Working your way through writer’s block

A guest blog post by Thomas Frick

There have been a couple of blog posts I’ve seen here about writer’s block, so I wanted to take a stab at it, in no small part because I’ve been facing some pretty intense writer’s block preparing for this article. Here’s a list of some of the things I do to get through writer’s block.

  1. Get alone. If you have a roommate, one of the most distracting things in the world may be feeling like they want to talk to you while you need to work. The solution? Get away! Finding a place to work undisturbed is vital to getting writing done. Sure, blog thomas frick picwe have endless ways to distract ourselves while writing, but it’s so much easier to tell yourself to shut up and stop getting in the way than it is to tell a friend to shut up.
  2. Start early in the morning. This might be more contested among the night owls out there, but I find the easiest time to force myself to write is in the early hours of the day, when almost no one is awake. Being able to visit public spaces that feel empty is amazing for the imagination. Writing for me always feels a bit like an adventure into the unknown: I may know my destination or my route, but never both. Seeing emptiness gets me excited to go explore the depths of my thoughts.
  3. Throw out formality. Sometimes, the hardest point for me is when I have an idea of what I want to write about, but I can’t find the right words to put on the screen (or my paper). Often, I realize I’m trying to craft the perfect sentence in my head, so I never have to come back and edit my paper. That’s dumb. If I have the idea in my head, it’s more important to communicate it than to craft prose to make God weep. Sometimes, this means abandoning writing altogether and making an outline.
  4. Put on some instrumental music. This is, perhaps, the most dangerous part of my techniques to try to work through writer’s block. I normally will put on classical music, which is dramatic enough to be incredibly distracting. The point of putting on music is not to listen to the music – it’s to create a white noise to drown out the sound of both nothing and of others talking around each other. If the music you’ve picked is distracting you, then it’s not helpful and you should turn it off. In this way, playing music can be dangerous to working through writer’s block. This tip is for when time marches inevitably onwards, and you’ve lost those beautiful early morning hours where you can work in peace and solitude to the crowds of the general public.
  5. Explain your writing to someone else. In the event that you are still stuck, find a trusted friend and talk to them about what you’re trying to write. You can explain to them the prompt, your ideas, your lack of ideas, why you’re getting stuck, fears you may have about the writing, and much more. Please note that this is unlikely to directly result in words hitting a page. Instead, this is meant to help you attack a piece of writing from different angles. I find that this is my least favored solution, because I’m often too proud to admit to being stuck on writing. However, when I do take it, I find myself with more ideas than I can write down. I just need to be careful to write something

One last thing: when you hit the end of a piece, always take some time to reflect on what you’ve written. Have you communicated your points well? Developed a character? Moved the plot forward? Discovered something about yourself? Writing doesn’t need to just satisfy some requirement: giving information on an article, fulfilling a school assignment, or finishing a research paper. Writing can and should always be also a process of self-discovery. Have fun with your writing and discover something new about yourself.

 

Happy Writing.

Overcoming Graphophobia

A guest blog post by Jacob Shirk

Have you ever read something and thought, “Wow, this is so good; I could never write like that.” Or maybe you’ve said to yourself, “I’m just not a good writer; I suck at this.” These are both things that I told myself for a very long time. I’m here to tell you not to make the same mistake that I did!

 

Throughout high school, I hated writing. I felt like I was awful at it, and it got to the point that I would become physically uncomfortable thinking about writing. I couldn’t bring myself to start writing something, and if I did start writing, what I wrote was awful because I was so focused on how much I hated what I was doing and how bad I thought I was at it.

 

But when I came to college, I began to realize something: I could no longer afford to feel awful about my writing. I needed to find ways to get better. Here are the three things that I did to fix my problem:

  • I shifted my mindset
  • I practiced
  • I got help and feedback

 

A mindset shift can be the most important step in improving at something. The biggest problem I knew I needed to address was my feeling that I was never going to be good at writing and that I wasn’t creative enough for it. I began looking at it from the viewpoint of “I’m getting better at writing” rather than “I’m awful at writing.” Every great writer, no matter who they are, had to start somewhere.

