Oh dear, you sit down at your laptop with the intention to write thousands of words, only to stare at the damn thing as the blank screen taunts the living daylights out of you. Writer’s Block… we all know of it, and to some degree, suffer with it – be it for an afternoon… a week… longer… although I choose to see it as a myth us writer’s make up to justify our fear and stilted ways. Either way, it’s a horrible suffering, and when times are tough, I often turn to writing short stories in a bid to kickstart my creativity.
You may associate writing short stories with literary magazines and anthologies, but I choose to take a different viewpoint.
Oh yes, writing short stories has saved my bacon on more than a few occasions, so sit back, warm up the coffee, and ready yourself for a new outlook on writing short stories, for I have a wee story of my own to share. And no, on this occasion, it isn’t fiction. It’s as real as you reading this right now…
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HELLO WRITER’S BLOCK, MY OLD FRIEND
Seriously, I don’t believe in writer’s block. It’s an excuse us pen scratchers invented to make ourselves feel better. It’s an excuse to excuse our staring at the blank page, unable to write a single damn sentence. But, for the purposes of this post, let’s say writer’s block is real. Let’s assume it’s a real disease that attacks us all at some point, and like most diseases, there’s an antidote of sorts.
Most writer’s have a secret solution to tackling the dreaded block, and for me, it’s writing short stories.
Now, I could go into a detailed monologue right now, preaching about why and how I turn to writing short stories, but instead, let me replay a real conversation I had with a writer buddy of mine. Is your coffee warm? Good, let’s begin:
She sighed, and cocked her neck, looking at me with puppy-dog eyes. “Not great. I’ve not written anything in months.”
Nodding, I recalled the last time we met for coffee – maybe three months earlier – and how she said the exact same thing. “It sounds like you’re so close to the end, though. What’s the issue?”
“Well, I’ve just reached an impasse, I suppose. It’s a tough story to tackle, and I have no idea where to take it next.”
“I hate it when that happens,” I said, shaking my head.
“Plus, and I don’t want to use this an excuse, but I’ve found finding time difficult since little man was born.”
“Oh, tell me about it,” I replied, sympathising a great deal, because considering our little men are of a similar age, I understand the attention they desire and require.
“I know it’s not a real excuse, because loads of people write whilst pregnant and while they’re little. But…”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “And, I feel so uncreative at the minute. I hate it.”
“Have you tried writing something new?” I asked.
“God no! I can’t imagine starting a new project.”
“No, not a new project. I mean, write for the sake of writing. Write a few short stories and rediscover your passion again.”
“Sure. When I struggle with things, I turn to writing short stories, and before long, I remember why I write.”
Looking past me, out into the Sunday morning crowd, she puckered her lips and tightened her stare. “You think that might work?”
“Absolutely,” I said, grabbing her arm. “Just begin writing short stories, and see where it takes you. If they’re linked to your current book, great. If not, no worries. The point is to rediscover your love for writing, get your creative juices flowing, and kick your brain into gear. After all, writing is like anything else. We need practice. We need to warm up. To expect not to write for months, and get back to where you were in an instant is insane.”
Smiling, she looked at me, nodding and biting her lip. “You know what, I think you’re right. I just need to start something, don’t I? Get back in the saddle, as they say.”
“So, how do you go about it?”
“Well, there’s no right or wrong way. Sometimes I use writing prompts, or write about what’s around me, or create a story from the POV of a supporting character in my book. I don’t think it matters what you write, so long as you write something.”
Doing a little jig behind our stall, she squeaked and hopped on the spot. “I’m going to do it. Tonight.” She squeaked again. “I can’t wait.
I’ll be honest with you, her reaction surprised me. I assumed most writers turned to writing short stories when writer’s block reared its ugly head. Maybe a lot do, but some do not. That’s why I write this blog post, because I want to show how you can tackle writer’s block and your demons by writing short stories about anything and everything.
Oh, and two months later, I spoke to my friend again. This is what she said:
“I’m back! I’m working on a few new projects, got a few new clients, and am writing every day.”
“That’s great,” I said. “Are you still working on the book?”
“Not at the moment, because I’m too busy with other projects. It’s still there, though. I’ll get back to it at some point, and I’m sure it’ll work out for the better. Your idea to begin writing short stories helped a lot.”
START WRITING SHORT STORIES TODAY!
Like I told my friend, there are no rules when it comes to writing short stories.
