On Saturday, I got to speak to the good people of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference for what might have been the 11th or 12th time. To those of you who joined me to explore writers block, I say: Welcome to The Bigger Badder Crew – we’ve been holding space for you! Or: So good to see you in person again! (Also, to the soft-shoeing tech helpmate with the smile on his face and on his hat, Richie: Thank you!!)I thought it might be fun to walk you through our exploration of writer’s block, inspired by these thoughts from Seth Godin:

People with writer’s block don’t have a problem typing. They have a problem living with bad writing, imperfect writing, writing that might expose something that they fear…The best way to deal with it is to write, and to realize that your bad writing isn’t fatal.

Naturally, this inspired in me a game of MadLibs. You can play along by picking:

  • 3 adjectives
  • 1 location
  • A number
  • 1 object
  • 2 adjectives

(A brief intermission while you jot down your choices)Okay! Now, plug them into the following sentence (adjusting the sentence as needed to work grammatically with your chosen words): 

A adjective, adjective, adjective person finds object on/at location; number days later, her whole life changes in adjective, adjective ways.

Got some ridiculousness going? Excellent!Here’s what the RRWC folks came up with: 

A stunning, short, green person finds a book on Mars; 42 days later, her whole life changes in stinky, hairy ways.

I could have stopped there and made that the full activity – write something with the MadLib sentence as the prompt but, I mean, when we can be more ridiculous in the face of discomfort, don’t we owe it to ourselves to indulge?For this, I added a twist, asking people to identify themselves as cat people, dog people, or dinosaur people.And which are you, SB?I see. Onto:As in, cat people were to write the prompt as though a fake news story, dog people in faux-Shakespearean dialect, and dino people as though they were starting a pulp detective novel.There were a few looks of wide-eyed disbelief when I announced these combined would make for our prompt for a 12-minute write; one person even accused me of giving them writer’s block. So, I offered one more invitation: Give yourself permission to write something terrible.And off we went!Now, off you go – set a 12-minute timer, give yourself permission to write something absolutely horrid, and you’re off!Did you do it? How’d it go?Friends who were there: I knew you could do it!And you did!The seven or eight people who shared their clever, creative, hilarious, on-the-fly creations showed what can be done when we don’t need to create something brilliant or perfect or even good: We can create!And from there we can iterate – we can edit and rewrite, we can ask for feedback from trusted others, we can scrap every ever-loving word as necessary brain-flush to get to the beautiful, brilliant bits of language we were seeking.

When we give ourselves permission to be ridiculous, to have fun, to just do and deal with the results later, this is where we can find not only our creative flow but all sorts of delightful surprises along the way.

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