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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Start (01/16/06)

TITLE: Alternatives to a Sore Forehead
By Jeffrey Snell


Why is it so hard to start writing sometimes? You know what I mean; some days your fingers seem to fly with hardly an effort, as if they can't keep up with the words. Other times, you stare at the screen for hours and nothing appears. It's like trying to suck water out of the sand (sometimes it leaves that taste in your mouth, too).

Being a fairly fledgling writer, my first thought when this occurs is usually "Uh oh--have all my ideas run out? Am I done? Maybe I'm not supposed to write after all." I go through a period of frustration and anxiety and often end up dropping the attempt altogether, at least for a time. Unfortunately, when working to a deadline, that doesn't help much. Yet what of those flurried writing days when a 1000-word essay just materializes between bites during lunch? What's the difference? Well, I have a theory. After a bit of self-examination (which I highly recommend, particularly if your screensaver is up more often than your draft), I've discovered some interesting facts about myself.

First, my creative juices only flow when I am interested in what I'm writing. There are few things more mind-numbing than trying to force words out of obligation rather than desire. And chances are, even if I manage to get the stuff written, it's likely to be lousy or dull at best. Readers can always tell when a writer is disinterested in their own work. But if you don't have a lot of choice in topic, where do you go from there? Here came my first awareness I was sabotaging my own writing--I unconsciously accepted that, if I wasn't already interested in a topic, I never could be! BZZZ (hear the buzzer?) Wrong answer! It took some initial effort on my part, but I soon found that learning a few ins and outs about the subject caused me to become interested and ignited that desire to pour my thoughts out. Another pleasant surprise--a relationship between the previously boring topic and something dear to my heart often appears. This fans the creative embers even more and suddenly the page count is rolling.

A second "trick" I've been able to apply with fairly regular success in these situations, especially with fiction writing, is to pick a setting or plot that is completely off-the-wall (I'm talking seriously out there--it doesn't even have to make sense) and ruminate on it for awhile. Trying this approach was a crazy idea born mostly of desperation, but to my astonishment, some wonderful ideas began to flow, ideas that were not merely new but quite unlike me. And that was a good thing! Usually the initial wild concept is a means to an end, but not always. New formats, more realistic, multi-dimensional characters and layered plots sprout from nowhere. Oddly enough, the article you are presently reading came about in similar fashion. This week's topic had me stymied until I reached for something I'd never done before! It may feel foreign at first, but why not try? Practicing this "technique" can also help keep your compositions from ending up as simply rehashed works of previous efforts. It's amazing how many fresh combinations of setting, point-of-view, plot, character and pacing are packed into every one of our God-given minds! In fact, that's part of being made in His image--we have been granted an echo of His creative imagination.

So next week or the week after, when you are pounding the desk with your forehead for an idea, give these two methods a shot instead. They're less painful, and writing about a challenging topic will definitely be more fun!


Author's note: this article is tailored to writers who compose with a personal computer, but it should still be applicable for those gripping a pen!

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Member Comments
Member Date
Chelsea Pietsch01/23/06
Hi. Thanks for your sharing your reflections. You wrote with a great conversational tone and a good sense of humour. My favourite line was 'particularly if your screensaver is up more often than your draft'.
Jan Ackerson 01/24/06
Cute title, and a universal dilemma for writers! You've done a good job at expressing it.
Marilyn Schnepp 01/25/06
If you think you had problems, you should see my Screensaver! It is so worn out, bedraggled and exasperated from it's constant usage this week...it's retired! All kidding aside, you have some good ideas - however I'd suggest making it more "reader friendly" by cutting down to shorter paragraphs. Thanks for the smile! Great write!
Shari Armstrong 01/27/06
A nice lesson with humor (loved the part about the screen saver :)
Trudy Orzio01/29/06
I enjoyed the input. It was about starting somehow. We all have to start someplace.
I think with this technique you won't be stuck in cliches and rehashed Christianese.