.
Your Story On Acid
Say you’re having trouble with a piece of work. It’s just something you can’t quite crack. Well, what if the main character was on acid. How would that amplify his or her character traits? How would that shift their character? What positive traits would it exemplify? What negative ones would it amplify? How would it change the ending? These should all jog loose valuable creative juices. Consider using some of the information that you unearthed this way to pepper your story with interesting bits of action or dialogue, to get past gingerly writing and go for the jugular.
Write in Ten Minute Bursts
Mispending one’s time happens to everyone, especially writers who are trying to crack through the wall. Facebook and Twitter won’t do much for you when you know you should be writing. Time is moving on, always. Alas, that knowledge can be as inpiring as it is fear-inducing. Outline your screenplay or story and write in bursts. Go for ten minutes. Move the plot along right to the point where your main character discovers the body, or the real truth of the circumstances of their birth. Write that bittersweet love scene that starts with a fight and ends in lovemaking. Do it in ten minutes. Then, tackle the next plot twist or “complicated scene” in ten minutes. Check those pivotol scenes off your list and see how far you get. Writing exercise consiting of little more than ten minute sprints can get you through that first draft. And remember, time is still moving on. So use it well.
Take your favorite film. Think about it. Think about what you love about it so much. How could you make it different? What would make it better? What would make it something that would make you even more excited about it than you already are? Now write a synopsis of that new spin on your favorite movie. Write why it’s different. Why it has a high concept that’s appealing to you, or characters that you care enough about to go the distance with. Write why you you’re excited to see this version of that movie and place that somewhere prominent, on the wall by your desk, or at the front of your notebook. Read it again and again for a jolt of inspiration during the writing process.
Writing isn’t easy. It’s hard work. It takes time, skill, and understanding. It takes hours of contemplation, practical knowhow, and actual application i.e. the actual writing. Learning how to write well can take years but that’s the price you pay for creating something that has the power to really reach other human beings and stir their senses. If you really want to write, work on honing those skills and learning to craft story. Learning writing happens in the writing itself. As you build confidence through writing, you learn to trust in the process. Sure, you’ll still experience the brick wall from time to time but you’ll soon learn it’s nothing more than a hologram, a projected image of doubt. Learn how to pick your own lock, how to fire up your own engine. Learn which mind tricks work well for you and get to work crafting a story that compels the reader to want to learn more. Love the craft and, ultimately, it will love you back.