When Writing Won’t Come – A Pig of a Post

So you want to start writing, but you don’t know where to begin? Or maybe you have started, and now you’re having a pig of time? You feel stuck, blocked and can’t come up with another word.

Staring at the blank page or screen won’t do it, neither will reading about writing. (Although of course you should read what I write about writing!) Oddly enough, to write, what you have to do is write.

Whatever comes into your head, just write it. Pick any topic, even if it’s what you had for dinner last night. Write. If what comes into your head is :“I can’t do it,” then start there. Write that down.

If you think I am an idiot for suggesting such a thing, write that. Write about how much you despise me, how stupid I am.

“I can’t write that,” you might be thinking. But I’ll tell you a secret: nobody need ever know. Unless you want to, you don’t have to show what you write to anyone, and you can tear it up or hit the delete key as soon as you are done.

Which reminds me – generally, I find it easier to start off scribbling on paper, so you might try that. Not everyone feels that way, so it’s a good idea to try pen and keyboard and see what works for you.

Why does writing freely help get over a block?

We tend to think that we need to get everything right first time, that there should be no scribbles or mistakes. We are scared that what we’ve written won’t be good enough. I’ve felt that way, I’ve started stories and given up after a few sentences, and I’ve stared at blank screens. So has almost every other writer on this planet.

One of my favourite writers on writing is Anne Lamott. In Bird by Bird she says: “Almost all good writing beings with terrible first drafts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper.”

I find it helps to understand things when I have examples, so here’s an example of how to use this free writing technique:

A story about pigs.

Once upon a time there were two little pigs – oh this is stupid who wants to read about two little pigs? Well maybe someone might, and anyway I can write what I want.  So let’s keep going.

So there were two little pigs and then their mum had another baby so there were three. The three little pigs grew and grew.

One day their Mum got a new husband because her old one had died. (We won’t say how, but it has something to do with frying pans and sizzling – and a word we won’t say in the presence of the three little pigs and their mum.)

However, truth be told, their mum was kinda mean because now she’d got this new husband she told the three little pigs they were big enough to leave home. Which seems a bit odd to me, given that they are Little pigs. But who am I to judge? I’m just writing their story.

Being little and weak they didn’t put up much of a fight, and just said, “Okay mum if you say so. We’ll just go, do as we’re told, be victims.”

“Be careful,” she said, in a somewhat belated show of motherly concern, as they trotted off down the lane and round the corner. “Don’t speak to any wolves. And whatever you do, don’t let them into your house.”

“What house?” The littlest little pig asked the others. “We don’t have any house. We’re homeless.”

I’m enjoying myself so much here! However, the point is not to impress you with my retelling of a classic nursery tale, but to show you how to get started.

It might seem silly to write down the thoughts that are floating around in your head, but in your head they interfere, convince you that you or your writing isn’t good enough – and so you stop.

Once self-judgements are on paper, they lose their power and become simply part of a process. So, write, write, write. Don’t worry about the quality. That comes later. Don’t worry about originality or poetic prose. That comes later. Don’t even worry too much about punctuation, spelling or grammar. That’s what spell-checkers are for! Seriously, don’t worry about them: as long as you can understand what you’ve written that’s all you need for a first draft. Spelling and grammar are important, but trying to get them correct in the first draft slows you down. This gives the nagging doubts in your head more time to organize themselves into a coherent argument for stopping! So write first, correct second (whatever your school teacher said!)

Once you have written a first draft,  it’s time to go back, prune that first draft, and rewrite and rearrange. Then you can learn how to use adjectives effectively and why you need to care for your characters. You could even give your story a new title, maybe something really exciting, like – hmm – how about:

The Three Little Pigs?

3-little-pigs

Comments

  1. Pingback: I’m not writing about not-writing, but I #AmWriting | Considerings

  2. Great advice, Yvonne and I love your story about how the three little pigs came to be homeless! So creative and cute! (and a little sad)
    Your advice is spot-on about writing. When we feel like we can’t, the only thing to do is to write, write, write, even if it seems silly and stupid!

    1. Author

      Thanks Kristi! I actually wrote this post some time ago on my old blog, but nobody read it so I deleted it when I moved the blog and then tidied it up a bit and reposted it. And I did originally plan to write a sequel to the little pigs story. Maybe I should, just to keep the whole ethos of this post going…

  3. Oh, boy do I struggle at times. Some of these times, I am so full of too much messy emotion that it feels like static in my head and others the urge is there but material isn’t at the ready. I am going to try this method and see where it goes. I had been doing fiction prompts for a while and that helped a little.

    1. Author

      Samantha I’ve struggled too, many times. That’s why I developed this way of working. I started doing it when I was doing my MA and my second daughter was still a baby. It’s good for fiction in particular I find. Hope it works for you and thanks for your comment and for sharing my post!

  4. First of all, I absolutely enjoyed the story!! I do wish you would keep going and post it all on your blog along with your thought bubbles!!!
    Came here via Lizzi to see what she was talking about when she said that you had a pig of a post!!

    1. Author

      Well, Roshni, you’re in luck because after meditating and falling asleep again this morning I woke up with pigs running through my brain and a large section of the next episode is now forming. That’s the power of meditation !
      Thanks for coming by! I must get to your next grandma post today!

  5. This is so true and I’ve used your technique when I’ve been wordless and feeling frustrated because of it. It doesn’t matter what you write just as long as you write. Posting this to my Pinterest board called Help for Writers.

    1. Author

      Susan, thanks for much for letting me know that! It’s great to hear that you have used this technique and found it helpful. And thanks for pinning it too!

  6. great pointers. I am terrible at trying to write posts on a blog. I know I need to take my time and write something and then edit it and make it better, but I tend to just sit down and write something out and publish it without taking my time.

  7. Author

    Hi Mike, I think it depends on your purpose in writing. If someone just wants to share their writing with a few friends, then their approach might be different to someone who wants to use blogging as a career. Having said that, if you feel you need to take more time, then maybe it’s good to honour that instinct. You could use this process to look at thoughts and feelings that mean you don’t do what you think you should. (And be kind to yourself, whatever you do. That’s always helpful!)

  8. Pingback: How to Edit Your Fiction: Reworking a First Draft | Yvonne Spence

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