sloppy seconds is stuck in my head

Doodling Away Writer's Block

If you’re like me, you have bouts of inspiration where words flow from your fingertips and scenes seem to write themselves. But you also have moments of intense, mind-numbing writer’s block. There’s always that one scene that’s essential to your plot, but you don’t know where to go or what to do with it. Well, my dears, I may have a solution for you. Ready?

Draw your scene.

I can tell you’re panicking. Don’t panic! You DO NOT need to be an artist for this exercise to work. Just trust me for a minute. 

Where Did This Come From?
I learned this trick in college by accident. After being assigned a short story, I was rolling along pretty well until the one scene reared it’s head. I was stuck for days. I had two characters, a place they needed to be, but no idea how to get them there. One day during a particularly boring political science lecture* I started doodling. 

As I doodled, I ended up sketching the scene I had been thinking about for the past few days. I drew my first character, then my second. Then the setting. The secondary characters. Their facial expressions. Different facial expressions. Before I knew it I had dialogue bubbles, and the beginning of a scene I had struggled so hard to formulate in my head.

When I spoke to my professor about the phenomenon, she explained that it was actually quite common. It was something she had seen other writers do before, and was even an exercise she used to use in her freshman writing courses. Now, whenever I get stuck I draw out my scene. No matter how sloppy or silly looking, the simple act of doodling my characters and what’s around them helped me work though more scenes than I can count. 

How To Get Started
The goal is to get your mind thinking about your scene in a different way. Again, you do not need to be an artist. You can draw photo-realistic portraits, or you can draw stick figures. It doesn’t matter. As long as you know what is happening in your scene, it will work. 

Need to draw a fight scene, but don’t know how to initiate it? Think about what you have of the scene so far. Your characters, right? Draw them. Are they in an alleyway? Draw it. Are there onlookers? Draw them. Is the ground gravel, or dirt? Draw it beneath their feet. Did one of the characters drop his backpack in the heat of the fight? Draw it on the ground behind him. Put as much detail as you can possibly think of into the drawing of your scene.

You might need to draw the scene again and make some changes. Keep drawing until you see character ‘A’ drop his backpack, walk over that crunchy gravel and right in front of his classmates, and punch character ‘B’ in the face. Keep drawing until character ‘B’ stumbles backward and trips over that discarded box (that started out as a dumpster, but oh-well), holding his bloody nose.

Why It Works
Seeing your characters on paper can force you to notice details about them and their setting that you otherwise never would have. Drawing your scene gets you out of your normal head space and into a new one with new perspectives and ideas. It has been found in several studies, including one by a professor at the University of Plymouth, that doodling increases concentration, focus, creativity, and memory. It’s not just a theory, guys!

“Doodling is a form of external thought that allows you to visualize the connections you are making while thinking. In the conscious mind, doodling can assist concentration and focus but even in the unconscious mind, while doodling and day dreaming, connections are made.”
- Giulia Forsythe

This method may not be for everyone, but it certainly helps me and several other writers I know. I hope that sharing it will help some of you as well.
*CreateAndNarrate does not condone daydreaming, zoning-out, or otherwise ignoring political science lectures, even if they are particularly boring. Doing so may or may not merit you a C- in the class.