A good friend of mine is results-oriented to the extreme. He proceeds by tackling and completing tasks in a linear, structured way. He’s a writer too, and swears by detailed outlines, story-arc schematics, and rich character tables.
A few months ago, he confessed that he was dealing with writer’s block.
“I don’t get it,” he said. “I know exactly where my novel is going, and how my main character will overcome a critical internal conflict. I even have the final dramatic scene laid out in bullet points! But I can’t seem to get writing. I’ve set goals for myself, but all my deadlines have flown past—whoosh! It’s totally frustrating.”
I asked him if he’s ever tried a curiosity challenge.
A curiosity challenge is a technique I have used in the past to break out of a writing slump. I have used it when I’m on the verge of being burnt-out by my project, or when I need to re-kindle my passion for writing. I’ve also used it to generate prompts for writing exercises.
All that a curiosity challenge involves is reframing a goal statement into a curiosity question. It’s simple and powerful. Instead of setting a rigid word-count goal or deadline for yourself, try turning it into an experiment.
Frame your experiment with phrases like: “I’m curious if…” or “Is it possible to…” or “I wonder if…” or even “Wouldn’t it be cool to…”
Here are some examples:
|Instead of saying this…||…try this.|
|I have to wake up extra-early all week so I can meet my word-count goal.||I’m curious if I can get up an hour early every day this week and wrote before my kids got up.|
|The only way I can make this submission deadline is if I write the whole thing this long weekend.||Is it possible to write 10,000 words over one long weekend?|
|I have to focus on this chapter and finish it before I can move on with my novel.||I wonder if I could write a scene from my main character’s dog’s perspective?|
|My revised chapter 1 is due to my writing group no later than April 1.||Wouldn’t it be cool to share a revised draft of chapter 1 with my writing group next month?|
This approach takes fear of failure out of the equation. If you’re anxious about not being able to achieve a writing goal, remove the anxiety by turning it into a game. If high pressure makes you heave, make it fun instead.
If you’re finding yourself stuck or blocked or bored, bring a sense of curiosity and wonder to your writing. Don’t plan; play. Be bold. Explore a possibility. Do something new just for the hell of it. Broaden your understanding of what you can achieve by just trying it.
Be ever-curious and challenge yourself to go beyond your normal routine. You’ll be surprised by how this simple approach can give your creativity a kick-start.
Drop me a line and let me know if this technique works for you!