unblock writer's block

The 1000 Word Sentence

So you have been sitting at your desk for hours, unable to write a word.

I have many questions for you, the first—how long did you allow your story idea to marinate? Second, did you jot down notes? Third, do you know your characters, your hero? Fourth, what’s your story goal?

Only you can determine whether or not you need more preliminary work. I do, though, have an exercise that might help unlock your creativity. You can tailor it to your story or use it as a vehicle to get into the zone.

The exercise is from Max Steel. Take twenty minutes and finish one of the sentences below. Write 1000 words with or without punctuation. Don’t judge the words, don’t think. Follow your instincts. The exercise has freed many a stuck writer and resulted in published works.

  • When I was young…
  • When I was first married…
  • My mother was known to say…
  • He didn’t agree with…
  • I should have liked to…
  • When my father decided to…
  • What I’m about to say…
  • I can tell you about…
  • Bombay is anything but…
  • My fifty-fifth birthday…

An Example by Seldon Edwards:

I can tell you about Larry now because he’s moved on to tinker with other lives and with other men’s wives and because in the quiet loneliness of the past few months, rattling through the routine—thrashing sleepless in my half empty bed—I approach the perspective that has been eluding me all these years, perspective on Mary’s reasons and my own—Jesus, my own—for doing what we did even though we knew we were dissolving a marriage that ten years ago across wine glasses and candles look like one of the best that man, or at least two people, could come up with; but we did what we did and decided on principle—vile principal—and now Larry and Mary are gone, Larry to New York to tinker, and Mary to the lord-knows-where, which is the very pith of my loneliness and exasperation since I don’t know where to begin looking, though I guess I could try her only living relative, her father in Chicago, but I don’t know, and it’s the not knowing that outstings the not having because you can drown the not having in drink, or other women, or the neatly roll joints Larry left behind as consolation, but the not knowing eats at my soul, at my very core, and won’t be neutralized by all the conventional balms, and through it all I asked myself why I force the issue, why I saw the infidelity, why I called it infidelity, anything more than innocent restlessness, something in the air of a board and pill-weary suburban community, where I forced her to settle, something I didn’t have to see and something I certainly didn’t have to call her on, and why I thought my manhood—manhood, that’s it: “If all else fails,” I’d said back then, a fat bank vice president see just around the corner, “At least I can keep her happy”—my manhood more important than those ten years of security, and why I thought my wife in bed with the man I taken care to introduce her to – round out her character and all that—was such an earth-shattering event, when, in actuality, other marriages in these fashionable pockets of Marin County bury similar offenses quietly without ceremony each year, each month, each day, but Larry was my friend, in my house where we usually saw Mary’s friends, and I just didn’t expect my innocent—ludicrously innocent—needle-pointing, rose dusting, carpool-driving, church-going little wife falling for such transparent charm as “You’re an oasis to a man who’s walked the desert of humanity for more years than he’d like to think”—ridiculous you say, ridiculous I say—but I heard him say it, right here in front to me that first night…

Again, you can tailor the exercise to your story idea. Give yourself a phrase that pertains to your hero, crawl into his skin, and follow where the prompt leads.

If you need more inspiration or idea generation support, browse The Idea.

Written by The UnNovelist
The Unnovelist