Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Writing Outside Your Story: Using Short Self-Assignments When You Don't Have Anything to Write About

I first learned about short self-assignments from Natalie Goldberg's well-known Writing Down the Bones.  Goldberg introduced the concept of "freewriting" to us with that book, and many writers discovered new energy to sail past writing stall-outs by giving themselves freedom to write small, short, and random.

Working on a book project often brings me a sense of being so overwhelmed, I can't think of anything to write about.  I make brainstorming lists of topics, and this helps.  But sometimes I have to write outside my story, just to get the momentum going again.

Short self-assignments help tremendously.

In her book, Thunder and Lightning, Goldberg told the story of a time when she and a friend were stuck, unhappy, and unable to think of how to move forward creatively.  They tried talking.  They tried taking a hike.  But nothing worked until they both sat down and did a timed writing session.  As I remember the anecdote, they picked a topic outside their current writing projects, something that had less importance or weight, and this freed up the stuckness.