“You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult
Creative writing is not the same as making a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup. Once you put an ingredient in the pot, you can’t remove that item. The flavor changes with each addition of a vegetable, meat, or spice. Soup-making mistakes aren’t easily corrected.
Writing is different. You can put on paper descriptive words that don’t quite capture your thoughts. Continue writing. You can change words that you have written, but you can’t change what you don’t write.
Are you staring at a blank sheet of paper or blank screen? That’s writer’s block. Try quick writing which is timed, continuous writing without self-editing. Pick a subject; don’t agonize about it. Open a dictionary, novel, or newspaper. Pick any word. That becomes your topic for freewriting. This seems silly at first. However, your mind isn’t hampered by spelling errors, punctuation concerns, or difficult plot points. Write for fifteen minutes without stopping to change anything.
My first experience with quick writing came when a creative writing instructor told the class to write the word “chair” at the top of a sheet of paper. We were given ten minutes to write about a chair. At first I struggled. When I began to imagine who might sit in that chair, my writing took off.
Don’t want to try quick writing? Write about something you’ve seen or heard today. After reading a newspaper article, give your opinion of the information or on the writer’s interpretation of the event. Read a book and change one significant detail to give your spin to the tale.
Another way to stop the dreaded writer’s block is to take an idea from a book you’ve read or movie you’ve seen recently. Pick a scenario you would have created differently. Write this scene your way without stopping to correct spelling, change names, or edit in any way.
Try this: Close your eyes and picture a moonlit beach in the Caribbean. If you’re into murder mysteries, picture a couple walking down the beach when suddenly the woman pulls out a gun and shoots the man. If you’re into romance, picture that same couple suddenly dropping to the sand to make out. If you’re into science fiction, picture the couple discovering unidentifiable footprints in the sand. If you’re into memoirs, try to remember the last time you walked a sandy beach.
Do you self-edit as you write? Stop it! Editing while you’re working on your manuscript stops the creative flow. If you think of an alternate word, type it in red, underline it, or put it in the margin without deleting what you’ve already written. Check your thesaurus later to select the best word. You can always edit later by adding thoughts, deleting dialogue, or changing plots. YOU CAN’T CHANGE WHAT YOU DON’T WRITE