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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Bust Writer’s Block Wherever You Go

Blocks can follow you anywhere — you need portable blockbusters!

The demand that we be constantly busy producing something worthwhile can get us stuck in a linear style of thinking that is not conducive to creativity.

In other words, all work and no play makes Jack a blocked writer.

One of the solutions I recommend is Process, creative play for the sake of the play, not for the sake of any specific outcome.

Getting our hands in motion engages the brain and stimulates creative thinking. Letting go of the demand that we always know where we’re going frees us as artists to discover new routes.

Portable Play

A coaching client wondered if he could do Process while waiting in the car to pick up his kids. He wanted to make that time more enjoyable and supportive of his Product Time writing.

He already knew about freewriting, morning pages and other forms of journaling and had used those. But he wanted something fresh.

He wondered if a travel chess set could be a source of creative play. I cautioned that chess would be Process only if he truly didn’t care whether he won or lost, and even then, the structured nature of chess might make it challenging to have the spontaneous playful attitude of Process.

But mentioning the travel chess set made me think about the magnet bars and balls you use like Lego’s. Remembering how much fun he’d had with Lincoln Logs as a kid, he thought the magnets were a positively attractive option. (Creative KidStuff and MindWare are great sources for all sorts of intriguing building sets.)


We brainstormed other portable Process options:

  • Doodling, sketching or coloring with a box of 8 to 12 markers and a small pad of drawing paper or coloring book
  • Messing around with Play-Doh or modeling clay
  • Playing with a drawing or painting app on a phone or tablet (my sister has a kaleidoscope app on her tablet that I love)
  • Fooling around with a harmonica or a pair of drum sticks
  • Tearing pages out of magazines to gather images to be later used in collages (used book stores, thrift stores and rummage sales are great sources)
  • Painting with water on any surface like paper, glass or the dashboard.

A former student and emerging novelist, paints with water on a Buddha Board. The Buddha Board’s surface allows the water to slowly evaporate so your drawing fades and disappears.

Because it gives her the freedom to experiment without risk, water painting is a rewarding practice in letting go.

Air drawing — drawing with your finger in the air and imagining what you’re creating — is the ultimate in letting go of outcomes.

What’s your favorite portable form of Process play?

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10 Comments on “Bust Writer’s Block Wherever You Go”

  1. nasreenfynewever September 27, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    Thanks for another good post Rosanne. I am leaving a comment to hold myself accountable to print the guides your book “Around the Writer’s Block” encourages us to use. I am also gently reminding the multitude of writers, like me, who are reading your words, nod our heads, and then fail to put things into practice. Let’s start October fresh with “showing up” for a month and using this creative play to re-energize our busy selfs to become better writers!


    • rosannebane September 28, 2012 at 8:50 am #

      Thanks Nasreen. With your permission I’d like to re-post your challenge on my Facebook pages. What do you think?


    • mkelberer September 28, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

      Then, by November, we’ll be ready for NaNoWriMo!


  2. Joel D Canfield September 27, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Our Little One played with a Buddha Board at a host’s home while we were nomads. I want to get her one. Closest thing I know of to art without fear.

    Part of why it works better than, say, using sidewalk chalk, then washing it off with a hose, is because the disappearance is part of the process, inevitable, not a choice.

    I don’t do nearly enough free play. I’ve started building mental downtime into my routine because I’ve realized that even though I disconnect from digital for a while every day, I rarely give my conscious mind some intentional time off.


    • rosannebane September 27, 2012 at 11:45 am #

      Thanks Joel! I appreciate the insight that the disappearance is part of the process. I do Process five days a week for at least 15 minutes and I still feel I don’t do nearly enough free play, so I’m with you in the struggle to keep doing what my creative brain and spirit needs.


  3. mkelberer September 27, 2012 at 6:23 am #

    I also like Photography because it gets me out of my head and forces me to actually LOOK at the world around me, in detail.


  4. craft fear September 27, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    Photography is not my bag, baby, but sometimes taking digital photos of the surrounds can put me in a creative head-space.


    • rosannebane September 27, 2012 at 11:48 am #

      Thanks Michael and Emily! It is precisely photography is not your thing that it can be so effective as a Process activity. Photographers have difficulty letting go of the outcomes when they’re shooting, so they need to do something else for Process. Likewise, even if we’re freewriting, word-based Process is sometimes less effective for writers. We need to step away from the words regularly and reconnect, as Michael points out, with the world around us in detail.



  1. Get Ready for NaNoWriMo: Make October NaShoUpoWriMo! « The Bane of Your Resistance - October 3, 2012

    […] Ready for NaNoWriMo: Make October NaShoUpoWriMo! In response to a previous post, Nasreen Fynewever wrote: “I am leaving a comment to hold myself accountable to print the […]


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