August 24, 2009

Bust Your Writer's Block With These 7 Quotations

I love quotations, don't you? Those little sound bites, often from famous people, that make us sit up and take notice. From quotations we glean snippets of wisdom or recognize ourselves in the words. Then, too often and all too quickly, the quotations float away, forgotten, stuffed into the distant corners of our brains like last week's to-do list.

One thing I've discovered as a writer is that quotations can sometimes push me beyond my writer's blocks. This week, I'm challenging you to experiment with seven methods of busting through writer's block using seven quotations. Read them and reread them. Let the words soak into your soul. Then apply them to your writing. I've included some ideas for applying them, but go beyond what I've suggested and see where the quotations take you.

Ready? Here we go.

1. "The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the Universe which runs through himself and all things." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Application: Look beyond yourself. What things in the universe inspire you? How can you incorporate those inspirations into your writing? Get back to the basics and ponder how your environment affects your senses.

2. "Wait until you are hungry to say something, until there is an aching in you to speak." -- Natalie Goldberg

Application: Take a guilt-free break. Find a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts, and don't forget to take along a notebook and a pen. Empty your mind, relax, enjoy the surroundings, and wait for a passionate thought to fill you. (It will; trust me.) Write it down before it creeps away. Revisit that thought and use it to fuel the fire of passion the next time you sit down to write.

Now consider these two diametrically opposed ways of breaking through your block.

3. "I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten - happily, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another." -- Brenda Ueland

Application: Write slowly. Carefully consider each word, each sentence and each paragraph. Don't rewrite! Just be aware of each word and sentence as if stringing beads. Think of words in terms of sizes, shapes, colors and patterns. You might discover that your writing needs variety.

4. "The faster I write the better my output. If I'm going slow I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them."
-- Raymond Chandler

Application: Write like a maniac driving on the Autobahn at 100+ mph. Don't control the words; let them control you. Write without thinking. You may be surprised by the words and ideas that flow onto your paper or computer screen.

5. "If I didn't know the ending of a story, I wouldn't begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph first, and then I go back and work towards it. I know where I'm going. I know what my goal is. And how I get there is God's grace." --Katherine Anne Porter

Application: Begin at the end. Maybe you already know how your story ends, but how about the chapter you're working on, or even the paragraph that you're writing? Before you write the next paragraph, write its ending. Then go back and write toward the end.

6. "The secret of good writing is to say an old thing a new way or to say a new thing an old way." -- Richard Harding Davis

Application: Choose a key idea from your story. Then make a list of various ways to present it. Come at it from different angles and see where it takes you.

7. "Try drawing or painting a scene you're working on. Often this will help free up your imagination." -- Kevin Henkes

Application: Try breaking your writer's block by doodling, drawing or painting. Often, a visual image prompts words. Remember that writing exercise your teacher made you do in elementary school: Choose a picture and write about it? Some things never change. Draw the essence of your paragraph, chapter or story. Then write about what you see.

So, there you have it – this week's challenge. Give it a try, and let me know if it inspired you to break through your block. And if you have any other great writers' quotes to share, please do.


CMPointer said...

Wow. Wow. Wow. These are so ab-so-lute-ly true!!! I honestly don't know which one I like the best. They all speak to me or have spoken to me at one time or another. If I had to pick one as my favorite, it would be Chandler's remark about the speed of writing and "pushing words out" versus "being pulled by words." Ah. Good stuff!!

Jean Fischer said...

Thanks for your comment! I like the Emerson quote the best, but that's because I'm a nature lover. They're all good quotes. I had trouble choosing just seven.

Donita K. Paul said...

This is a great article. Thanks so much. May I put your blogspot on my website as helpful hints for writers. Look at to see what company you'd be in. I followed a link from FaceBook to find you.

Jean Fischer said...

Hi, Donita.

I'm glad that you liked the article. Yes, please add my blog to your website, and thanks so much!


Anonymous said...

Great quotes! That one from Emerson sounds like something he'd say, since he was a Transcendentalist.

I think quotes can definitely help one get out of a block. Great idea there.

Thanks for sharing these prompts!

~ReneƩ Le Vine

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

Great quotes and suggestions! I chuckled on your idea to write like you're on the Autobahn.

I'm going to link to this article in a future blog post. Super advice.

Susan :)

Nancy said...

I love the Emerson quote. There is inspiration in the idea and the way he says that idea. All good examples to get us going. Thanks.