 

The second most important step in getting better at something is practice, practice, and more practice. The way I went about this was sitting down every day, setting a ten minute timer, and writing about a random topic. I had no direction, plan, or anything of the sort. I just spewed thoughts onto the page. As silly as this may sound, this helped me learn how to translate my internal dialogue onto a page for others to see.

 

Finally, I got help! I brought my writing to everyone, my family, my friends, my roommate, my professors, really anyone with a pair of eyes that could give feedback. You are never alone: there will always be someone who can help you make your writing better. Realizing this made my life so much easier. Having other people’s eyes on a project can mean getting valuable points of view or improvements that you might not have otherwise gotten.

 

Over the course of my first semester in college, I went from someone who was terrified of writing, to a confident, well-spoken writer. If you feel like maybe you’re awful at writing, and you feel like you can’t get better, all is not lost! Have hope for yourself! Don’t let yourself believe that you can’t get better at something. You might not be the best writer ever, but everyone has something important to share with the world,  and writing can be one of the best ways to share it.

 

Good luck and happy writing!

4 Ways Visual Art Helps Reduce Writer’s Block

Please enjoy this blog post by guest writer Anna Busalacchi. 

Writer’s Block is frustrating—especially with the pressure and expectation that we must feel inspired all the time. Sometimes, finding inspiration isn’t as easy as some make it seem.

With my interest in all things artsy, I researched the connections between visual art and writing and have put together a list of 4 ways visual art and images can help you reduce writer’s block.

  1. Draw ideas in a Sketchbook.

Instead of writing out your ideas with words, try drawing them! You do not have to be “good” at drawing by any means. Think of a sketch like the brainstorming part of the writing process. Take a sketchbook and some pens or pencils and try to visualize your ideas on the paper. This will give you concepts to refer to later. Feel free to add color as well.

  1. Create Pinterest Boards.

This is a popular option, but so worth it! Creating Pinterest boards for different concepts or ideas can be a great way to reduce that horrible writer’s block. Even if you do not have any specific ideas in mind at all, just start by making some boards with similar-looking photos. How do the photos in the board make you feel? What do they represent? Asking these questions can help to spark a little bit of inspiration.

 

anna b blog post.png  screenshots taken from my Pinterest: faithfullyblooming

 

  1. Try Art Therapy.

Art Therapy can come in many different forms, but it’s a great way to reduce stress and clear your mind from any distractions that may keep you from coming up with ideas.

  • Focus on how you are feeling and try to draw or paint your emotion(s).
  • Make a collage of photos that can act as an inspiration or goal board. This one is almost like making a Pinterest board, but instead, you physically will print, cut, and arrange photos.
  • Color! Grab a coloring book, or print some coloring sheets, and gather some colored pencils, crayons, or markers and just color. This one is super simple and doesn’t take much thinking, yet, still gets your brain thinking more creatively.

Here’s a link to 100 Art Therapy Exercises for more ideas:

https://www.expressiveartworkshops.com/expressive-art-resources/100-art-therapy-exercises/

  1. Write about art.

Take a trip to a local museum or search online for some images of famous artwork. Simply write about what you see in the painting and come up with a meaning for the artwork. Your interpretation is completely unique to you and there is no right or wrong answer. Focusing in on the artwork helps to enhance creativity and stimulate deeper thinking. Make up a backstory for the subject in the painting. Write about who or what the subject is, where they came from, or what brought them to where they are in the painting. This automatically gives you a little writing prompt to help bring you out of your rut!

Which technique sounds most interesting to you? Leave a comment below!

Guest Blog: What Not To Do When Making a Book into a Film

Please enjoy this guest blog by Hannah Stiller!

