When I work with young children, I often experience two ends of the spectrum. There’s the one group who writes diligently, taking off on a topic. They even ask if they can ‘write more’ than what’s suggested.
Good for them. But then there are those who stare blankly at the paper, waiting for inspiration to strike—and it doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have writing skills. What they lack is the ability to ask themselves the questions–find those thoughts that will help them get unstuck. Here are a few tips I like to use during writing workshops.
- What do you know something about or what do you love? This is a great starting point when you can write about anything. How often does it happen that someone is hard to begin a conversation with–at least until you hit a topic that they’re interested in? People love to talk about things they’re good at or love. It’s the best place to begin.
- Start in the beginning, middle or end. It’s not important what order you have your thoughts in. Just write whatever comes to mind. Molding your thoughts into a logical order and molding them into a concise piece of work can come later.
- Be aware of the world around you. If you can spend at least one hour looking around you, I’ll bet you notice something you haven’t before. Maybe it’s some tangible object that you’ve passed a million times and didn’t know it was there. Maybe it’s the dust on your computer that you’ve been looking through for the past three months. Maybe it’s the tiny stitching on a sneaker. There is inspiration all around us. And using your senses is a great way to become aware. The lunch that I’m eating—is it creamy, spicy, sweet? How would you describe how it tastes? That window you’re staring out of right now. What doe you see? Who do you see? Is there something about the scenery that’s different? This will also lead to great descriptive writing, if you let yourself get carried through the details.
- Ask ‘what if’ to stir your imagination. You can take something ordinary and make it extraordinary if you just start asking yourself questions. What if I give an animal special powers? What if I set a monkey loose in a school? Questions like this really stir imagination and can really get a story rolling.
- Picture yourself as a reader. Are you setting the scene using details? Are you telling them everything they need to know in order to fully understand the story? Often we can tell a story and leave out details that we know in our mind, but fail to relay that to our readers. Go back and read what you wrote as someone who knows nothing about the topic or story. In fact, ask someone else to read it and get their feedback.
I hope these tips will help you get started or find your way when you get writer’s block. If you need to be talked through it, don’t be afraid to ask for help.