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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Jar Writing

Several years ago my critique group came up with an idea called Jar Writing. I don't think it's a new idea by an stretch of the imagination and it probably has many names, but I wanted to share it with you because it's what I recommend whenever asks to do about a writing slump or Writer's Block.

First off, recognize that everyone has writing slumps. We all have days where our brain feels like it's trudging through a swamp and the thoughts are dripping like molasses in midwinter. Make sure that you've done everything possible to make your gray matter healthy: Sleep 6-10 hours a night, drink water, eat healthy, eat regularly, surround yourself with positive people, let go of negative thoughts, and make sure you fill your creative well by enjoying the creative endeavors of others.

If you're doing all that still feel stumped on how to write the next scene consider Jar Writing to be your reset button.

Start by picking a length of time to do the jar writing. You need to set the parameters and not cheat. If you cheat, this fails. If the Jar Writing seems daunting set a very easy limit: write for five days.

Next, make a list of easy writing things to accomplish. Keep the goals small... write 100 words, edit two pages in NOVEL, write for 15 minutes... things that you know you can do and that you have the time to do.

Cut the list up and put it in a jar or plastic container, anything with a lid.

Shake the jar when you wake up the next morning. Pull one task out at random. Complete the challenge.

Do that every day for your allotted time. Try to do it around the same time of day if you can (that helps set the habit). Once your challenge for the day is done, mosey on with other things happy in the knowledge that you did something! Or, if the inspiration strikes, write more.

After a week or two start adding harder challenges to the jar... write 500 words, write for 30 minutes, edit five pages... eventually you will find your magic number, the number of words you need to write to get in your groove. Once you've found that, you are out of your slump and ready to move on.

My magic number is 700. If I can just hit 700 words I'll write 2000 with ease. I might fight for each of those 700 words. I may hate every letter. But once I've sat down and forced myself to write 700 words straight I'll be into the scene enough to write the rest.

Happy writing!


  1. This IS a great idea. I'm gonna do it! (But the professional editor in me says, "Add 'proof-reading blog' to Jar. Some jarring mistakes there." Sorry, but you know me. I can't let these things go!)

    1. Now you're making me paranoid. If you find a mistake on the blog always feel free to point it out. I tend to write here in a rush. I'm not selling the blog, I'm selling books, and they get my attention. Typos happen frequently on the blog, but I try to catch them.

  2. I love this idea. Do you mind if I share it with the writers in my NaNoWriMo region? I think it would help some of them.

  3. I've seen a lot of variations on the Jar Ideas. From writing little pick-me-up messages/thoughts from home for friends and family that live far away to crafting ideas for parties. My daughter went to a workshop to help people find jobs and came home with a jar filled with positive thoughts and helpful hints.

    The other great thing you can do for Jar Writing is jot down any ideas that come at random times and leave them in the jar for a day when you want to try something different or maybe break up writer's block. I know I often see or hear something, have my brain add something or make a comment and think "that's an idea for a story" only to forget about it after a while. By jotting it down and adding it to the jar I can go to the jar later and pull out the paper to see if it still sparks my imagination.