To eliminate writer’s block, try Natalie Goldberg-style writing—keep your pen moving fast until the timer goes off. If you get stuck, repeat the word you just wrote. If that doesn’t work, write, “What I really mean to say is…” and continue.
I like letting my subconscious take over. I’ve written this way since 1997 when I studied with Natalie Goldberg in Taos, New Mexico. I don’t worry about repeating a detail, or misspelling words, or bad grammar; just write fast, barrel past your editor to produce a scene. Repetition, grammar, spelling, and completing thoughts can happen later.
Natalie Goldberg says, “God is in the details.” By giving description lots of freedom, perhaps even over describing, a little movie will begin to play in your mind. Like at the theatre, it will keep running until the story is finished. You merely take dictation.
I once heard a musician interviewed on the radio. He said his music came out of the ethers, entering his mind from somewhere off to his left. All he had to do was write down the tune he was hearing. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this similarly. She likens it to magic…there’s a story out there looking for someone. You say “yes” or “no.” If you say “no”, the story moves on to someone else. I like to say “yes,” even if it isn’t the story I am currently writing. Sometimes saying yes shakes up the story, opening up possibilities for a new scene. I trust the magic of the writing process.
Try Natalie Goldberg’s process:
Set a time daily for your regular writing practice. Writing daily, preferably at the same time, primes the pump and lets the muse know you’re serious.
Sit down at your desk and pick a prompt. (Natalie offers topic ideas in her book, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.)
Set a timer for 20-30 minutes.
Now start writing fast and don’t stop until the timer goes off. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or sentence structure. If you can’t find the right word, draw a line as a placeholder and come back to that word when the time is up. And please, don’t cross out…that would be editing. Editing during writing practice stops the free flow of original thought. Just go willy-nilly into the story and write whatever comes to mind until the bell rings.
If you’re still stuck…
If this doesn’t help, and you need some extra support getting unstuck, pair the Wild Mind process with The Narrative Project‘s upcoming Six-Week Deep Dive, Inner Critic Relief. Explore your inner cast of characters who keep your mind tamed and focusing on the dishes…or the fear…or other people… Write your stream of conscious and see what these characters might have to say to you, and learn how to transform them into creative support super heroes!
Be fearless and don’t hold back. Trust the process and have fun!
Best in words, Nancy Canyon
Nancy Canyon is published in The Narrative Project’s True Stories II & III, Nature’s Healing Spirit, Songs of Ourselves, Raven Chronicles, Water~Stone Review, Fourth Genre, Floating Bridge Review, and more. She holds the MFA in Creative Writing from PLU, works as a writing coach for The Narrative Project, and paints in her Historic Fairhaven art studio. Her husband and she live near Lake Whatcom with their dog, Olive, and Tuxedo cat named Sid. Nancy’s poetry book, Saltwater and her novel, Celia’s Heaven are available at villagebooks.com. For more about Nancy or to purchase her books, visit www.nancycanyon.com