Today I thought to write a “few” words about how I crawled up from a writing slump. Though nowadays writing comes almost as easily as breathing to me, it hasn’t always been so.
When I was young (meaning the time when I was still in school, a long time ago…), I spent all my spare time writing and reading. After graduating from the university of applied sciences, the everyday life of an adult hit me full in the face, and I pretty much lost my interest in reading books and writing stories. I did read but not near as much as before, and my attempts to write were only occasional, and I lacked the fervor I had once possessed.
A few years ago, I was in a situation where I had more time for my interests. After a while, I started reading more and felt ready to return to writing, too. Only to realize that I cannot concentrate on it any longer.
I could start a story, write a few hours in a mad spree, and the next day find out that I had no interest in continuing with it. There were also days when I wanted to write but couldn’t figure out a subject. However, I came up with a solution that I decided to share if some of you guys are struggling with a similar problem.
I turned to the internet and searched for techniques and exercises that might help me overcome the block. I found them aplenty, of course, and picked a few that seemed best suited to my need. I admit that I don’t remember whether any of their names had anything to do with tomatoes (and am too bloody lazy to google the original technique for you), but I named it such, nonetheless. I have a hunch that I combined two or more different techniques, or at least customized one to fit my needs.
Anyway, here’s how I made writing a habit again and regained my creative spree. It’s simple and cheap, just like all the best things in life.
You need at least five sheets of paper in different colors, scissors (Optional. You can tear the paper in slips as I did.), a pencil, and a see-through jar large enough to fit your hand. And, of course, a notebook, laptop, or anything else to write into/with.
Pick a color and write the times on the slips (This isn’t necessary. You can decide to write for an hour every day.). I shared my tomato (one hour) in four chunks. Then write genres, styles, categories, and narrator persons, each on their own color. You can write down as many or few of each as you like. Fold the slips in two, so you can’t read them when picking them up from the jar or box or in whatever container you decide to keep them.
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When it’s your chosen time of the day to write your tomato (to me, it was in the morning), take your jar and pick randomly one slip of each color. It’s easier to concentrate if you set up a timer that alarms when your “chunk” is full (unless you’ve decided to write for an unlimited time which is also fine). Then you’ll write based on the keywords you picked. For instance, if you picked up ‘a quarter of a tomato’, ‘first-person male/man’, ‘a poem’, ‘science fiction’ and ‘humorous’, your task is to use fifteen minutes in writing a humorous SF poem in the first-person male voice. Very simple, fun, and at least to me, it worked like magic.
The trick is that the technique frees you from figuring out the subject, point of view, etc. You can just concentrate on creating. Writing for a specific time can be liberating to those whose creativity is disturbed and restricted by the duties of everyday life. After all, an hour isn’t a long time (and if you’re extremely busy, you can decide to write only a quarter of an hour daily). You can write your tomato while having lunch or in the evening when you might otherwise watch TV or just lounge on the couch doing nothing.
As said, to me, writing “tomatoes” worked wonders. I didn’t need to do it longer than a month or so to regain my drive and make writing a daily habit. If you’re struggling with writer’s block or new to writing, go ahead and try!
PS. Just to make clear: I haven’t invented this technique, so if you happen to know who did, be kind and inform me! I’d be happy to give the credit to whom it belongs by mentioning the original source.