Getting Unstuck

I attended the Sisters in Crime Central Jersey chapter meeting today, where handwriting analysis expert Terry Antoniewicz was the guest speaker. We spoke later and discussed creativity and the connection between the physical act of writing and the human brain.

It dawned on me that whenever I get really, truly stuck on something I’m writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, I can get unstuck by simply putting pen to paper and letting creativity bloom. Staring at the monitor simply doesn’t inspire me much of the time. Sometimes the clean, white screen is intimidating, as though daring me to come up with something and fill the page. My mind goes as blank as the first page of the document.

The physical act of cursive writing is like a tonic for the brain. Ideas begin to flow on real paper and I get a feeling of accomplishment – even though I know the words are only a few paragraphs and the word count will probably amount to no more than a hundred words. Still, my best ideas began in long-hand.

I keep a pad and a pen on my night table. Waiting for sleep, my mind often races and strange ideas pop into my head – a mysterious stranger, an unusual name or occupation for a character, or even a great way to poison a victim that could possibly go undetected. I write these thoughts down, awake in the morning to elaborate on the same writing pad, then fire-up the old computer to transfer these ideas and form a story or a chapter.

I don’t think I could write an entire book this way, and I can’t imagine how writers did this before the invention of typewriters, let alone computers. But using pens, pencils and notebook paper to express those initial creative thoughts are enough to get my juices flowing. If you find yourself stuck, give it a try.


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