How to Prime the Pump
Episode #5 of the course How to overcome writer’s block by Jurgen Wolff
Part of Newton’s law of inertia is that “an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force.” That can be true for writers too—if you’ve been blocked for a while, you tend to remain blocked until you take action. In this lesson, we’ll see how writing that doesn’t relate to your project can get you moving in the right direction.
Restart Your Writing with No Pressure
Getting back to work on the project with which you’ve been blocked can carry a great deal of pressure. Instead, get started again with some disposable writing. There are several useful formats for doing this.
• Write morning pages
Creativity expert Julia Cameron recommends that you begin each day by writing three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing. These are not for anybody else to see, and even you don’t have to look at them again.
There is no way to do it wrong. If you draw a blank, just start with, “Right now, I’m feeling . . . ” or write about what happened to you yesterday. The content is not important, the process is.
• Use writing prompts
If you google “writing prompts,” you’ll discover many sites that give you writing prompts. These are the starts of sentences, and the idea is to complete the sentence and then keep writing for another five or 10 minutes. Here are a few to get you started:
• “When Maria woke up on Monday morning, her first thought was . . .”
• “Alvin couldn’t believe that a stranger had just asked him to . . .”
• “The first thing I noticed about my husband the first time I saw him was . . .”
Again, don’t worry about making this writing good, and don’t go back and correct or rewrite; the point is just to get your writing muscles moving again.
• Copy an author you admire
If even the exercises above are too much for you, take a book by one of your favorite authors, open it to a random page, and spend 10 minutes copying, by hand, exactly what is on that page.
This is actually how a number of well-known writers learned their craft. Jack London copied the writing of Rudyard Kipling. Robert Louis Stevenson had a similar practice and kept on with it even after he was successful. So, in addition to getting used to writing again, you may be learning at the same time.
When you’ve used the methods in this lesson, you’ll benefit from the other part of Newton’s law of inertia, that “an object in motion continues with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted on by an unbalanced force.” In this case, it’ll be your writing that continues, but now on the project that was formerly blocked.
Tomorrow, you’ll discover how to overcome your fear of the first page and keep up your writing momentum.
All the best,
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
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