15 responses to “Drano for writers: 10 tricks to get the words flowing again”

  1. Natalia

    I like it!

    The tip to take a notebook and pen with you everywhere is right on.

    Love the title. Reminds me of Hermes’ “Caribbean drano” (Futurama) and it’s very visual. Ha.

  2. Paula B.

    Stopping while the words are flowing has got to be the *worst* advice for dealing with blocks I’ve ever heard, Michelle. If I did that, I’d be blocked for hours! Days, even.

  3. Paula B.

    Here’s how I think of it, Michelle. You wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea, but you don’t write it down, so in the morning it’s gone.

    To me, that’s what stopping when you’re on a roll is like. Fiction, nonfiction, whatever.

  4. Michele | Writing the Cyber Highway

    Sometimes photos do it for me. If I have to find a photo for the article myself, I’ll stop writing and find that photo. There have been a lot of times that the perfect photo has inspired me and that’s all it took for the words to flow!

    Other times, I take a walk outside with my camera and just take pics of whatever: the clouds, flowers, insects. And after I’ve cleared my head for a bit, I come back and get busy.

    Great post! I tweeted about it and shared it on Facebook. :-)


  5. Rebecca Laffar-Smith

    I think Lifehacker’s advice is about training your state. By stopping while you’re still ‘in the flow’ rather than waiting until you’re blocked when you come back to the page your mind has an easier time getting back into state. If every time you leave the page you’ve reached ‘the end’ or ‘the hard part’ then every time you come back to the page it’s unfriendly.

    Still, sometimes NOTHING much works. My current novel has been ‘waiting’ for me for what feels like months now and I still haven’t found a way to get past the block, on other projects it’s just fine. In fact, so long as I avoid all thought of my novel my writing flow is wonderful. If I start thinking about the book EVERYTHING jams up. Wish there was a more literal drano for that kind of problem. lol

  6. Style and Inspiration

    Hi Michelle,

    I love your blog! I’ve been making my way through all of your posts. I’m at December 08 so far and loving it all! Thanks for all of the useful info!

  7. J. Bentz

    I prefer any type of cognitive distraction – like throwing a baseball into a glove, for example. You can still think about your subject, but the mechanical action of throwing the ball forces your brain to be “doing” something else.

    That, and I’m a total baseball geek, so any excuse I can get to pull out the glove is good with me!

  8. David Hayes

    I mainly do longer feature writing. When I finish an interview, often combined with seeing a subject in action, at a “scene” of some kind, & am ready to transcribe, I first roughly describe the scene (clothing, environment, actions, etc). When I’m ready to write the first draft, I have several of these “scenes” already roughly written. Usually one of them is the opening. Maybe another is a scene I know will be used mid-way through the piece. I just copy-and-paste it into the first draft & begin fine-tuning. Presto, I’m not facing a blank screen, a major trigger for writer’s block. In effect, I started writing the story while I was doing the reporting & interviewing. I’ve found this to be very effective.

  9. The NaNo Plan – Ready, Set, Write! « Brainstorms & Bylines

    […] Drano for Writers: 10 Tricks to Get the Words Flowing Again by Michele V. Rafter […]

  10. Michelle Rafter

    The passage in the Lifehacker piece says: “…stopping while you’re “going good” leaves your mind with something to develop between now and the next time you sit down to it.” Maybe it works if you’re writing fiction, but for the kind of writing I do, I’ve got to agree that I don’t think it’d work for me.


  11. Michelle Rafter



  12. Michelle Rafter

    David: This reminded me of when I was still a newspaper reporter. Sometimes I couldn’t drive back to the office fast enough to start writing – the words were literally racing into my head. A few times I turned on my tape recorder and dictated opening lines to myself. Other times, mainly when I was away on assignment, I’d sit in my car or my hotel room and write everything that was pouring into my head as soon as I could in order to capture it before it went away. This was all before laptops were cheap enough for newspapers to give to all their reporters or me to own, otherwise I would have used one for that purpose.


  13. Michelle Rafter

    I have two kids who are kinetic learners – they do best if they’re able to move around, wiggle, look around, do something, while they’re absorbing material, whether it’s reading or listening to a teacher. Sounds a lot like what you’re describing. As for baseball: I didn’t start out as a fan, but 12 years of going to my kids’ games has converted me.


  14. Michelle Rafter

    I haven’t attempted writing fiction – maybe because I’m so blocked I can’t even get started! – so thanks for sharing this perspective. I understand what you mean about stopping when you’re in the flow – that’s why I suggest putting something down on the page so the next day you’re not starting from zero. I often will start a story late in the afternoon of the day before it’s due and pound out several hundred words, including the lead and first couple paragraphs. I don’t normally create a written outline – if it’s a 500, 1,000 or even 1,500 word piece I’m pretty good about outlining it in my head. But if I have those first five or six opening graphs done, including the intro and nut graph, I can open the story file the next morning and know exactly where I am and what I have to work on.


  15. Michelle Rafter

    Thanks so much – from the time stamps on your comments, it looks like you were reading all night – hope it was worth it!


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