How to Find Your Writing Rhythm Using The Snowball Effect
About the Author: Diana L. James
Diana L. James is the author of many short stories and flash fiction works. Her first publication was a poem in a national anthology during high school. She lives in South Carolina and currently works as an administration manager.
In addition to a new collection of short stories to be published through Amazon Kindle, Diana is in the process of completing her debut novel. She also hosts a Facebook group called The Write Affair to bring writers together and has a new blog for inspiring writers and authors at all stages of their writing careers at www.the-write-affair.com.
So there you sit. Again. Be it electronic or physical paper, the anxiety-inducing blank page stares back at you for the umpteenth time.
You’ve read plenty of articles explaining that most writers deal with this same situation all the time. All you need to do is push through the writer’s block, right? So you sit and sit and sit, waiting for inspiration to strike. Only it doesn’t. The longer you wait, the more frustrated you become. Finally, you walk away, vowing to “try again tomorrow with a clear head.”
If this scenario rings even the smallest bell for you, know that you are not alone. This situation doesn’t mean you aren’t a “real writer” or that you are destined to fail. But while these well-meaning and frequently regurgitated statements do offer genuine encouragement, they do little to help you deal with moving past the problem at hand.
The solution? When you next have pen or keyboard at the ready but words elude you, surrender.
(Are you still with me?)
Yes, you read that correctly — surrender. And no, I am neither crazy nor joking. Writing, and creating in general, does not need to feel forced.
Now, dear writer, don’t twist that statement into an excuse to avoid developing a solid writing routine — for pointers on this topic, check out this article on the Well-Storied blog — or to give up the moment you believe the next sentence will never come. What you should do is discover where your breaking point is.
A strong mindset is vital to a successful writing session. Have you created a special workspace? Even if you are writing on the fly during a fleeting spare moment, have you minimized distractions in order to actually create?
If you are physically and mentally prepared to start pulling the ideas from your imagination into the real world, then you will always be able to put words on paper. The trick to this magic lies in knowing which words to write. This is where many people get stuck, until they finally hit their breaking point and walk away.
“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”
— Jane Yolen
How can you know which words to write?
Have you ever noticed that once you get over a little writing hump, words suddenly start pouring out of you? They may not be the best words, or even the right words, but you get into a rhythm and can at least get a draft down on paper. This is what I like to call The Snowball Effect.
Once you get that delicate little flake to take on mass and shape then give it a gentle nudge, it gradually picks up speed until you can hardly keep up. Whether you’re facing a blank page or trying to get through the next section of your work-in-progress, you need to capture that first flake to get your snowball moving.
Easier said than done? Perhaps not so much as you’d think. Many writers trap themselves in whatever project they’re sitting down to work on. But who’s says you must start your writing session by jumping headfirst into that particular story? If you’re struggling to generate the next page, paragraph, or even word, take a step back and write something else.
There are millions of prompts and exercises you can use to get your creative juices flowing, but searching one out can often prove daunting. To save you some time, here are a few suggestions to help you on your way. However, please don’t feel you must limit yourself to these ideas alone:
Choose a theme or topic, set a timer for a duration of your choice, then write any thought that pops into your head. For example, set a ten-minute timer and write everything you can think of concerning the word “chocolate”. If you can’t think of anything, write that down. You don’t need to craft a story, though by all means do so if that will help.
Describe your current surroundings in painstaking detail. Get those adjectives flowing. This can truly help you get into a good mindset for creating.
Prompt: A favorite creation
Write about your favorite song, story or poem. What is your favorite part and why? This can help bring your emotions into play while being inspirational at the same time.
Prompt: Character Dialogue
Take two characters from your current work-in-progress (or any previous works, books, or movies) and draft what a few emails or texts might look like between the two of them after a crazy weekend.
Do you have upcoming special plans or a vacation you are looking forward to? Where are you going? What are you the most excited about? What will your surroundings look like? How will the weather be?
Did you have one of those super weird dreams last night? Write all about it.
Just start writing. Write anything. Once your brain’s synapses start firing, you can shift into whatever you had originally planned to work on. I often find that while I am scribbling random gibberish, my mind wanders, making unexpected connections that can lend to alternate avenues in my current work-in-progress.
Let your imagination run wild as you focus on anything BUT your project. and soon you may be surprised to find that you have unintentionally developed new ideas or solved a problem that’s been plaguing you for ages.
In the end, if you simply cannot find a rhythm and that little snowflake melts away, know that it’s ok to take a break. Don’t beat yourself up for doing so or you’ll subconsciously build negative connotations with sitting down to write. This will kill your future motivation, and that is a much harder obstacle to overcome.
If you’re able, keep your break quick. Take care of a few errands or squeeze in a quick episode on Netflix (no binge-watching!) before coming back to try again. If the only free time you have that day passes, commit yourself to trying again the next day.
A quick Free Writing Example (unedited) – 4 minute timer
“Ok so when trying to come up with an example to list for free writing the first thing I come up with is chocolate? I mean, I guess that’s ok…everyone likes chocolateright? Does white chocoltate count? I think most people say no. I could uise some chocolate right now but its barely at 8am. Hey I’m an adult – I_ can have chocolate whebnever I want. What the heck am I even talking about? Am I actually going to allow this to be published? I should be honest and let people see what I mean. Io’m trying to help based on my personal experiences after all, but lordy I can see a bunch of red underlines even as I’m typing the next words that pop into my head and it’s so embarrassing. I really need to work on my typing, but hey, that’s what spellcheck is for. Yes, I’m writing this article in Word, so sue me. It’s just before work and W ord is what’s available at the moment. I wonder how many other people use Word? Rats - how much longer on that timer?”
How about that brief free writing example? I started writing about chocolate and managed to end with talking about Microsoft Word — and that’s okay! When using free-writing or prompts to engage your creativity, let your mind travel whatever path it chooses. You never know where you’ll end up. That’s part of the joy of writing!
Remember that daily writing, no matter what form it takes, is essential for exercising creative muscles. As long as you keep at it, my dear fellow writer, you will create wonderful things. I believe in you!