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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.

Random Cures for Writer’s Block


If you don’t know where to start or where to go next in your writing, congratulations! That means anything is possible. Any old random thing can be your launching pad.

Of course, a part of you will think “I can’t throw just anything into my writing. It wouldn’t make sense. It would be stupid.” That’s the part that has you blocked, by the way.

So what? Every idea is stupid at some point. Every idea goes through its awkward stages. Every idea is derivative and unoriginal. As Seneca observed, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

You don’t have to invest the rest of your writing career into a random idea; you just need to get your writing moving again.

Any Idea Will Do

story cubes reduce writers blockYou can buy random ideas with Story Cubes, dice with icons designed to spark your imagination.

Start with whatever you have. Grab a random object in the room you’re in and give it to a character. Or describe the object and it’s significance. Make the object a murder weapon or the thing that broke up a romance.

Notice the sounds you hear, notice what you smell, see or feel. Give one of these sense impressions to a character or describe the experience and reflect on why it matters. Start with anything that grabbed your attention in the last 24 hours, that you love, hate or wonder about.

Just Start, Just for 15 Minutes

startI’m not suggesting the random start will become your life’s work, just give it 15 minutes to see what happens.

A random piece of writing can get you started. If you want to write fiction, flip to a random page in any book on your shelf. Read a couple of paragraphs and put your own characters a similar situation or in a similar setting. Or give them a similar challenge or a similar person to respond to. Throw in something random and see what happens.

If you want to write nonfiction, randomly select a paragraph and adopt the theme, topic or issue and write your own thoughts about it. Or adopt the writing technique or style. Or pick one word from each of three different sentences and write a sentence with those three words and use that as your inspiration.

You use this approach with any genre. You can cross genres by selecting a random bit of poetry to inspire fiction or a line of dialogue in a play to spark memoir. Write something from random sentences or words in a crossword puzzle.

Surrender Expectations

Chances are, what you write from this random starter won’t fit what you’ve written before. So what? Your random writing probably won’t “take you anywhere.” So what? So what if this is someone else’s idea or method?

What you write today doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good. Or relevant. Or original. All it has to be is something you write today.

No one said you had to write something brilliant today. Writing something today may show you what’s next for you to write about. If it doesn’t, you can play with the random again tomorrow. Playing is always more fun and ultimately more productive than wallowing in the frustration of writer’s resistance.

Writing something will put you in motion. You’ll remember you’re a writer. You’ll break through what’s been blocking you. You’re far more likely to find what you’re passionate about when you’re moving than when you’re sitting still, staring at a blinking cursor or blank page.

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