Friday, April 16, 2010

Crichton's Cure for Writer's Block


I was fretting too much over that opening sentence.
I worked on it scrupulously,
thinking that if I could only get the first sentence right,
the rest of the book would come easy.
That was a big mistake.

Weeks went by with my staring at blank paper
and getting nowhere.

One day I decided to just start writing
in the style of the Dick and Jane first grade readers.
Simple little words,
without bothering about style or polish -
just to get the story on paper.

I started writing,
"There is a little town on a hill called Santa Vittoria.
It is in Italy. The people in the town
grow grapes and make wine.
One day, not too long ago..."
and so on. It worked fine.

Soon I was writing like mad all day long.
The pages began to pile up and I felt better.

Robert Crichton

Next time you feel like you've hit the creative wall, instead of butting your head up against it, just step aside. Plop yourself down in the grass and remember the basics. Write like a first grader until the creativity flows and the wall crumbles.

Have a weekend filled with creativity!

54 comments:

Jaydee Morgan said...

I love this! This is exactly what I need to do when I'm stuck. Thanks so much - and here's to a great weekend!

Lydia Kang said...

that is so true! I think I did this a few times and didn't realize I was doing it, and it was so helpful!

Natalie said...

What excellent advice. I think sometimes I get hung up on trying to write something good the first time. But it's really better to just write SOMETHING and then go back and edit later.

laurel said...

Great reminder. I also can get very stuck trying to be great in draft. As Natalie said, it's easier to start with something and revise.

Katie Ganshert said...

I love that!

If you read my rough drafts, you'd probably think they actually WERE written by a first grader (no offense to any first graders) :)

Angie Paxton said...

GREAT post!

JustineDell said...

Great advice. I'll try that next time and see how it goes.

Those Dick and Jane books always were cool ;-)

~JD

roxy said...

Thanks for the timely reminder. I enjoyed Dick and Jane as a kid. Come to think of it, I still like them. Have a great weekend.

Heather said...

I love that, great advice! Next time I get stuck I'll try it.

Victoria Dixon said...

This is very true. Used to be whenever I had a block, I'd just say something like: "BLAAAAAAHHHH!" and Then write, "Once upon a time" and whatever else came out was bonus. Note, the BLAAAAH is also very important. LOL Thanks for the comment on Laurel's Leaves!

Elana Johnson said...

That's a great bit of advice. I think sometimes we stand in our way more than we think. I'm blogging about this next week!

Christ is Write. said...

Wow, good idea! I never thought about doing this, but I'll definitely have to try it out the next time my words won't flow. Great post! :)

Tessa

Michelle Gregory said...

great stuff! thx.

Shelley Sly said...

This is so cute and so helpful! I'll have to keep this in mind. Thank you, as always, for these amazing posts!

Mary Campbell said...

Really good advice. I felt like that's what I did this morning. I went back to basics. I allowed myself to just write - free flow without worrying to much about if it was good or not. I wrote three pages this morning. I may not use them in my book, but it felt good to get the words on paper.

Kristin said...

I so needed this today, Shannon! Thanks!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Thanks, guys! I wasn't sure how this post was going to go over. I'm thrilled you all enjoy Crichton's advice as much as I did. :-)

K. Harrington said...

Good stuff!

Lola Sharp said...

Good advice!

Happy Weekend, Shannon!
~Lola

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

This is so applicable to me! I've looked at my stinking WiP so many times, my eyes feel permanently crossed. Time to look at things more simply.

Sandy Shin said...

That's a great advice. I often get stuck, not because I don't know what to write next, but because I'm so caught up in getting it right. Just write something and continue on are definitely the best way to go.

Julie Dao said...

I love this advice! Simplicity always wins out. Thank you for sharing and have a great weekend Shannon!

Kelly said...

Simply true! HAve a great weekend, Shannon!

Emily Ann Benedict said...

How true! Sometimes the best advice for writers is "just write!" :)

Btw, I'm having a discussion on YA fictionon on my blog right now and I'd love to have your opinion! :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I not only like this advice, but enjoyed the form in which he presented it. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Roxane B. Salonen said...

As my old (favorite) math teacher used to say all the time: K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Silly (or some other word). Why do we forget this all too often? What a great thought, Shannon, to just pull back, throw out all the "musts" that sometimes clutter our minds and just...write. Simply, effectively, if nothing else, then to get that channel flowing again. A nice thought to end the week. :)

Carolyn V. said...

Shannon - I like Robert Crichton more already! I'm glad he gets writers block too. =)

Karen Lange said...

Great idea. Thanks for sharing it.

Mary Aalgaard said...

That is the secret. Just write. Stop worrying about perfect. There's no such thing.

Christina Lee said...

Absolutely PERFECT!!!!!!!

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

Great advice. I have to remind myself of this simple concept next time I get stuck. Which is in 3...2...1...

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I loved this! Your blog is so on point and gets the message across in just a few words. Thank you for the great post!

L.T. Elliot said...

I've totally done that before! Isn't that wild? Good ol' Dick & Jane. =]

Solvang Sherrie said...

Brilliant solution!

Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm definitely doing that on Book #2. It's totally sloppy with plot holes galore, but I don't care because it's getting written. That's all that matters!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Ha! Next time I'm stuck, I'll type: Look. Look up.
Maybe my characters will look up and the plot will take off.
Seriously, this is a fascinating idea.

DL Hammons said...

Weekend....here I come!!! :)

Heidi Willis said...

What great advice!! So true, too. The time, I think, to worry about the perfection of the first sentence is in rewrites. In the first draft, you just gotta get the words on the page.

Have a great weekend!

Alyson said...

Lovely advice! Thanks and Happy Friday!

Elaine AM Smith said...

What a great post, Shannon. You just have to write with passion and belief.

Lisa K. said...

Now that is excellent advice! I think every writer should read this.

Jackee said...

Great, empowering thoughts! Sometimes I sit there and ask myself over and over again, "Is this telling? Am I telling? I need to stop that!" But his advice is great--it gives me permission to be elemental in my writing in the first go round.

Thanks, Shannon!

Deb Salisbury said...

Wonderful advice! I think I do get most stuck when I'm trying too hard. Thanks!

Sheri Larsenッ said...

Wow, Shannon. I think we're all on the same wavelength right now. I just came from three separate blogs--mine included--that addressed this issue. Thanks for the green print. I will not forget it now. Enjoy your weekend also.

Lisa and Laura said...

I love this...channel our inner first graders. Done.

Myrna Foster said...

I read all of his books that I could get my hands on when I was in high school.

Thanks for passing on his advice.

Christina Farley said...

This is such good advice. Sometimes you just need to get over the first lines to get those juices going.

Jen said...

I missed this post, probably because I was in whining mode and here you are explaining to me the cure for writer's block... which I would have used on the revising side of things! Thanks for the help :)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Excellent advice, Shannon! Such beautiful words of wisdom. Why do we writers always insist on butting our heads against the writer's block?

I hope your weekend has also been filled with creativity.

Patti Lacy said...

Great advice!
I did just what you said--b/f reading your blog!!!
P

Jennie Englund said...

Okay! Yes! Good!

Now help me apply that to revision...

E. Elle said...

Great advice! I think I will apply that in the immediate future.

Suzette Saxton said...

I LOVE this! I had never heard of it before. Thanks for sharing!

Alexia561 said...

Excellent advice! I was once told that if I was having trouble with the beginning of the story, to just start in the middle and see where it goes from there. Whenever I'm stuck, I just start in the middle and figure out the beginning later. Seems to work!

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