Thursday, June 16, 2011

How to Break Writers Block by Jacqueline Seewald, Guest Blogger

Multi-award winning author Jacqueline Seewald has taught creative, expository and technical writing at the university level as well as high school English. She also worked as an academic librarian and an educational media specialist. Eleven of her books of fiction have been published. Her short stories as well as poems, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in hundreds of diverse publications and numerous anthologies.

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How to Break Writer's Block by Jacqueline Seewald, Guest Blogger


Readers often don’t realize that even published authors occasionally suffer from writer’s block. So we must employ techniques to help us remove this impediment.

Here is an exercise I used when I taught Creative Writing classes at both the university and high school level. You might enjoy trying it just for fun whether you consider yourself a reader, a writer or both.

"Stream of consciousness" is a style of writing which attempts to recreate in words what characters may be thinking either in repose or at moments of high conflict. There is no action, and the point of view is entirely within the mind of the central personality. As a technique in fiction writing, it can be very effective. Many modern writers such as James Joyce have attempted to use "interior monologue." Most professional writers often write freely. When producing writing by steady, daily effort, they may break a log jam in the river of their associations and find their thoughts and words flowing rapidly downstream. Writing anything well is a combination of conscious and unconscious production.

For approximately thirty minutes, write as fast as you can, never stopping to ponder a thought. Put down whatever comes into your mind. Write freely without restriction or concern for mechanics. Begin by looking out the window and describing what you see or focusing your attention on something in the room. Conclude by returning your attention to that same focal point.

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Jacqueline's paranormal romantic mystery novels, The Inferno Collection and The Drowning Pool, have been widely acclaimed. The third romantic mystery in the Kim Reynolds series, The Truth Sleuth, is a new release and has received very good reviews. It can be requested at libraries worldwide.

Her recent historical romance set in the Regency period, Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards, is available in both hardcover and large print editions. A young adult novel, Stacy's Song, was also published to excellent reviews.

33 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Jacqueline.

Jacqueline - Thanks for the advice about using stream of consciousness writing. I hadn't thought of it before as a way to "light the creative fire," but it makes sense.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Very good advice Jacqueline,
thanks Patricia for hosting.

Have a nice day.
Yvonne.

Dean K Miller said...

Having done this type of writing before, I will attest to its effectiveness in getting words on the page. Letting go of the "self-critique" and opening up to the stream of words that are waiting for us to find them can result in some surprising compilations.

Sometimes you might get just a line or two of usable text, and at other times, a whole page or chapter can result. Either way this exercise can open the creativity door.

Then again, maybe we are just pushing on the door when the sign says pull....

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Margot, Yvonne, and Dean,

Thank you all for posting comments. I think the key to the effectiveness of stream of consciousness technique is allowing your spontaneous creativity to take over. And as Dean observes, much of the time we're so into "self-critiquing" that we damn the needed flow of language that is necessary for us to write.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

(Yes, "damn" instead of "dam" was deliberate!)

Alice Duncan said...

I'll have to try this technique, Jacquie. I've had writer's block for about three months now!

GigglesandGuns said...

Pat, thanks for introducing us to Jacqueline.

This sounds like it's very workable for my ADHD mind.

Anonymous said...

Good morning, everyone, and thanks for stopping by. Sorry to be so hit and miss today because of this internet provider transitions, but I know Jacqueline will take care of everyone just fine.

Jacquie, thanks so much for being my guest today. By the way, have I told you how much I like the cover art for The Truth Sleuth? Those woods are so beautiful at first glance, and then you see what's in the background. Very effective.

And just in case Blogger makes me comment as anonymous....Pat

Pauline Alldred said...

Thanks for the advice, Jacqueline. I'd guess the method could help when a character just doesn't seem to be coming into focus.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Alice,

Thanks for stopping by. You're the most prolific writer I know. I doubt you need to use this technique.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Pauline,

I do think this technique would work in building a character's identity. Good idea!

Ellis Vidler said...

An interesting idea. I'll try it. Goodness knows I need something!
Ellis Vidler (since Blogger doesn't always recognize me either)

Cindy Sample said...

Great post, Jacqueline. Too many writers are afraid to use this technique. I tell everyone that you can always edit it later and I love editing.

I also use the pace and plot approach. Pacing seems to exercise my brain and my body. And my cat thinks it's hilarious.

Pauline B Jones said...

Good advice. I've used that in the past to get out of a funk. Congrats on the release, too!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Ellis,

Let us know if it works for you!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Cindy,

I think the key is getting the writing down in an uncritical manner. Then at a later time, go back and put on the editor's hat.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Pauline,

Like Alice, you probably don't need to use this technique. You're another wonderfully prolific author. Then again, it never hurts to try different techniques to encourage creativity.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My problem is I can't write or type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. Of course, I'm really slow at both, so that's probably the real problem...

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Slow and steady is great, Alex. Remember, it was the tortoise that won the race.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Pat,

I meant to thank you for the compliment on the cover art for THE TRUTH SLEUTH. I suggested the idea but had nothing to do with the actual execution. By the way, I love the cover art for your mystery novels. Very artistic.

Betty Gordon said...

A great post, Jacqueline. This technique also works when you feel sluggish with your writing. You may not have a block, but just can't gain interest in a story line. It's amazing what comes up when you let go and go !!!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks, Betty. As always, you really add helpful ideas.

Susan Oleksiw said...

That's an excellent technique, and it's good for all of us to be reminded that all writers can have writer's block at some point in a career.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Susan,

I'm no different. When I become discouraged, it puts a damper on the creative process. Being nonjudgmental and just writing for the fun of it can really help and encourage our work. It takes the pressure off.

Kristy Taylor - Author said...

Wow, some great advice there Jacqueline, thanks for sharing.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Kristy,

Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words.

Maggie Toussaint said...

I love reading about techniques like this. Nobody likes to admit they get stuck, but "stuck" happens. And what could be better than to do a mental download like this to get all the random thoughts out of your head and out of the way.

Great advice!

jennymilch said...

Great technique--even not for being blocked, but to enter what I call the quiet mind, or flow--I will save this for writing workshops...Thanks, Jacquie.

Allan W. Azouz said...

Steam of consciousness is great. One must overcome his innate fear that what he writes is not perfect. That is why the rewriting process exists.

My own method is not exactly encouraged, but it worked for me. When I was working on Shadows of Souls, I has written myself into the proverbial corner. I went out for a few -- well, more than a few -- drinks after work. With my subconscious thus released from its prison, I rode the subway home and wrote incessantly. The next day, I was startled to find what I had done, although some of it was illegible for some strange reason.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Jacqueline, the next time you join us here with a guest post, I wish you'd write about the really hard part for me...getting my rear end to sit down in the writing chair in the first place. :)

Thanks again for a most helpful post and for being here to respond to comments.

Everyone, I'll be completely without internet service at home until mid-week next week, so the writers' studio and the local coffee shops will see a lot of me as I try to stay caught up.

jamesdorrwriter said...

Thank you Jacqueline, an interesting idea. I'll have to try it. (I sometimes do a similar thing with poetry, but with pencil on paper as a sort of doodling, but I suspect this may work better especially for prose.)

djskrimiblog said...

It is always interesting to read other writers´ advice about what to do when you get stuck so thank you for sharing.

Bob Sanchez said...

Hi Jacqueline, during that creative burst you need to send your inner editor somewhere else--you know, the person who whispers that your idea is foolish or the grammar isn't right. There's a time for creativity and a time for editing. Thanks for the post.