Playing Around

We’ve all been there: We feel stuck, blocked, uncreative, unable to move forward on the page. At a recent Write Group session called “Having Fun with Writer’s Block,” Michelle Cameron, co-director of The Writers Circle, offered helpful advice for freeing your muse. The Writers Circle runs writing workshops and ongoing programs for adults and teens throughout New Jersey ( I took a great workshop on bringing stories alive through the senses a while ago (see Roasted Figs).

My writing buddy Carl Selinger attended Michelle’s program on writer’s block and was kind enough to send me a fantastic summary from which I’ve pulled some helpful tips:

Ask yourself two questions: Sometimes our writer’s block is self-imposed: We put obstacles in our own way. We’ve all voiced our version of the would-be writer’s lament: “I don’t have time to write” or “I need a chunk of time to write.” Two questions had a life-changing impact on Michelle. Question #1: How much do you want it? Question #2: How early can you get up? After asking herself these questions, Michelle began getting up at 4:30 in the morning and writing for two hours. The message: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. With a dose of determination, you can come up with a strategy that works.

Make a date with the muse: Give yourself permission to view your writing as important, then act on that commitment. (see Muse Management — one of my favorite posts!) Until you sit down and write, it’s not writing. Tricks for dogs and writers: “Sit. Stay.”

Give yourself a set time for writing: Forward motion matters. Even if you write just 10 minutes a day, you’re making progress. So, if you can’t devote a large chunk of time to your writing, start with 10 minutes daily. Over a week, 10 minutes a day adds up to an hour+.

“Trick yourself into writing:” If you’re having a hard time focusing or sitting down to your work, then get creative! Find ways to cajole yourself into a writing frame of mind. Sometimes, as Michelle noted, this may involve writing something that’s not related to a specific project you’re working on in order to prime the pump.

Write to soothing new-age music: This is one pump-priming exercise that can be very fruitful. Listening to soft instrumental music can be a great tool for brushing away mental cobwebs and encouraging your creative juices to flow. Just let the music carry you through a free-writing session where you let your thoughts bubble up without any editing and see what emerges.

I think the operative term here is “fun.” If we can be playful rather than anxious when we hit a rough patch in our writing, we’re far more likely to find a way to get past it with a minimum of stress. Thanks Michelle and Carl — and write on!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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2 Responses to Playing Around

  1. Karin, your post rang a bell with me. When I embarked on my first novel, I literally had NO TIME; I had a full-time job and two young children, and I did all our housekeeping, shopping and cooking. At that time I rode a bike to work, from the upper West Side to East Side midtown, where I was copy chief at Ladies’ Home Journal. It dawned on me that if I gave up my bike ride and took the subway, I’d have 45 minutes twice a day in which to write.
    I bought a lined book and a good pen and started. Within a few days, I could enter my “zone” and pick up where I’d stopped the day before. I was writing with intensity; neighbors on the train told me that they spoke to me, even tapped my shoulder, and I was oblivious–was I mad at them? No, I was just writiing my first novel.

    • Hi Martha,

      Thanks so much for your wonderful note — it’s so inspiring! I love the way you came up with a creative solution to finding time to do work that really mattered to you. I would love to spotlight your comment in an upcoming post, with your permission — I think it really might encourage others to find time just as you did. If this is OK with you, please send me a note via email to:

      Many thanks and write on, Karin

      Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2015 13:51:12 +0000 To:

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