Saturday, August 21, 2010

Writer's Block: Blitzing the Blight

The voices in your head won't leave you alone. Dialogue pulses through your brain at the most inopportune moments; like when your boss is analyzing last quarter's sales figures. Conflict keeps you up at night. And that sweet elderly woman in front of you in the checkout line sparks a plot twist that will keep your reader guessing until the last chapter.

The kids are in bed, your spouse in engrossed in a television program, and you finally grab some time to write.You sit down, anxious to get all your ideas down on the page, yet nothing comes. Umm... Or you suddenly feel like English is your second language. Mary raced through to the ... uhhh...what's the word? Or maybe you can string together a sentence, but suddenly you have the vocabulary of a four year old. The girl ran. The girl fell. She was hurt. Everything you've learned about writing flies out the window--right along with your confidence. You have a raging case of Writer's Blight.

Today is part three of three discussing the variations of the inability to put words to paper. In June, we looked at the problem of too much information but too little planning when we discussed Writer's Bloat. You can read the post here.  In July, we looked at the traditional Writer's Block--the inability to start or continue in a piece of writing. If you'd like to read that, click here. Today, we finish with what I'm calling Writer's Blight. defines blight as "any cause of impairment, destruction, ruin, or frustration". It also says blight is "a curse" and is "something the impairs growth, whithers hopes and ambitions, or impedes progress". Now that sounds familiar! For our purposes, Writer's Blight is any time you know what to write, even know what you want to say, but you can't seem to get the words from your brain down in a form that anyone would ever want to read. When Writer's Blight strikes, you don't need to curl up into the fetal position and hide under your desk. Try one or more of these proven tactics.:

1. Pray/Meditate. 1 Corinthians 14:33, says that "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." Ask God to give you His peace and to bring clarity and order into the disordered thinking of your mind. Ask Him to focus your thoughts and to calm your heart. Ask Him to use you to get across the message He wants to make known. Take a moment, breathe deeply, and let God minister to your soul, heart, and mind. This might be better described as "Take a chill pill."

2. Work it out. Unlike Writer's Bloat or Writer's Block, your problem is not that you don't know what to writer, but rather that you are so geared up that you can't focus in and work. You might benefit from some light exercise--a quick walk around the house or the block, a few minutes of stretching, jumping rope, or beating your chest, if you're in to that kind of thing. This is the equivalent of the boxer warming up in his corner before the fight--focus the energy you have inside toward the outside. (Do you hear the Rocky theme song?)

3. Write on! This would be the time to engage in a "stream of consciousness" exercise from your own viewpoint or of that of one of your characters, to write a Facebook status update or a Tweet, or to jot some notes that you know you may never use. Just the act of writing can get us back in the groove, get the words flowing, and the ideas coming. I've been known to type things such as I am a moron. I have the writing ability of a Neanderthal. I can't seem to capture the words bouncing around in my head and slam them onto the paper. They fly about like deranged fireflies. It is not important what you write, just that you begin to make coherent sentences flow together in a pattern.

4. Exercise your brain. Each month I've shared with you some brain exercises that originate with Brain Gym, International. The exercises are intentional body movements to aid in creativity, self-expression, and optimal learning. Learn more at the website. Here are just a few to try:

A. Lazy 8s. This movement engages the muscles needed to write with pen or pencil. Even if you are working on a computer, the act of connecting with an instrument will engage your brain and prepare you for writing. This activity helps with creativity, organizing your thoughts, and channeling them to the page. Get a large piece of paper or work on a big whiteboard. Start in the middle of the paper and make a figure 8 which has fallen on its side. From the middle, always go first up and to the left, down, then up and to the right, finishing the number without lifting your pencil. Draw at least three Lazy 8s without stopping or lifting your pencil.

B. Double Doodle. This exercise helps your mind to prepare for activities (like writing) that require you to cross the midline of your body. It is beneficial when you are looking to spark creativity. Again, taking a large piece of paper or using a big whiteboard, grab two different colored markers. Pick a simple shape, and using both hands simultaneously, draw mirror images. Once you've mastered that, try drawing mirrored pictures or alphabet letters.

5. Hit the bottle. The water bottle can be your best friend. This is also a Brain Gym exercise, but also recommended by countless academic and medical professionals. Room temperature water allows your brain and central nervous system to perform the functions necessary for thought process, creativity, and relieving stress. Water your brain, grow your writing.

Don't allow Writer's Blight to whither your hopes or ambitions to write. Armed with these strategies you are well prepared to blitz that blight and get on with your story.

Nikki Studebaker Barcus


  1. Really interesting and memorable twists on techniques I already knew. Love your wording. It's so true about the water. Many people drink caffeine which dehydrates intstead of water which makes the environment necessary. I especially like the imagery of "deranged fireflies".

  2. Oh, dear! I always drink coffee, coffee, coffee (with cream to delay osteoporosis). You mean lots of water will really do more than just send me to the bathroom every other hour (which, I guess, is exercise, right?)?

  3. This is excellent. I believe so much in drinking water. It really does make a difference.

    Thanks so much for these tips. Blight is what I suffer from the most. Mom of kids with autism and being a pastor's wife, sometimes my brain feels like it was taken for a ride in the spin cycle by the time I get to sit and write.

    Great post!