Today is the day. Years in the future, one of your loyal fans will edit your Wikipedia page to indicate that on this very date you began the short story, the memoir, or the poem that launched your wildly successful writing career. You’ve locked yourself in your room with a composition notebook and a pot of coffee; your pen is poised over the page. You begin to write.
But your ideas are mediocre, washed out, your sentence structure not reflective of the Pulitzer-worthy ideas floating in your brain. As time drags on, pages of the notebook are ripped out, your coffee grows cold, Reddit starts calling. You begin to consider dropping this whole writing thing and taking up underwater basket weaving as a hobby.
Before ditching your notebook or deleting the nonsensical Word document before you, take some time to regroup and conjure up some new inspiration. The blank page or unsatisfactory draft can be frustrating, but you can easily overcome them with a few strategies:
Get some sensory stimulation.
Sensory exploration can trigger memories or new ideas as well as help you to practice conveying sensory elements, so unlock that dorm room door and go exploring. Spend some time perusing the aisles of you’re a local grocery store or farmer’s market for interesting scents. Head to an antique mall and look at old postcards. Listen to music that is unfamiliar to you.
Imitate writing that you like.
When a passage really strikes you in a book or magazine, copy it down. Figure out how it works. Why do you like it? Is it the enjambment in your favorite poem, the series of clipped sentences in that New Yorker profile? Understanding what you appreciate about the writing of others will help to hone your own style and voice.
Also, keep in mind that even your favorite writers struggle with getting writing on the page. Check out Dave Eggers and Jonah Lehrer talking about the trope of the tortured writer and the concept of grit.
Make writing your habit.
How many days could you go without brushing your teeth? Try to make that how many days you would go without writing, i.e., none. There’s no need to fill an entire notebook each night, but getting something down on the page everyday will help to form discipline. The more you practice, the less often you’ll experience the dread of writer’s block.
Find a community of writers.
While creative writing is often deeply personal, meeting other writers can lead to an environment where you feel comfortable with exploring new ideas and getting feedback.
Here at McDaniel, you can connect with other writers through Contrast Literary Magazine. During the fall semester, we conduct bimonthly writing workshops so that our writers can gain inspiration for their submissions to the magazine, which is published each spring.
Workshop dates include:
October 10, 24
November 7, 21
Other dates to keep in mind:
Friday, October 25- Halloween-themed open mic night and s’mores from 8-10 in Ensor Lounge! Bring your favorite Poe poem or whatever you’ve been working on lately to read to an audience.
Sunday, October 27- Deadline for Contrast’s fall writing contest! We accept poetry and prose.
Prompt- The first line must be a question; the last line must be the answer.
Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The start of the school year not only means that The Writing Center is opening for another wonderful year of working with McDaniel students on all types of writing assignments, it also means that there are many wonderful opportunities to get involved in different kinds of clubs all over campus. The Writing Center tutors are involved in a large variety of activities at McDaniel!
-Greek Life: Two of our tutors are involved in sororities on campus. Joining Greek Life is a great way to get involved in many things on campus, because, like the writing tutors, members of the Greek community are heavily involved in other activities outside of their Greek organizations. It also gives members an amazing group of sisters or brothers who are incredibly supportive.
-Interest Clubs: There are many lesser-known clubs on campus that writing tutors are involved in, such as the Poe Club and the Belly Dancing Club. No matter what your interests are, there is probably a club at McDaniel for you. Can’t find one that you like? Start an interest club of your own by visiting the Office of Student Engagement!
-Service Organizations: Writing Center tutors do a lot of community service both on and off campus, from participating in clubs such as Relay For Life of McDaniel College, the Puppy Club, the Animal Welfare Club, and working with the Boys and Girls Club. We are also involved in advocacy groups, such as Allies and McFem, which advocate for equal rights for minorities.
-Honors Program & Honors Societies: Several writing tutors are members of the McDaniel College Honors Program, which requires that students take additional classes in fields of study that are not necessarily their own, and most of us are involved in at least one different academic honors society, depending on our various majors and minors.
-Performing Arts: McDaniel writing tutors are also involved in the performing arts. Tutors have both performed in and designed sound for the McDaniel College Theater. In addition to being involved in theater, we have tutors who are involved with the college’s radio station, WMCR, and who play musical instruments.
-Free Press and Contrast: Because writing tutors love to write (surprise!), a lot of us are involved in the McDaniel Free Press (the college’s newspaper), and Contrast Literary Magazine. Not only do the tutors write for both of these publications, a few are even editors. Interested in writing and editing? Stop by Hill 101!
Being involved on the McDaniel campus has been a huge part of the college experience for all of our tutors. Not only do we spend a lot of time working in The Writing Center, we all make time to be involved in an organization that we find interesting or worthy of our time. If you’re not already, we recommend getting involved in an on campus organization!