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Writers’ Bootcamp: Disaster Preparedness

You’ve probably heard the old adage:  Often the best way to prepare for an emergency is to plan for one.  When I lived on the Gulf of Mexico, where the threat of hurricanes each year is very real, many people taught me how to prepare for such a natural disaster.  These kind folks told me to keep cash on hand, to keep the gas tank in my car filled, and to keep a stock-pile of food and water in the house.  They also encouraged me to create an emergency supply kit that would include a can opener, additional (charged) cell phone batteries, a battery-powered radio, some regular household tools, area maps, and garbage bags.  With these supplies, I’d have the means to evacuate the area if I needed, or if I couldn’t evacuate, at least I wouldn’t starve.  It was good advice that luckily I never had to heed.  I was prepared, though, just in case.

Now, this is a post in the Writers’ Bootcamp series, so what, you might be asking, does disaster preparedness have to do with writing?  Well, maybe you haven’t experienced writer’s block yet this summer (it’s only May 11th), but if you are like the rest of us, you will, and it can be (or at least feel) like a disaster.   Hyperbole aside, it’s good to be prepared not only in the case of a natural disaster, but also when a “writing disaster” strikes.

We all have some of the tried-and-true methods of easing writer’s block at our disposal and these work for most people:

  • Exercising . . .
  • Setting a timer . . .
  • Freewriting . . .
  • Listening to music . . .
  • Taking a break . . .
  • Talking about your writing with a trusted friend/colleague . . .
  • Writing about something unrelated to the writing task at hand . . .

But sometimes we need something new, something different.  We need to be able to look at writing differently.  A new tool you might not have tried is Visuwords is an online graphical dictionary, based upon Princeton University’s WordNet.  Visuwords allows a user to type in a word into the program’s search box, and that word appears on the screen along with words associated by meaning or concept.  It’s a new way to “see” writing or meaning.

As an example, I typed “football” into the search box, and the results returned with words or ideas I’d expect:  running back, quarterback, soccer, and rugby.  The results also returned words I hadn’t considered:  completed, bladder, juke, or broken field.  This tool might be a method of looking at a routine subject differently; it might provide the jolt needed to get back to writing.

 

The site provides a legend that explains how words are connected, by meaning, by content; as a synonym, as a cause; or by what it opposes or even by parts of speech   The tool does nothing more than allow writers to see their words differently.  But then, that could be enough to break through a writer’s block.

How about you?  What’s in your Writer’s Block Emergency Kit?  Please share your comments and suggestions below.

 

[Image by Flick user Sam Howzit and used under the Creative Commons license.]

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