You attempted all the tried and true tricks to removing writer’s block, but did you soak your feet in ice water? Did you soundproof your walls and ceiling with cork? Hemingway is rumored to have written The Old Man and The Sea while standing up at his typewriter! Here are some truly bizarre writing block tips according to an article at MentalFloss.com:
1. Voltaire skipped lunch. Instead of a mid-day meal, the French titan sustained himself with chocolate and up to 40 cups of coffee per day.
2. The dark, gruesome work of Edgar Allan Poe was written under the supervision of a cat. The tabby Catterina sat on the writer’s lap or perched on his shoulder.
3. Sir Walter Scott preferred to write in motion, often while riding his horse.
4. Word counts work for some writers. Anthony Trollope set a goal of 250 words every 15 minutes.
5. Victor Hugo went on self-imposed house arrest to finish The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He even locked away all his clothes, so he wouldn’t be tempted to get dressed and go out. But Hugo wasn’t naked—he wore the same gray writing shawl for months.
6. Like many of us, Charles Dickens sometimes worked while traveling. But he couldn’t do it without his five bronze animal statues, paper knife, green vase, desk calendar, blue ink, and quills. Good thing he didn’t have to work at a coffee shop!
7. Dickens also insisted on writing in a specific blue ink. He wasn’t attached to the color — it just dried faster, so he didn’t have to waste time blotting.
8. Lewis Carroll literally wrote purple prose. He penned his manuscripts in the same violet ink required for grading his math students at Christ Church College in Oxford. This way, he could easily switch between tasks.
9. The three musketeers on Alexandre Dumas’s desk were piles of color-coded paper: pink for articles, blue for fiction, and yellow for poetry. [Okay, this one isn’t too bizarre – actually a quite reasonable idea!]
10. When Herman Melville needed a break to revitalize his creative juices, he worked the fields of his 160-acre farm.
11. John Milton spent the last 20 years of his life blind, but not being able to see didn’t slow him down. He’d start writing poetry in his head around 5 a.m., and an aide would arrive at 7 a.m. to take dictation. Milton called the process “getting milked.”
12. With his publisher’s deadline for The Gambler looming, Fyodor Dostoyevsky hired a stenographer named Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina in 1866. The two finished the novella within a month and married a year later. Dostoyevsky dictated his work to her for the rest of his life.
13. Proust turned his bedroom workspace into a cocoon, covering his windows with shutters and dark curtains and lining the walls and ceiling with soundproofing cork. Blotting out the sun and the noise was a necessity since he slept all day and wrote all night.
14. Nothing stimulated poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller’s creatives juices like the smell of rotting apples. He kept a drawer full of them in his desk. That wasn’t his only writing quirk—Schiller also enjoyed soaking his feet in ice water to stay alert.
15. Scottish biographer James Boswell was a tremendous writer, but he wasn’t great at waking up in the morning. To solve this problem, he designed a bed that would physically lift him up and set him on the floor. He never got around to building it, so servants ended up doing the heavy lifting for him.
Inspiration: during a meditation, I imagined regressing into a past life as an Avatar representing water. I don’t know where the era of 724,000 years came from, but it is best to trust your muse and write whatever surfaces without censoring thoughts too much. One of the important tactics in overcoming writer’s block is to honor the creative process and write the words that come to you. Don’t get stuck in edit mode for too long. Keep writing & keep sharing! – Cronin Detzz
My future daughter-in-law is working on her memoir. As a female corrections officer in a maximum security prison, she has a lot of stories to share! Knowing that I recently finished my memoir, she emailed a list of great questions to me, and allowed me to share them with you. I’ve also added a few additional questions that I have been asked in the past.
Question: How do I go about writing my memoir? Should I start with my birth family and then move forward?
Reply: The story does not have to be linear and neither does your writing. It is okay to jump around, you’ll piece it all together later. For instance, you might be taking your dog for a walk and a piece of the story comes to you – so jot it down after the walk. This happens to me every day, so I keep paper (and smart phone) nearby at all times so that I can jot down any portion of my story.
Any writer with a smart phone should sign up for Dropbox. It’s a great way to update your work in progress.