We’ve all had a favorite book made into a movie. Since films like Gone with the Wind and earlier, Hollywood has been turning well-loved literature into visual masterpieces. However, it is undeniable that among the many, many renditions there are some that are better than others. This is not the purest argument where a book to film is not good unless it is the word for word visualization of what each individual person who read the book saw, rather I would like to suggest a standard to hold these films to which movies based off of books in the past have set. Here are three suggestions for successfully turning a book into a good film.

  1. Keep the storyline the same

Some of the worst book to film movies take way too much liberty when changing the storyline. Others such as The Fellowship of the Ring, and Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe do it gracefully. The filmmakers of these saw that there were too many details (think Tom Bombadil in the Fellowship) which would not translate into film. Other films such as Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief misidentify plot points for details and end up changing the whole flow of the story.

  1. Don’t introduce new or change existing characters.

Book lovers around the world create strong ties of identification with characters from their favorite stories. That those characters will change when they are put on the screen is a possibility, but there are many which go far over the line. Tauriel in The Hobbit, for example, was not an original character in Tolkien’s book (neither was Legolas but that’s a different argument). The introduction of her character completely changed the story arguably for the worse. Changing characters can also be harmful as exemplified in Jack Reacher, a tall dark hero portrayed by a short Tom Cruise. The movie itself can be considered good, but its interpretation of the book is pretty poor.

  1. Don’t Consult the Fans

Hear me out. Some of the best book to films have been created by directors and producers with highly critical eyes, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Jason Bourne. Some of the worst have been brought to life by fans of the books, Percy Jackson, Beautiful Creatures, Divergent, and Valerian. While this can be a topic of great debate, history strongly suggests that an unbiased opinion often has the clearest vision.

Do you agree with these suggestions? There are certainly many others and possibly no perfect way to turn a book into a film, but we all love a good story and hated to see them turn out badly. Comment below if you think of more ways to make a good book into a good movie.

The Best 3 Holiday Desserts to Impress a Crowd

Please enjoy this guest post by writer Gracie Turnbaugh.

It’s official. The holiday season is here! This time of year isn’t complete without a plate of goodies everywhere you look. So as you prepare to plan for your next holiday party, or just want to bake some tasty treats for your family, these three recipes will be perfect for every occasion. 

 

Christmas Crack 

This dessert is deemed “crack” for a reason! Your guests won’t be able to stop reaching for this. With just five ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry, this recipe can be whipped up in no time. Feel free to make the recipe your own by substituting the chocolate chips for white or dark chocolate chips, or adding other toppings like graham cracker crumbs, pretzels, or whatever else you’re craving! 

https://www.iheartnaptime.net/christmas-crack/ 

 Gingerbread Cookies 

It’s not Christmas without gingerbread cookies. This recipe has been used by my family for years and I’m sure it will continue to be passed down to generations. With its delicious use of spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg in combination with sweet molasses, this recipe will leave your guests wanting more. Decorate with sprinkles or icing if you’re feeling extra festive. 

https://medium.com/@gracieanna22/gingerbread-cookies-37467ccb1ee9 

Vanilla Sugar Cutout Cookies

This cookie is another classic. You can’t go wrong with a simple sugar cookie, and with the help of cute cookie cutters, icing and food coloring, and a couple sprinkles, these cookies will be the talk of the party. This recipe has been in my family for years because of its simple yet delicious taste! 

https://medium.com/@gracieanna22/vanilla-sugar-cutout-cookies-b3e4298a044 

 

 Happy baking! 

Three Fun and Easy Activities to do at Home for the Holidays with Your Loved Ones

Please enjoy this blog post by guest writer Erica Johns.

The holiday season is usually known for being tons of fun, but it can be hard sometimes to think of things to do inside. This becomes a problem when we aren’t quite feeling up to bracing the cold winter weather. Here are three ideas so that you can have fun with your friends, family, or a significant other, while staying warm!

