There are two words I dislike and are used often in the writing community: Writer’s Block. Tons of books have been written with exercises and methods. There are classes and workshops about overcoming this obstacle. Writing kits are created to defeat writer’s block one flash card at a time. I used to own some of these, and they were useful. Unfortunately, they were lost in a move. One of the exercises I use more often than anything else though is a process my high school English teacher called, “Looping.” I could spend tons of money on resources, but I don’t like to. Are there books that I think every writer should own a print copy of? Absolutely! Do I own them all myself? I’m working on it. However, I am also an advocate for free information and resources, as well as making those resources more available. I have written a guide for the looping process I still use, even after high school.
Looping is divided into a few very simple steps:
- Set a timer for 5 minutes and write.
Get out your pen and paper or computer if you prefer. Start a timer and write until time is up. The way you write doesn’t matter – you can make a list, write a paragraph, write however it suits you. If you are in the middle of a sentence or idea when your timer goes off, go ahead and finish. The point of this isn’t to cut off at an exact time, but to write for a long enough amount of time to be able to brainstorm effectively and beat writer’s block.
- Review what you wrote and identify your best idea.
Read over what you just wrote. Some of it might make sense and some of it you might wonder what on Earth you were thinking, that’s okay! The point is, when you write for that long at least something you wrote should make some sense. Circle or highlight the best sentence or idea in what you just wrote. This sentence should be an idea or train of thought is something you can expand on for another 5 minutes.This allows you to brainstorm effectively by making sure your content is useful and applicable.
- Set your timer for 5 minutes and write about your specific idea.
Hopefully you are confident the key idea you kept from your last mini writing session is something you can expand on. Set another time for 5 minutes, grab a fresh piece of paper or open a new document and write based on your highlighted section for another 5 minutes. Again, if you are in the middle of a sentence or thought when the timer goes off, go ahead and finish whenever you find a breaking point.
- Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until you feel you have some good material!
As you can see, brainstorming effectively by looping is essentially fine tuning thoughts and written material in addition to a great tool for beating writer’s block. Looping has helped me write some of the best articles and essays I have written because I’m not using a blank slate to start writing. I am able to process all the material I have written and choose which material is trash and which material would be a great idea for an article or additional paragraph to an essay.
I made a free printable just for this exercise. You can download it HERE.
Have fun writing!