Five Quick Tips to Beat Writer’s Block

(by Daniel R. Jones)

I’m convinced every living writer has at least one shared experience: staring at a blinking cursor on a word processor, entirely unsure of how to proceed. And although writer’s block might be the plight of every wordsmith, there are a few tips and tricks that help to keep it at bay. Here are five techniques I’ve recently put into practice to stop procrastinating and start writing:

1. Practice Mindfulness Meditation to eliminate “White-Room Syndrome”

White-Room Syndrome occurs when you haven’t added enough sensory detail to help your reader adequately imagine a scene’s setting. Instead, it gives off the impression that all the action and dialogue is occurring in a “white room.” It’s important to note that in terms of description, quality beats quantity. You don’t need to pad your chapter with blocky purple prose and lush description. Instead, your description should match the content of your book. Consider, for instance, the sparse, austere description employed in The Road by Cormac McCarthy. In such a novel, a Tolkien-esque description of flora and fauna would hardly be appropriate.

In order to combat white-room syndrome, writers can utilize a pretty simple trick. Prior to writing, immerse yourself in a 15-minute mindfulness-meditation session. When you’ve tuned your brain to soak up all sensory input, you’ll be better able to draw on your five senses and write compelling settings. This can be easily coupled with the next exercise, which is to… 

2. Shower, as it’s a Poor Man’s Sensory Deprivation Tank

Have you ever noticed you strike upon some of your best ideas while in the shower? Did you ever stop to wonder why that is? The concept here is simple. The shower acts as a sort of poor man’s sensory deprivation tank, drawing out your inner-thoughts more easily. While showering, your eyes are typically shut (or at least they have access to the unexciting images of a tiled wall,) your tactile senses are stimulated by the hypnotic drizzle spouting from your showerhead, and the running water creates a steady white-noise that drowns out conversations or the television in the other room.  

The net effect of being in a shower is that you’re keeping all of your senses busy with a static input. This allows you to focus inward, and can greatly improve your creative powers. When you’ve turned down the dial on all of your senses, so to speak, the volume of your mind is turned up and your brain can go out and play.

3. Create “Stand-ins” for Characters

If you’ve got a great concept for a scene, but you haven’t yet fleshed out your characters, an easy way to commit that scene to paper is by using a “character stand-in.” Get a rough approximation of the type of person your character is, and then substitute the closest analogue you can find from fiction. You can always go back and add nuance later.

Need an unflappable leader who eschews the rules for your suspense thriller? Pretend Captain Kirk from Star Trek is facing the same problems as your main character, and make him react accordingly. Do you want the protagonist of your Rom-Com to be a man who uses humor as a defense mechanism? Write the first chapter from the perspective of Chandler Bing from Friends.  You get the idea.

4. Use Word Association (with music)

Simple word association has been a staple in my writing arsenal for years. If I am truly at a loss as to where to begin writing, I put on some music, pace around, and let my brain off its leash. You can do this by either latching on to a lyric and “giving the horse its head” when it comes to your thoughts, or you can literally sit in front of a word-processor and type in stream-of-consciousness everything that comes into your brain. Personally, I find that physical movement helps loosen up my thought patterns, but your mileage may vary.

5. Try Word Sprints

This is an idea that first appeared to me in 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox. As the name of said book implies, Chris’ creative output is astronomical. The idea here is simple: you set a timer, sit down to write, and don’t allow yourself to stop or become distracted until after the alarm has sounded. This exercise is absolutely a numbers game: by measuring how many words you write, you can set lofty goals as you gradually increase your word-count. In his book, Chris delves into alternative methods to up the ante, such as using dictation softwarebut these are optional.

Holistic Reminders

(by Daniel R. Jones)

Take your Ashwagandha.
Exercise and meditate.

Get outside. Stroll around.
Mind your breath-work. Get some sleep.

Make some art. Be with friends.
Don’t neglect your vagal tone.

Eat enough. Drink more water.
Read the Scriptures. Plead the throne.

Be a better father
than you ever were a son.

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(As a reminder, I’m currently on the lookout for short stories and flash fiction variety done well. Literary Fiction, SciFi, Fantasy; you name it. If you think your story might fit the bill, check out the submission guidelines and send it my way)

Max Only Prays About Sunflowers (Prose Poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

The trouble with Max’s supper time prayers isn’t that he babbles on as the pagans do (he doesn’t,) and it isn’t that they don’t adhere to the A.C.T.S. format (They don’t.)

It’s that he only prays about sunflowers. In the springtime, we understood. His folded hands still silty from the peat pot he posited in the thawing ground. Only natural that he’d ask:

God, help my sunflowers to grow.

Endearing, at first. But night after night, he’d forgo the blessing of food in favor of praying for the germination of his sunflowers.

Spring time passed. He’d sown and reaped and those heliotropic heads were held almost as high as his own. And night after night, the same prayer:

God, thank you for the sunflowers. Amen.

Cute as it was rudimentary. By day 60, we grew concerned. Is he just phoning it in, to God? Should we be encouraging him to stake out a little further?

“What will you pray about when the sunflowers die, Buddy?”

Max considers this. The next night he prays:

Dear God, thank you for the sunflowers. Help them not to die. And if they do die, bring them back to life. In Jesus name, amen.

I smirk and sigh and worry what it’ll do to his faith when the sunflowers inevitably die.

It’s fall. The sunflowers stalks have bowed and collapsed under their drooping, dead heads. On the entire arrangement, there’s no yellow or green to speak of.

Undeterred, Max prays:

Dear God, thank you for my sunflowers. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Weeks pass. He’s still thanking God for sunflowers that haven’t existed for over a month. As I squeeze my eyes and start to tell Max that the sunflowers are dead, I see the Spirit glide in through the open kitchen window.

