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Veronica Varlow
  -  How To Tuesdays   -  How To Tuesday: Six Tips to Smash Writer’s Block

In the next 48 hours, my book proposal will be finished.

Every single thing that I experience I look to for possible inspiration. A possible chapter. A mini-story within a chapter.  I have had to move on a deadline, scrawling thousands of words on a page by the day.  And all the while, I need to keep it inspired.

This is what I did to not go crazy…crayon

1.  Danger Tip #1:  Trust in the Rainbow of Creativity in a Crayon Box.
To get your mind in a creative space, take 15 minutes to sit and color. Crack open the crayon box, and start coloring something simple and repetitive like manadalas. It will help your mind relax and help you let go while doing something creative. As you make the colors fill a blank page, you will automatically clear your mind of all the day-in/day-out stuff. This is a great exercise to free up all the creative thoughts to come bubbling to the surface.

I also like to color before brainstorming sessions with friends. Pass the crayons around and quietly color together for 15 minutes, then brainstorm about your projects and ideas as a group. Genius ideas will appear.

Photo of Coco Rocha by Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello

Photo of Coco Rocha by Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello

Danger Tip #2:  Just Add Water.
We are constantly bombarded by information, conversation and images.  I seek solace in a bath or shower….sometimes it’s the only place I can be alone and let my subconscious wander. It’s a place to turn inward and explore, rather than being focused on all the external stuff in life going on. If I feel myself getting stuck while writing, I’ll take a 20 minute bath and reset. It never fails.

Picture 17
Danger Tip #3: Surprise Attack- Set Your Alarm 2 Hours Earlier.
I have read that setting an alarm 2 hours before your normal wake-up time will help you remember your dreams. Waking up at an earlier time will most likely interrupt REM sleep and catch your mind in the middle of a dream.

I love that space in-between waking life and dreaming life for inspiration.

So why not use it for writing? I did this last week and hammered out a chapter in under an hour in a half sleep state. As H.G. Wells’ said in his advice for writers:  “Try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn’t expecting it.”

Picture 20
Danger Tip #4:  Let A Book Be Your Oracle. 
Close your eyes, grab a book off your bookshelf, open it up and point your finger somewhere on the page, then open your eyes. Let whatever sentence you point to inspire your imagination for a new story. Put on a 15 minute timer and speed write a short story with that oracle sentence as your first or last line of the story. Let it be horrible/good/bad/whatever. No one will ever read it if you don’t want them to.

After the exercise is finished, I guarantee you that you will be able to uncover a gem in something you wrote.


Danger Tip #5: Pump Off The Volume.

I didn’t pay the $2 for the special headset on the airplane to watch the in-flight movie. I did that on purpose….so I could get work done instead. But something unexpected happened. Life of Pi was on, and while I was writing, I would glance up randomly and catch pieces of this very visual film that I didn’t know the plot for. Just seeing pieces of images flash across the screen without volume set my imagination rolling.  I wrote a 2 page piece with a new story based on a facial expression in a silent exchange that I saw in that film that has nothing to do with a boy and a tiger.


The Spider Tree Artist in Australia

Danger Tip #6: Feast Your Eyes On This…Get Thee to an Art Happening, Art Gallery or Museum.
I’m an extremely visual person. Pictures and art evoke stories in my brain.   I seek out art – through festivals and galleries.  (Hint for New York Readers:  Go see artist Molly Crabapple’s Upcoming Shell Game Exhibit. She will get your imagination working.)

In Australia, during the Harvest Festival, I came across the work of the artist in the above photo. A tree was surrounded by tons of spider web dream catchers hanging from its branches. There was an aisle down the center which led you to the base of the tree where there was a single seat. Under an Australian moon, I sat in this single seat under a tree and was inspired to write the first poem I’ve written in years. I jotted it down in my journal in five minutes, inspired by the art around me.

The Sage under the Spider Tree
whispered her wisdom to me.
The Spiders they crawled
weaving their web
They spun their silken fibers
inside my head.
It was time, they said.
It was time.
So they gifted to me a spun web crown
and in a cocoon they lowered me down
And now I’m
in a Spider Kingdom
where I belong.

For those of you who read this diary and are writers – please introduce yourself in the comments and tell me if you’ve used these tips or if you have others to share. Also – if you have a book out or a blog online – please give a link so all of us in the Danger community can check out your work. Looking forward to connecting with you!

Veronica Varlow

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