/The What-If Game

The What-If Game

Write long enough and eventually you’ll hit a story block. By this I mean you’re going along, the story has been working, and suddenly – BAM! You hit a brick wall and feel like you’re dead in the water. Progress stops. You get frustrated to the point where you want to rip your hair out by the roots. Sound familiar?

Don’t worry – writer’s block hits all of us at some point. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost your voice; it doesn’t mean you need to throw the story away; it is stressful. You can get past it, though.

First Things First
The first step is to relax. Yes, it sucks to be blocked, and it sucks even more if you’re on a deadline. Realize that obsessing about the fact you’re blocked is only going to make it worse. Take some deep breaths; get away from the story for a few minutes and take a break. When you come back try what I call the What-If Game.

How the Game Works
This is a modification of one of the exercises in Double Your Creative Power by S.L. Stebel. It’s a great writing book, it’s relatively cheap, and I thought its exercises were awesome.

First, save what you’ve got and put it aside. Go somewhere quiet, or where you won’t be disturbed.

Open a new Word file, or better yet, open a physical notebook to a blank piece of paper. (Sometimes switching modes helps because writing longhand engages a different part of your brain than typing)

At the top of the page write the words “What If” – and if it helps, put one sentence about the point you’re at under that heading.

Give yourself 15-20 minutes, no more, no less, set a timer if you need to, and just write white-hot, anything that comes. Free your mind and let things flow. It may take a few minutes of doodling, writing grocery lists, backpedaling about where the story was – just get it out. Fast as you can.

When the timer goes off, put things aside and take a brief break. Do something not related to writing for 10-15 minutes.

After the break, look through what you wrote and pick out things that resonate. Repeat the exercise using these items. Keep repeating this until you feel you’re moving forward again.

This works for me, it hopefully will help you. You may need to adjust things like the timing and how long you get away from it for how you work (if you’re new at writing, you may want to leave it for a day or two).

How about you? Any thoughts on how you get unstuck?

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Some know me as...Tim...