Activating Your Core Strength as a Writer
By Erica Goss
We’ve all been there: faced with a blank page, we stare until our eyes glaze over, devoid of ideas. Writer’s block is like insomnia, a soul-robbing period where our brains refuse to do what we want them to. No more frustrating situation exists for writers.
If we’re smart, we’ll get up and move around. Exercise is good for the body and the brain, and movement gets us out of a rut faster than sitting at our desks. Every so often, we need to shake up our routines.
My book Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets has a wealth of ideas designed to help writers get over writer’s block. I’d like to share the chapter titled “Core Strengths” with you. This chapter deals with exercise, both literary and physical, as a technique useful for writers.
If you are familiar with the CrossFit exercise program, you know that it promotes a group of intense, varied workouts. These include the WOD (Workout of the Day), which is never the same set of movements two days in a row. The CrossFit faithful are convinced that the intensity and the variety of the exercises give them a superior workout.
What do a bunch of sweaty people yelling “arrrrgghhhh!” and throwing twenty-pound medicine balls around have to do with poetry? Well, plenty. If you ever embarked on an exercise program only to find that it became less and less effective, you understand the need to mix up your workout, whether it’s physical or literary. Varying your writing routine can lead to new insights, a more confident tone, and can break you out of the creative doldrums.
Here are some suggestions to help you develop your core strength as a writer:
Change your writing routine. For example, you might be convinced you write better in the wee hours of the morning, or in the afternoon, or at midnight. Try writing at the time of day when you normally feel less effective.
Practice writing in short, timed bursts. Set a time limit – say five minutes – and write. Then decrease the time by a minute until you’re down to one minute. Then decrease it to thirty seconds. Learning to write this way can be very helpful when you get a sudden inspiration but you’re not at your desk.
Change your location. I don’t mean swap your nice comfy desk for the local café – that’s too easy. Remember, we’re using CrossFit for a model here! Take your notebook to a place you have never written before: the edge of the ocean, an animal shelter, the freeway overpass, a construction site, a karate studio, an appliance store, a gas station, a preschool, a pharmacy. Practice those short, timed bursts. Don’t worry if you attract attention.
Vary your reading diet. Always stick to free verse of a certain period? Try some of the New Formalists. Tend to read mostly people of the same gender and ethnic group as yourself? Well, there’s really no excuse for that – but sometimes it takes an effort to seek out what’s different. Read more challenging work, and don’t give up right away.
Write a bunch of poems with titles like “Squat,” “Deadlift,” “Dips,” “Rope Climb,” “Pull-ups,” and “Holds.” Make them muscular. Make them sweat. Then do it again.
Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets is available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Vibrant-Words-Ideas-Inspirations-Poets/dp/0989667634/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396885012&sr=8-1&keywords=vibrant+words
Erica Goss is the Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA, and the host of Word to Word, a show about poetry. She is the author of Wild Place (Finishing Line Press 2012) and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets (PushPen Press 2014). Her poems, reviews and articles appear widely, both on-line and in print. She won the 2011 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Contest and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2010 and 2013. Please visit her at: www.ericagoss.com.