He’s come to warn me of the stupidity of chiding a child of three-years-old on how many times he ought to thank his Creator for sunflowers.

And then, I think I see on Max’s hand, palm-side up as if to heaven, he’d mustered up two, tiny, bouncing yellow seeds. Shaking. Not from an unsure hand but because the tectonic plates beneath his feet was unbuckling. The earth itself upending to throw itself into the sea.

Or else, to resurrect a dozen sunflowers in Indianapolis, by special request of the God who never tires: Not of making them. Not of hearing about them.  

Book Officially Released! 10 Reasons You Should Buy It

IT’S HERE!

You can buy my poetry collection for less than 8 bucks on the publisher’s website! If you’d like to purchase it directly from the publisher, head this way: https://wipfandstock.com/the-wrenching-of-the-hip-that…

If you’d rather purchase from Amazon, feel free to follow this link.

10 Reasons you should buy my book:

1.) You love books of poems that have a mix of light verse, fixed form, free verse, prose poems, ruminations on the tedium of everyday life, and spirituality.

2.) You are worried about the decline of physical books as a medium.

3.) You promised you would buy a book if I ever got it published. No take-backs.

4.) You vaguely knew me in high school and you want to see if there are any oblique references to you.

5.) You’re actually my mom, or directly related to me. You’re basically obligated, in this instance.

6.) You recently read a think piece that guilted you into supporting small-time artists, especially during COVID-19.

7.) You’re concerned you will run into me in person and I will ask if you bought it and it’ll get awkward.

8.) You think you can get away with running into me once and saying “I’ve been meaning to!” But after reading #7, you realized you’re likely to run into me twice, and on the second run-in, it really could get weird.

9.) Literally, pity. You keep imagining me clicking “refresh” and venting to my wife about how I expected SOMEONE would buy it.

10.) You like to support your friends’ endeavors, and you appreciate that I’ve never messaged you to “catch up,” only to sling Young Living, Herbalife, Primerica, etc. at you.

(I recognize that if you sell any of the above MLM products, you probably no longer want to buy my book. That’s okay. You’re absolved.)

In other news…

I’ve decided to break down and start an “Author Page” on Facebook and Amazon. This will help me to better send out new information related to my writing without inundating people on my personal page who might be less than interested. It would mean a great deal to me if you “liked” and “followed” my Facebook Author Page and my Amazon Author Page today!

In an alternate universe, Hitler’s nurse mulls it over (Flash Fiction)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

Prior to med school, in her philosophical classes, she aligned closer to Jeremy Bentham than Hippocrates, anyway. 
“Do no harm,” sure, but in the utilitarian sense? 

Presents quite the philosophical quandary, she thinks, as she injects the wrong medication into the wrong arm.

****************

(As a reminder, I’m currently on the lookout for short stories and flash fiction variety done well. Literary Fiction, SciFi, Fantasy; you name it. If you think your story might fit the bill, check out the submission guidelines and send it my way)

The Divorce (Flash Fiction)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

…but if she changed it back now, he’d get all those expensive monogrammed belongings, ipso facto.

No, she wouldn’t revert to her maiden name.

****************

(As a reminder, I’m currently on the lookout for short stories and flash fiction variety done well. Literary Fiction, SciFi, Fantasy; you name it. If you think your story might fit the bill, check out the submission guidelines and send it my way)

New Book Coming Soon!

At the risk of sounding vain, I’d like to put in one more plug for my upcoming collection of poems entitled The Wrenching of the Hip that Precedes the Blessing from the publisher Wipf and Stock. I sent the book out to a few beta-readers, and here’s what they had to say:

In this collection, Daniel Jones is a master at word-play, in poems such as “Becoming Apparent” and “Scenes from the Hoosier Countryside,” and “Ars Poetica (in Sapphics).”  Then, there are the emotional gut punches, such as “Veering,” and “The Second Greatest Commandment.” More than that, this poet is clever as hell with a punchline to make you think in almost every poem. These poems are not work for the reader, they are a rich dessert to savor and roll around the tongue. Each work leaves a sense of satisfaction and the “Oh, yes!” that great poems conjure.

–Julia Gordon-Bramer, author of Fixed Stars Govern a Life: Decoding Sylvia Plath and the Decoding Sylvia Plath series.

The Wrenching of the Hip that Precedes the Blessing is both heartfelt and relatable as a poetry collection. Jones weaves together words that will inspire you while marveling at their clever combinations and metaphors. This deeply personal collection is one that will appeal to a wide spectrum of poetry enthusiasts. From the wordplay and imagery in “Scenes from the Hoosier Countryside” to the passion and aguish and “The Wolves Who Refuse to Lie Down with the Lamb,” there’s something for everyone in this collection.

-Tiffany Renee Harmon, Author of Suburban Secrets and Editor-in-Chief of Ephemeral Elegies (https://ephemeralelegies.com/)

The new collection will be out this Fall! Keep your eyes on this page for more updates.

‘Physics’ and “Philosophy’ Rhyme (poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

All writing is the reduction of the natural world.
   which is to say
The Tao that can be told of is not the eternal Tao.
   which is to say
The mere observation of a phenomenon
inevitably changes that phenomenon.
   which is to say
The first human to hunch over a tablet
cut-reed stylus in hand,
deigning to set the Universe
into writing on damp clay–

already, he’d lost something in translation. 
If the brain of Aldous Huxley,
brilliant though it may have been,
called itself a “reducing valve,”
how much more his hand with its pen!
So ever since, philosophy of aesthetics
students endlessly pick each other apart,
chiding one another over which
parts of reality they inevitably left out.