This post was originally featured at Dominique Goodall’s blog as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
I do not believe in Writer’s Block. Not really.
Maybe I should say, its not that I do not believe in it, just that I refuse to let it grab hold of my pen and prevent me from doing what I love. Sometimes, I admit it, I get bogged down in details and feel like I might be “blocked”. When that gross, constipated-brain feeling gets me down, I close my WIP (or whatever I am working on) and take a little break.
If a short break does not get the juices flowing again (ew… I’m really regretting that constipation comparison above right now), I turn to Free Writing. One of my favorite things to do is to sort through my Portraits folder, choose an interesting face, and just let the ink fly. Sometimes, however, even that will not loosen the bowels of my brain and I have to dig deeper.
That is why I have about a hundred thousand (this is a slight exaggeration) text files in my possession with anywhere from a single line to a few pages of work that never really went anywhere. I love the random and chaotic. I love to shake things up and just plop out strange ideas.
It never fails to get me unclogged and writing again.
This exercise is the Maximum Strength Ex-Lax of the mind.
But seriously, I definitely recommend trying it the next time you are burned out on editing or feeling as if you have Writer’s Block. Try this:
Completely free of the obligation to continue beyond the starting sentence, just start writing out a bunch of ‘first lines’. Do as many as it takes for your mental wall to crumble and you feel like returning to your project.
Usually, when I have done it in the past, I was not concerned with it being just one sentence and I freely inserted dialogue as well. The version of this exercise I found on (this website) is great. His directions are:
Free of the obligation to complete a poem or story, simply write out a bunch of first lines that are catchy and non-sensical. Aim for ten to twenty[Philip Dacey]. See examples from past students. A million butterflies rose up from South America.
Anyway – whether you adhere to the 1 sentence limit or just go wild with micro-scenes, dialogue, whatever, I guarantee you will have tremendous fun (and likely, a hearty brainbowel movement!) with this exercise. To prove it, I’ve scribbled a bunch of my own sample starts below. Who knows? Maybe one day one of these will feature in one of my novels. Chaos for the win!
* * * * * * * * *
- Hoakes turned to me and belched; the malodorous cloud was so thick, so nasty, so vile, it was all but tangible.
- “Hello, my name is Jimmy Mac-Johnson from Mississip and I’m calling to get my horoscope read.”
- The ice-sheathed grass gleamed sharp and hard and crystalline, like a thousand shattered Rolling Rock bottles in the sunlight.
- “I never was much for offal,” she said loftily, “Though my Mee-maw made me eat rabbit eyes so that I could see better in the dark.”
- Bacon-flavored edible panties? I couldn’t decide to be flattered that he bought me something sexy, disgusted that he thought bacon-anything was sexy, or worried by the notion that somehow he associated me and my ladybits with fried pig parts.
- Sue me. Sue McDonald’s! Sue the bitch in Apartment 3A and her yappy little dog! Sue the President! Sue the world! Sue God!
- He was named by his mother after a week-long acid binge.
- Stealthily, Bandit stretched his neck as far as he could, took the cookie delicately in his teeth and then stole away into the night with his prize.
- Why do they call them foothills, Daddy?
- In Santiago, in the smallest basement cell of the largest, poorest orphanage in the city, a tiny spark changed the world.
- Autumn came late in Winter.
- Sundered shield, severed sword; ask ye not why they are broken, but why they must exist at all.
- She licked the spoon slowly, meeting his gaze with a startling directness. The seductive look was somehow all the sexier when she lifted a pink and orange, kitten-bedecked coffee mug to her lips.
- Sputtering to a stop, its inertia utterly gone, Earth hung impotently in space – its inhabitants long dead – until it was torn apart by the invisible pressures of the universe.
- I always liked to write death scenes for people who wronged me, annoyed me, or pissed me off.
- Naked, save for brightly lacquered nails and a tiny golden cross around her neck, she threw her thong at me; the other was held at the ready.
That was weird. But fun. Right? Right…?!
Now go forth, yon brilliant minds! Go forth into the unknown and write your own random starting lines. And who knows – maybe one of them will end up being tweaked and twisted into your next brilliant story!
Love & Rainbows,
P.S. Leave a random starting line in the comments, I totally want to read them!