Creating a writing routine and sticking with it can be a continual challenge. We all know that writing consistently is an important part of building our creative muscles and growing in our craft. Yet, so often when we sit down at the computer and face the blank screen, a million distractions begin to race across our minds. Chores start calling from the kitchen. Our email inbox insists that it needs our attention–despite holding nothing but spam and notifications from websites we keep meaning to unsubscribe from. (See Marianne Herring’s recent post for help with clearing that distraction.)
In the midst of those pesky to-do lists and social media sites perching on our shoulders, sits another sworn enemy of productivity: writer’s block. The lack of motivation, the fleeing of all our ideas and vocabulary, and the revolt of our characters makes it all too easy to give in to the temptation to use our work time for anything but wordsmithing. When we’re out of ideas, it can be hard to discipline ourselves to conquer the blank page.
So how can we overcome writer’s block and train ourselves to stick with our writing habits? One way is to use writing activities to kickstart our work sessions. Just ten minutes of free-writing, journaling, or prompt-based exercises can be enough to start the flow of ideas and get us excited for our projects.
If you’re having trouble finding a place to start, here are 5 Writing Activities to keep writer’s block at bay.
1. Start a Prompt Jar
If you’re like me, you probably come across writing prompts and random fun facts all the time on social media and in life in general. Anytime your see something that makes you think, “that would make a good story”, write the idea down and stick it in a jar. Then, keep the jar in your writing space. Whenever you need a prompt to help you get started working for the day, choose an idea from the jar and write about it for five or ten minutes. Set a timer and just go for it!
2. Write a conversation between your characters using written communication
For this prompt, pick two characters from your current work-in-progress and create a written correspondence between them. The conversation could be over text, through letters, or in a series of notes and replies left stuck to the fridge. Anything that would be different from your typical dialogue.
3. Use a Story Chart
Write a scene using the chart below to choose who, what, and where you’ll write about, based on the day’s date and the color of your shirt. This can be a fun way to mix-and-match elements while still having a bit of structure. Or create your own chart based on the characters, places, and topics you usually like to focus on as a guide for days when you need ideas.
4. Answer a ‘What if” question
Kick off your writing session by choosing a ‘what if’ question to write about for 10 minutes. The question can be directly related to your story, such as ‘what if your character’s last challenge ended differently?’ Or, the question can be completely random. For example, what if your main character went back in time? What if your villain got sick on the day of his evil plan and hired a substitute? What if all the animals in your story could talk? This exercise can help boost your creativity by letting you play around with different sides of your story.
5. Participate in a Switch-off Story
Write a collaborative scene with a writing friend or critique group. Pick a simple prompt and set a 3-5 minute timer. Have everyone write until the timer goes off, then switch papers. Continue the other person’s story for the next 3-5 minutes, then switch again. Repeat this 2-3 times before reading the scenes aloud.
Want to try this virtually? Set a word count limit instead of a time limit. Every 100 words, send the story to your critique partner or writing friend and let them continue the story. This can be a fun exercise that leads to lots of laughs and memories. While it might not help you progress in your project, it will grow your community with other writers, which is often a wonderful encouragement.