If you want to keep working on your existing project, begin writing short stories from other character’s POV (like I said in last week’s post, this can lead to lots of new – and potentially lucrative – ideas). If you wish to escape, try something new, and use writing prompts like THESE, or go to a coffee shop, look at what’s around you, and start tapping away.
Keep these short stories to yourself, share them with your readers, submit them to magazines, sell them on Amazon, or burn them in some kind of writer’s block ritual… it really doesn’t matter.
The point is to write, escape your mind and self doubt (and all the pressure you place on yourself), and reignite your creativity once again. Saying this, I do have a few favourite methods I like to turn to, so if you like, try the following:
WRITING SHORT STORIES FROM A FRESH POINT OF VIEW
In recent weeks, I’ve spoken about writing short stories to help start a new novel. They’re a great way to learn about your characters, their journeys, and where your overall vision needs to go. But, when writer’s block kicks in, writing short stories from a fresh perspective is a great way to get back on track.
My current novel, I UNLOVE YOU, is told from Dante’s POV, so when I hit hard times, I try writing short stories from Beatrice’s lovely mind, or Joey’s weird and wonderful one. In essence, this spawned the idea for THE LETTERS OF AUSDYLAN & BEATRICE, and continues to help me learn about my characters, and escape the pressure of writing a full blown novel.
After all, it’s hard. When writing a novel, you commit yourself to a single journey for a long time, told from a single point of view, using the same style day after day. Of course you’ll wander of the righteous path from time-to-time. You’re human. I’m human. All us crazy writer-folk, are human.
So, if you write from a single character’s POV, try writing short stories from someone else’s. If you write in third person, try first person for a little while. Go back in time, or into the future, or create an alternative timeline/universe. THERE ARE NO RULES, REMEMBER?!?!
WRITING SHORT STORIES USING QUIRKY WRITING PROMPTS
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about 20 Quirky Writing Prompts. When it comes to tackling writer’s block, writing short stories based on some random prompt or two works wonders.
Here are a few writing prompts from that post:
- An ex partner of yours walks into a coffee shop, but they’ve yet to see you. You’re sat with your favourite coffee and a good book, but you can no longer focus. “Should I say hello?” you ask yourself, and if so, what the hell do you say to someone you haven’t seen for five years, and whose heart your broke the last time you did.
- You wake up on a strange bathroom floor, the last few days a drunken haze. Scared, worried, and hungover beyond belief, you try paste the bits and pieces together, and figure out why (and when) you have a butterfly tattoo on your forearm.
- You’re the first man/woman on Mars, and it’s your job to describe what you see, and how it makes you feel. All of mankind relies on you, as the video feed went down during landing.
Whether you use my writing prompts, create your own, ask your mother do make something up, or you Google ‘Creative Writing Prompts‘ and choose one of the 1,630,000 articles, start writing short stories right now, and see where it takes you.
It doesn’t have to be good, edited, worthy of other eyes, or anything in between. It’s all about igniting your creativity, training your brain, and escape the very thing that started your writer’s block in the first place. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than running away, so embrace your inner coward today (go on, you know you want to).
WRITING SHORT STORIES BASED ON SOMETHING YOU FEEL RIGHT NOW!
The final thing I try is, to OPEN MY EYES.
- Where are you right now?
- What surrounds you?
- Are you with someone?
- What do you feel?
- Did you watch or read something that plucked your heart strings?
- What frustrates you?
- Did you meet someone recently that made you feel and think?
- Are you angry… scared… happy… lethargic…?
Whatever you feel right now, start writing. Don’t overthink it or try create a work of art. Just write. Right now. For the sake of writing. Seriously, leave this blog post and come back to it later, for your notebook calls.
Right, are you back? Good, I’m glad you returned, and let me ask you this: how do you feel?
I don’t know about you, but whenever I write for the sake of writing, I feel great. It’s why we do it in the first place, and writing short stories that mean nothing whatsoever is a sure way to get you back on the right track.
That’s all there is to it, my fellow pen scratching misfit. Writing short stories provides many potential benefits, and in recent weeks I’ve covered them all. Tackling writer’s block is one of the best, so the next time you feel down, doubt yourself, and stare at the blank page, turn to writing short stories instead 🙂
I hope this post helps, and that you leave with a new idea or two. Please let me know your thoughts, and whether writing short stories is something you’ve tried in the past. And, if you like, share one or two of them with me. I’d love to read your epic creations, so whatever you have to say, get in touch via FACEBOOK or TWITTER.
Here’s to you, and writing short stories that rock 🙂
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