Cookie Decorating

Who doesn’t love a good Christmas cookie? However, this idea can go much further than just your typical activity of baking cookies. I recommend adding an element of competition while decorating. Make sure you are stocked up on decorating supplies. Starting with the frosting, you should have at least a few flavors of frosting for the base, as well as many colors of gel frosting for smaller designs. Then moving on to toppings, chocolate chips and a variety of sprinkles are always a good idea. However, my personal favorite are the little candy letters, getting to write little messages on your cookies can be a lot of fun. Then, pick an unbiased judge, and see who can create the best decorated cookies! It might even be fun to have categories; most colorful, tastiest, most creative, etc.

Another fun twist on this idea would be a Cookie Swap Party. You can invite over some of your friends, asking them each to either come with a dozen of their freshly baked cookies, or their recipes. You can bake together, or trade cookies! This is also a great opportunity to implement an element of competition; who has the best tasting cookie? There also is a chance for categories such as, most flavorful, most unique, etc.

Gingerbread Houses

Now, you may feel like this is too much baking after you have just spent a lot of time thinking about cookies. However, this idea actually doesn’t include baking.

Grocery stores carry gingerbread houses, where all of the parts are pre-made, they only require assembling! This is fun because after you simply put the parts together, you can decorate the house, and even make little gingerbread men to live there. Similar to the cookie decorating idea, this is a great chance to create a competition for the best looking gingerbread house.

Christmas Movies

This idea, unlike the others, requires zero frosting, or any other baking ingredient for that matter. Netflix, as well as many other streaming platforms carry multiple Christmas movie classics. My personal favorite being How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Cuddle up with a bunch of blankets, some loved ones, a fire in the fireplace, and a good cup of peppermint hot chocolate to enjoy a good movie! You could even make a marathon out of it, how many can you watch in a row?

 

Conclusion: There are many things you can do with the people you care about, especially during the holiday season. The possibilities are endless, both inside and outside, sometimes you just have to get creative!

Yoga for writers

Those of you who know me well, know that I ADORE YouTube sensation ‘Yoga with Adriene’.

So, when I hopped on YouTube today to plan my workout, you can imagine how thrilled I was to find my two favorite things– writing and yoga– colliding on a glorious Monday morning (quick disclaimer: I’m so far ahead in writing and scheduling these blogs that you, dear friends, probably won’t even see this until December. But I digress….)

Also, I haven’t even done this routine yet, but since it’s Adriene, I have no doubt that it will be awesome. Enjoy! And let me know what you think in the comments below.

Yoga for writers 🙂

Writing a rival

What if your character faced not only the challenge of getting the girl, but also besting a rival too?

Raising the stakes in your story is imperative for deep audience engagement. When a reader (or viewer) worries that the protagonist may not win, he or she has gone from being a reader to being a participant in the creation of the story.

And a participant cares deeply what happens to the protagonist.

A rival character is one way to achieve this goal.

Rivals can come from any number of places in a character’s life- the office/ work, home/ family (siblings make great rivals), or maybe a bully from the past who shows up again in the present life of the protagonist. In any of these cases the rival allows the protagonist’s backstory to emerge organically so the reader/ viewer gets another peek at who he/ she is rooting for.

Consider this clip of film’s top sibling rivalries for inspiration: https://youtu.be/vAIh1gwhtIk

Is there a way to include a rival in your story? How will this help deepen reader/ audience understanding of character.

And most importantly, how will your protagonist best this person?

The challenge is on, friends.

Happy writing!

 

Guest Blog: The “Hollywood Mindset” and its Effect on Today’s Society

Please enjoy this guest blog post by Taylor Starcher!

Technology is one of man’s greatest innovations, something that continues to improve and become increasingly beneficial every single day.  Although the saying, ‘with power comes great responsibility’ is strikingly true in the world of media where humans can access virtually anything from mobile devices, computers, and televisions.  Hollywood has portrayed the ideas of success, wealth, and the perfect image in today’s society, painting a portrait of an unrealistic lifestyle that causes issues among people’s mindsets.

