April 19th, 2009


Tricks for Getting Around Your Own Mental Blocks

I had a few ideas going into the workshop about what to do to get past inner obstacles to make a spark. They are below. At the other blog is what the brainstorming and wisdom of crowds came up with.

So can't write, what to do?
Nothing to Say, Visualize...
….Immerse and float. Write "into inspiration" instead of "out of inspiration". Do visualizations: Picture a word and a scene where you felt the word. For example, safety, disinterested, eager. Use all senses, get into yourself...

Close your eyes mentally and discover what you smell, hear, taste?
What is the size of the space? Humidity? Temperature?
How do your muscles feel? How does your skin feel?
Is there cold or tension isolated in one part of you?
Finally look, what is straight ahead, to the sides, peripheries, behind you?
Scrap any comparisons. Write direct. Be present there. No future nor past.
~ writer's block from my own site in 2002 imagine the setting in detail

Set aside the correct and significant
....Try direct seeing of the smallest possible thing in the smallest possible detail. Think of the undergrad Robert Pirsig described who has inflexible filtering that let in too much. She was a contracted listener. She was committed to a large important canvas. She chose a broad topic and then got stumped. "She was blocked because she was trying to repeat, in her writing, things she had already heard." Don't avoid what has been said. Don't seek to reference what has. Don't plan where it is going or pace it. Just describe.

"She wasn't bluffing him, she really couldn't think of anything to say, and was upset by her inability to do as she was told.” [...]“’Narrow it down to the front of one building on the main street of Bozeman. The Opera House. Start with the upper left-hand brick.’ Her eyes, behind the thick-lensed glasses, opened wide.” - p. 170-171, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Disconnect culpability and identity
...it's not you. Write in a character as different from what "you" would write or say as possible. Your evil twin. Your saintly twin. You if you were stupid. If Stuffy. If rude. If impossibly polite. If you were born as your irritating neighbour. Appropriate any voice and run it as long as you can. And/or swap about consistency when you tire of one, even if within phrase. Channel flip until something clicks. What would your pseudonym say?

No Time
- Speed write, push as much thru as possible for 5 minutes then cull
- Write short: twitter-length
- 5 word bio of this moment
- do a Fibonacci (1, 2, 2, 3, 5, 8 syllable lines)
- Decompress, make time to make very few words but the right ones

Can't Make Nothing Out of Nothing
…Use 5 prompt words to spark ideas and a time limit of 10 or 20 minutes to produce something. Sometimes it will have a few lines of use or keeper phrase.
…Add constraints, limit options. Start to list words with or without certain letter(s) to force assonance (same vowel sound) or consonance. (see online tools list). See what words end up near each other and how the word play into ideas.

Flip your usual habit
Do you have a plotter or pantster style?
...normally free write then edit? Make a mind map or pile on the constraints use a strict form and fill in the slots by meter and rhyme pattern or word lengths.
...normally do a brainstorm and outline before writing, do automatic writing and don't let pen leave page. No pauses allowed. Sense optional. Sentences fragments. Phrases. Can't think of a word leave a blank line or sketch something but keep moving.

Read what you don't like
...Until you can't help but throw the book, retort or get where the person is coming from. (Preferably all 3.) Expose yourself to what is against your bias or outside your reach. If you only reinforce what you know, you aren't challenges. Irritate yourself into growing.

Other Things to Do with other people's books
….tear all the words of the right margin. Rearrange those into a line or few.
…plunder the one you love. Take a poem you like and use some of the words in it in the order it appeared in that poem. Make your new setting for them.
….tell another version of what that poem said, keep its subject but change the point of view
…retell in formal language, slang language or using another form of poetry (from free verse reduced to limerick, or from pantoum to sonnet, for example)
…substitute your words slotted into their grammar and rhyme. Or use their meter but your ideas and sounds into the slots.
…copy the first 4 lines or your favorite 2 and then take it your own direction
…use a system for getting a random choice of starter batch lines. Throw dice twice to get a page number and the words to use as material by counting in.
…OR spell your first name as numbers. That's the page # to pillage. So Pearl = 7 + 5 + 1 + 9 = 22. Spell your last name as #. (That's the line # and # of words to take as your starter batch.)
(A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5, F=6, G=7, H=8, I=9, J=1, K=2, L=3, M=4, N=5,
O=6, P=7, Q=8, R=9, S=1, T=2, U=3, V=4, W=5, X=6, Y=7, Z=8)
If your name is a bigger # than the # of lines or pages, sum your name as in numerology. For example Pirie = 7 + 9 + 9 + 5 = 45 → 4 + 5 = 9 So I would start on page 22, line 9 and take 9 words there. (You could just point at a random part of the book but working for a number makes it seem predestined or that you've made an investment that you want to pay off through poetry.)