Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ON BLOGGING ~ How to Kick Writer's Block to the Curb...

Photo courtesy letchugo @ deviantArt

As I was sitting here staring at a very uninspired post schedule, unmoved by my planned topic, my mind became frustratingly blank. Thankfully this doesn't happen to me all that often - writer's block. But when it does I use a journalistic approach to brainstorming - the Five W's (and One H). Have you heard of this term before? Have you ever applied it to brainstorming?

The Five W's (and One H) stand for:

  • WHO
  • WHAT
  • WHY
  • WHEN
  • HOW

  • Reporters and law enforcers use the technique to gather information to discern factual information. I use them to cure writer's block. Here's how.

    Take a piece of paper, or open a fresh word processing document on your computer, and make six colums - one for each of the above words. Then look around you, flip through a magazine, write down the topic of whatever you are listening to or watching, or pick a random color. Use anything. Since I am sitting here staring at my fingers on the keyboard, I'll use FINGERS as my starting point and write that above all my columns. Now I need to ask my fact finding questions and write down the answers in each column.

    WHO...(needs them)
  • Pianists, guitarists, violinists - all need long fingers to make their job easier
  • People who type - isn't that everyone now? Stenographers for work, teenagers for texting - couldn't survive without the use of their fingers
  • Mountaineers - all those climbers who lose digits to frostbite and keep coming back for more
  • Surgeons need them to repair all those broken bones

  • WHAT...(do we do to them)
  • Rings decorate them
  • Manicures make them pretty/clean/healthy - no nail biting
  • Slamming them in a car door bruises them
  • Cracking knuckles

  • WHY...(do we need them)
  • They scratch itches
  • They create music
  • They pick noses
  • They express our emotions - flipping the bird, typing, sketching with pencils/painting
  • They provide the sense of touch

  • WHERE...(are the bargains)
  • Best deals for salon treatments

  • WHEN...(do you care for them)
  • When do people get manicures?
  • When do they need to be washed longer than normal

  • HOW...(do you care for them)
  • How do you give yourself a french manicure
  • How do you treat a hangnail
  • How do you keep them clean eating ribs
  • How do you trim a baby's nails
  • How do you treat a scratch from pet's nails

  • So as you can see from the above organization of my stream of consciousness, I've come up with some overall themes within each category. One topic that seems to have appeared in multiple spots is manicures. Something I'm familiar with and that many Bumbles visitors could relate to. Who pays for them and who goes the DIY route, which brands of nail polish look best or last longest, which special spa perks are worth the trip, how often people get them done, if they help curb nail biting, if guys ever notice the difference, how many men actually have ever had one, do gardeners ever bother, are musicians jealous they can't wear long nails, etc. etc. etc.

    This little exercise took me about 15 minutes. I've now got all those topics within just the Manicure theme available to me. Not to mention ones that some of the above thoughts remind me of. Like how careful I was scrubbing my hands raw like my friend's little boy showed me how to do before we could go in and visit his new preemie twin brother and sister. Or how the calloused fingers on my left hand were a badge of honor when I played the violin. There's that terrific book I read about Mt. Everest climbers that turned me into an Adventure memoir/bio fanatic. Or how I still can't appreciate the difference between modern art and finger painting, but am fascinated by Jackson Pollock.

    Give the journalistic technique of brainstorming a try the next time you are stumped for a post. You might be surprised the places your mind leads you.


    Janet said...

    finger painting...hmmm...

    Staff Development for Educators said...

    Thanks! I am gratified that you have shared this important proclamation with me.

    Sandy Nawrot said...

    I love it! Not only would I get some posts out of this, it would be a great way to wake up!

    Beej said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Beej said...

    Very, very clever, Molly! As the ex-wife to a journalist, I should have thought of this sooner. Thanks!

    ~Bry~ said...

    Great exercises! I would have to say that writing down my thoughts would help me cure the block as well. I can be driving down the road and a thought will hit me and if I don't write it down, its gone! Wish I had a list of all those to use when I get blocked!


    Penny said...

    Great idea! I love you guys!

    colleen said...

    I just worked through an block yesterday. It was because I had started the story before the interview and then I came back and tried to add the news stuff but had trouble with the integration. I took me an uninspired hour to solve the problem and I still haven't looked at it yet today to see if it worked.

    I like to have a first line and then I remind myself, just tell the story you know (adding in all the who why wheres and hows).

    ds said...

    Brilliant! And so simple, as all the best ideas are. Thank you!

    kayerj said...

    very usable!

    Anonymous said...

    A ver y nice exercise. This would be good even if you didn't have writer's block. And I really need a manicure.

    Matty said...

    This is very clever. When it comes to writer's block, anything that helps get you out of the rut is worth a try.

    Serena said...

    great advice...thanks.

    Margot said...

    I like this. I don't get writers block very often either but I'm going to try this as a brainstorming idea on regular topics on my blog.

    Anonymous said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Tif Sweeney said...

    This is a great idea!!! I love it!! I'm going to add this to my bookmarks and mention it in my upcoming weekly wrap-up post!!

    On another note, I think this could also be helpful in my professional life as well!! I work with students in transition and writing is one of those topics that I cover! Definitely keeping this in mind for the Fall!! :)

    Forgetfulone said...

    I teach the reporter's formula to my language arts students (middle school).