A strong example of generational celebrities would be the Kardashian family as a whole.  Not only have they succeeded in making the family name famous but generated a significant amount of wealth.  From their television show, ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ to each member’s social media accounts, they are one of the most known families in the world.  These Hollywood stars might be extremely well known, but does that make them appropriate role models?  The present culture strives from influential people that are able to drive social or political movements, gain supporters, and have the power to in a sense, “change the world.”  The Kardashians, just being one example, do all of these things with the millions of people following and watching their every move on a day to day basis.

Let us embrace the pop culture in America but remember the importance of things or people rather than fame and fortune.  Celebrities will always have their fame and fortune to make them influential people among pop culture, but society needs to recognize morally correct decisions, regardless of one’s specific religion.  Although media is pertinent to connection points today, in both personal and business aspects, the “old-school” styles of face-to-face interaction or enjoyment of family values are important to uphold outside of Hollywood’s ideas of a lifestyle.

Today’s pop culture is surrounded by sex, drugs, scandals, gossip, and not to mention, impractical realities focused on fame.  Most reality television shows are so misconstrued and morally out of line that they make them ridiculous and not anyone’s reality but the people on the show.  Even then, people are either acting or not truly showing the extent of their real life.  Everything is for show and to portray a sense of this perfect life.  This causes people, especially the younger generations, to have false ideas of what their life should look like or what they should strive to achieve.

Within the Christian faith, pop culture can be a tough subject matter to know what is right or wrong.  Although, too often Christians find problems within every aspect of pop culture, making it nearly impossible to be around it.  This is not an easy aspect to cut out because of how relevant it is in everyday life.  The key is balancing media by understanding how it personally affects an individual’s lifestyle choices and their mindset toward healthy decisions.  Christians should be slower to judge everything and quicker to find the good in pop culture in which to surround themselves. Pop culture can simply be an adding factor to understanding others’ ideas and then Christians can take that to love others in whatever place they are at.

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Romans 12:2).

Hollywood has brought us award-winning films, important performances that have impacted people’s personal lives, and ideas that have benefitted our culture.  The negative factors of Hollywood lifestyles can outweigh the positives, but it is important to focus on the reality of situations and not let fame or fortune define one’s life.  Pop culture will always be around; it is just necessary to not let it control and influence unhealthy lifestyle choices.  If Christians keep their eyes focused on God and how their life can be benefitting His kingdom, their choices within what media they take in will be more constructive and beneficial.  Using technological advances and media in the world positively can make us have better communication, freedom of expression, and a stronger community.

 

Character psychology: The impact of parent/ child relationships

 

Creating interesting characters requires writers to have a solid understanding of psychology.

Many areas come to mind: childhood hurts, trauma, being the underdog, neglect, and more. But one stands out as critical to digging deep into a character, and that is a character’s relationship to his or her parents.

Some questions you might consider as you evaluate your character’s relationship with his/ her parents:

  • What are his/ her earliest memories with their parents?
  • What feelings does thinking of his/ her parents generate?
  • Was his father/ mother aggressive in punishment or passive?
  • How did the relationship between parent/ child change over the years?
  • Was the parent jealous of others getting close to his/ her child?
    • Could the child do no wrong? No right?

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but a starting point in working through a character’s backstory to establish future obstacles, motivations, and struggles. Often the relationship with a parent is key to a character’s understanding of and engagement with authority figures.

See this example from White Heat as evidence:

Now, write a scene based on how your character might react to finding out his/her mother (or father) died. Or, try a scene where the parent and child reunite after years of being separated.

What thoughts or challenges do you have when it comes to using the parent/ child relationship as a springboard to deeper understanding of character psychology? Share in the comments.

Happy writing!