Day 7: The Slough of Writerly Despond

SloughOfDespondWriter’s block happens. One day I will be zipping along, with ideas and words flowing. And on the next it’s like I’m Christian in the Slough of Despond, mired in the mud and stuck. What?

Sometimes the cause is a life block. There isn’t much you can do when you are overwhelmed by sickness (as I was in May and June) or chaotic circumstances. Making the rounds of Facebook and Twitter might be all you can do, and that’s fine.

You can fix anything but a blank page. ~Nora Roberts

Most of the time, however, writer’s block is caused by loss of momentum. Often I bog down during the school year, simply because I have a hectic work schedule and little time to think. And yet I still have to write.

When this happens, I haul out a notebook and the kitchen timer. Here’s the deal: Once you begin writing (yes, by hand!), you must keep the pen moving for ten minutes. No backtracking, no crossing out. Forget grammar rules or even making sense! Get words on the page. Four or five minutes in, the creative mind will kick in and start to deliver–and you’re off and running with your story.

Long live the free write! When I adopted this practice in my writing classes, the quality of storytelling immediately improved–and so did student morale. When it was time for students to finalize their writing, material to work with was at hand.

Barbara-Baig-HowToBeAWriterBarbara Baig’s little book is a wonderful resource. Here is my review of her technique and how it has worked for me.

Similar to this, but involving 25-minute blocks of work time, is the Pomodoro Method. It’s what I use for many tasks (in addition to writing), such as grading student work, house chores, and gardening. Because the hardest part is not only getting started, but staying on-task. You can learn more about the Pomodoro from my article here.

Day 7 already! So far, so good. If you’d like to check out what the other 35-Day Challenge participants are blogging about, you can find their blogs here.

9 thoughts on “Day 7: The Slough of Writerly Despond

  1. Laura, I did that with my college freshmen in Writing Comp class. They stated to enjoy it! I love the way you explained it about the creativity setting in after a short time. I enjoyed teaching that course.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The creative mind wake-up is what happens to me–I can feel it. There I’ll be, writing random sentences when suddenly an idea for my story bubbles up. Soon I’m writing dialog and everything. 🙂


    1. My working and teaching brain can function fine, but apparently my writing brain likes to sleep in. And my housecleaning brain, well, that part of me prefers to be comatose. 🙂


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