SparkNotes Blog

6 Creative Writing Exercises to Smash Your Writer’s Block

Some of us find the blank page liberating.

Others of us? TERRIFYING.

Even if you love writing more than you love pugs and butts respectively, facing that blank page or blinking cursor can easily feel like being stuck in a ham costume with no idea where you’re going and no way to see the path ahead of you. Maybe you can never come up with a good opening sentence. Maybe you get easily distracted. (We’ve been thinking about PUG BUTTS for the past two sentences.) Maybe everything you write feels weird and sad, and it’s making you feel weird and sad.

NEVER FEAR, scribes and artisans of the written word. We here at Team SparkLife write a whole heck of a lot, so we know how to deal with the inability to come up with an opening line more original than “it was a dark and stormy night.” (Seriously, why are the best openers already taken?)

1. Write three pages EVERY DAY.

Our first writing exercise comes from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which is a great book for anyone who feels like the hamster stopped turning their brain wheels. Cameron suggests that if you want to break out of a creative block, you should write three pages every day. NO exceptions.

These pages can be about anything you want: diary entries, pieces of your unfinished novel—even three pages of you typing out “I have nothing to write today” over and over. Just start writing, and things will come to you as you go. Cameron calls this activity “Morning Pages,” meaning you should write them first thing in the morning to maximize productivity. But we know that a lot of you probably have better things to do in the morning, like hitting the snooze button five times, for example. There are 24 hours in the day! Write whenever! There are no rules. Except for the rule about writing three pages every day. That is an important rule.

2. Start in the middle.

Beginnings are hard. For every “It is a truth universally acknowledged,” there is a writer headdesking a keyboard.

So? Don’t start at the beginning! Start in the middle, with that scene that you can’t WAIT to write—the one where the group of NASA trainees finally negotiates a deal with an extraterrestrial government, or the two robber barons finally realize they love each other and start a kumquat farm. Write the scene you want to write most, and then tomorrow come back and write the next scene you can’t wait to write, and just keep doing that.

3. Write fanfic.

Having trouble coming up with original plots and characters? (Is the one about the young person who thinks she’s ordinary and then gets picked to save humanity already taken? It is? Awwww, butts.)

Try writing fanfic instead. Plenty of writers use fanfic as a way to sharpen their skills, explore character development, or simply have fun with a few of their favorite characters and storylines. Plus, in fanfic, you can make any two characters kiss. What we’re saying is, if you are currently staring at Chapter Three of your novel, trying to figure out how you’re going to make it to Chapter Four, close that file and start a new one titled “Sherlock Meets The Doctor and Then They Kiss.” (We’d ship it.)

And don’t forget: if your fanfic is good enough, it might end up becoming a bestseller. We all know that Christian Grey is just Edward Cullen in a fancy suit.

4. Use a plot generator.

Don’t want to steal your characters from Twilight? Try stealing them from the internet instead. The Plot Generator website provides you with randomly generated characters and plots to fit a variety of genres, and you can use them as starting points for your next story.

We hit the “Paranormal Romance” button, and the Plot Generator suggested we write a story about “a hapless young woman named Allison Doop who falls in love with a murderous yeti with angry eyes named Andrew Blast.” Alrighty then.

“It’s cold out here,” Allison told the yeti. She knew that, despite his murderous tendencies, there was a kind soul behind those angry eyes. And that fur. Fur that was looking warmer and warmer by the second.

The yeti looked angrily at Allison. She was exactly the type of person who would travel haplessly into a blizzard without a proper coat. Yet he had no reason to murder her. “Fine,” he said.

“What’s your name?” Alison asked. As the yeti felt her head rest against his heart, he noticed a warm sensation spreading through his chest. Could it be… love?

“Andrew Blast,” the yeti said, but Allison was already asleep.

5. Switch genres.

Another classic writing exercise. Feeling stuck in a scene? Write it as a play. Cut out the description and just have the characters talk to each other. Or write out your plot like an old-timey news story, hitting the Who, What, When, Where and Why. Or write a poem! Perhaps see if you can fit your entire story into the seventeen syllables of a haiku. Here’s some inspiration:

Katniss and Peeta

Threatened to die together

Instead they made out.

6. Get away from your laptop.

Why do we have our best ideas when we’re in the shower? Because we’re not staring at a laptop, THAT’S WHY. Sometimes getting away from your blank page helps you figure out what to write on it later.

For some of us, the best writing exercise is actual exercise. Get away from your desk and take a hike, literally. Hike, walk, or run—but make sure to have a notebook or napkin with you so you can quickly jot down all the great ideas that pop in your head. Because those ideas will show up. Trust us.

Alternatively, going to a fresh new place like a coffee shop or a store can help generate new ideas. Museums are great for this kind of thing, too.

And if all else fails, you can just take a shower, since we already know that’s where the best ideas come from.

What’s your method of smashing writer’s block?