For our latest stream, I wanted to induce something that most people try to avoid: writer’s block. After chat voted on a random sentence to start our writing exercise, I went with it and wrote half of a story, not knowing where I was going with it.
Then, just when I got to the point where I didn’t know what to write next, I stopped. That was my self-induced writer’s block. I couldn’t figure out what should happen next, and I could probably spend all day sitting there staring at the screen.
But instead of doing that, chat voted between three new random sentences, and the winning sentence immediately became the next sentence in our story. It was like taking a wrecking ball against a writer’s block wall, or de-clogging a writer’s block pipe… whichever metaphor you prefer.
Here’s the story I wrote, with the randomly-chosen first sentence and writer’s-block-destroying sentences in bold:
The sky is clear; the stars are twinkling. Steve was lying down in the back of his pickup truck with his girlfriend Jennifer. All around them rolled empty fields of darkness, the only light coming from the moon and stars, and the yellow glow of the radio in the truck cabin warbling local oldies.
Steve was about to say something, but he was interrupted by the chirping of crickets. He’d been trying to say it all night, but there was always something stopping him. First it’d been the fireflies going off, and Jennifer shrieking with delight, trying to capture them. Then it’d been when her favorite song “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” came on the radio, and she made him sing along. And now it was the crickets. Always something.
“Hey,” Steve tried again, once the crickets had died down. “I’ve been meaning to tell you something.”
“What is it?” Jennifer asked.
“Remember when we worked together at McDonald’s?” Steve said. “In high school?”
“Kind of. It’s all just kind of one big deep-fried blur.”
Disappointment hit Steve in the gut like a brick, but he had to keep going. “Do you remember what we used to talk about?”
“How much the customers sucked and our boss sucked even more?” Jennifer said with a laugh. “Oh yeah, I remember.”
Steve cleared his throat. It was time. If it was meant to be, then she would understand.
(This was the point where I stopped writing, got “writer’s block,”
and then inserted a random sentence to keep going.)
“The lake is a long way from here.”
Silence. Jennifer stared at him in confusion.
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“The lake,” he said, shocked that she didn’t understand right away. “You know, our lake.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You don’t remember?” he said. “We were supposed to buy a lake together. Remember?”
Jennifer shook her head. Steve sighed and explained. “The first time we met. We were both working the cash registers, and you said how you’d love to just move to a lake and live there, away from deep friers and patty slates forever. And I said sure, together we could buy the lake itself, and move in, isolated from the world. You know, Emerson style.”
She blinked long and hard before responding. “You remember that?”
“I remember every second I was with you,” he said. “How happy you made me. And then how you said the only way you’d buy a lake with me is if we were…”
“…married,” she finished for him with a gasp. She clasped his hand. “I do remember that! Steve, are you doing what I think you’re doing?”
“Exactly,” Steve said, thrilled that she finally understood. “I needed to tell you.”
“Oh Steve, I–”
“Yup. We can’t get married anytime soon. So the lake is far away for now.”
She let go of his hand and her smile disappeared. “Oh,” she muttered. “Well, that’s okay. But you didn’t have to tell me in such a confusing way.”
“Oh,” Steve said. “I’m sorry. I just… thought it would be special.”
The two of them lay back down in the bed of the truck. Steve thought about saying something, but then the crickets started chirping again and he lost his chance.
It’s not the greatest story in the world, but that’s not really the point of these exercises. The point is to, most importantly, just get something written down, since that’s half the battle right there. And two, it’s to show how you can break your own writer’s block by using just a random occurrence. Writing anything is better than just staring at a blank page!
For example, this story originally had nothing to do with lakes or McDonald’s coworkers. It wasn’t until after we got the random sentence, kept writing, and saw where it led us that we then figured out what the story was about. Then, during the second draft, we went back in and added the details of them working together.
Writing is rarely a linear experience. Sometimes we don’t know what a story is about until we’ve finished it, and then we can go back and write what it was supposed to be the entire time. But we’ll never get to that point if we don’t first get something down on the page!
Next, for the writing prompt, the chat voted for this one by Dascancer: “In a world where people end their lives as soon as they’ve finished contributing to society in order to keep productivity at peak levels.”
There were a lot of ways to take this prompt, and the chat voted for me to write a story that started with this line: “All of my friends were peer pressuring me into killing myself.”
If you want to join us and help write a story by trolling in chat, or share your own writing for feedback, then we’d love to have you. We stream on Twitch every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7:30pm-9:30pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).
And you missed the stream, you can still watch it here on rerun until Twitch deletes it.
Hope to see you next time, friend!
Featured image: Pakutaso