Question: Sometimes I write the opening scene in a story and I get stuck, so I’ve been thinking a lot about page one of the memoir.
Reply: Don’t worry too much about page one, just get the stories down. For my memoir, page one came to me like a scene in a movie. I knew that had to be the opening scene. But for my current work in progress, I might change the first scene – I’m trying to not get stuck on page one, though. You’ll discover that many rewrites are in your future..
Question: All memoirs come from first person point of view. I’ve never written in this POV before, any suggestions?
Reply: The hard part of a memoir is to avoid writing “I” too much. But you can edit those things when you’re done. Occasionally, you may need to use a passive voice.
Question: So, when you start writing, do you start in I guess what could be considered “note form?” Like, a list or just jotting down ideas that you can string together later? Or do you try and get the idea down in a coherent story form? I’m always afraid that whichever way I go, I’ll miss something, or miss the opportunity to write the scene to its absolute best.
Reply: This is a great question – I have tried so many methods! The nice thing about fiction is you can do whatever you want, and the hard thing about non-fiction is you’re suddenly limited. Because my memoir spanned over 20 years, I had to look at old records and jot down dates and their associated memories. What helped me the most was writing brief things that happened during that time frame. It kept me on track as to the order of events.
It seemed to work best when I “honored my muse,” meaning that if I felt like writing about an event that was out of order, I wrote that. Non-linear. Everyone does this. If you are inspired to write about an event that is out of sequence, do it. Don’t worry. Chances are you will rewrite it anyway. I had rewritten parts of my story many times before I called it done. Once I find the right publisher, their editor will make me rewrite portions of it again.
I have used outlines before, and what I learned is that they are only a guide. They are just to keep you on track.
So I would say for now that you should make brief notes about events. You’ll probably find that other memories will surface. If you are inspired to write it out in coherent story format, then do so (honor the muse). It is a dance of working both halves of your brain!
What other suggestions do you have for a new memoir writer? Please comment below, I’d love to hear from you.
Before I was inspired to blog, I had to ask myself WHY. I work full time, I’m raising a family, and I squeeze writing into spare moments. My life is already taxing, so why would I add on more work?
I especially have to use my energy wisely because I have fibromyalgia. It is a terribly painful disease that saps precious energy. One day, I had an epiphany: “Forget about the fibromyalgia. Be the change that you seek.” The “change” I seek is to be published by a strong publisher with wide appeal. So how could I “be” a publisher?
I self published, and it was a good educational experience. But being self published is not aligned with the axiom of “being” the change that I seek. How could I give back to an industry that has meant so much to me?
I realized that I could blog – but not with the intent to self promote. My goal is to mentor writers and support poets. In this small way, I hope to help others overcome writer’s block and let writers know that they are not alone in their trials and tribulations. Someone mentored me. It only seems right that I should return the favor. If I’ve helped just one person through this minor contribution, then I am thrilled!
Why do YOU blog? Many of you blog in order to grow your audience. Don’t stop! But what other goals do you have in conjunction with your blog? I’d love to hear from you.
I don’t attend writing workshops. I don’t want a book on “Writing for Dummies.”
I do read author blogs and I do educate myself on writing great dialogues and the like – but not TOO much.
The reason? I have this awkward fear it will ruin my writing. Sure, learning more about plots and denouement and killer endings would improve my writing. I know this. But wouldn’t it take the fun out of writing if I tried too hard? Moreover – and here is the crux of the matter – would it change my writing? Would my writing become less like one of my own flesh-and-blood children and more like a grammatically correct Frankenstein?
If I know too much about themes, antagonists, and symbolism, will the fun be sucked out of stories like the vampires that my English teachers proved to be? To put it in Hollywood terms: if I know how the special effects crew create a compelling scene, the magic of the movie is lost forever.
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you, even if you are an English teacher, as long as you promise to refrain from biting my jugular.
I’m in hot pursuit for a literary agent who wants to represent a fresh voice on women’s issues. It took six years, but my first manuscript is complete and I cannot wait to share it! My book, “American Onion,” deals with overcoming the stigma of depression. It is a sordid tale of what I have been through, culminating in the startling accusation of being married to a child molester. These are tough subjects, but I know that so many people have been affected by mental illness that this book must be shared.