1. Sit down in your favorite breakfast nook, the one that looks out upon the babbling brook, spreading chestnut tree with a tire swing, rippling corn fields, and the picture windows of your more adulterous neighbor’s bedrooms. If you do not have a chestnut tree, substitute another nut-bearing tree. Do not use birches. You’ll just embarrass yourself.
2. Set up a work area equipped only with a prissy little notebook and a fancy-pants fountain pen. Brew up a pot of chamomile tea and pour yourself a spot. Take a drink. Write your name. Stop and take a drink of tea. Now look into the distance while sipping it. Say, how much tea do you think you can drink? Drink tea until your bladder screams for release. Deny yourself this release until you’ve produced 15,000 words. Write about how great it would be to pee right now. Oh God. Oh GOD.
3. Set up a weekly “date” with a table at your favorite diner. Bring a stack of paper and pen without internet access. Gradually grow bored and create a little condiment house with the salt, pepper, sugar, jelly, ketchup, and mustard packets. Empty the shakers and burst each packet, then run your fingers through the ooze to create a swirling expressionistic tabletop landscape. Leave and never come back at the owner’s requests.
4. Learn from the experts! Find a great writer online and read their work for inspiration. Become obsessed, find the author, and strangle them so their talent flows into you as the light leaves their eyes. Write about it!
5. Feeling blocked halfway through a manuscript? Stick it in a drawer and leave it there for a week. Or a month. Or six months. If you wait long enough you might luck out and die and never face the soul-sucking thing again. Unless you go to Hell, where it will be waiting for you.
6. Try this: Dig up Flannery O’Connor and make a soup of her bones, so as to acquire her talent through anthropophagical magic.
7. Try this. Find an article you admire on the internet, copy and paste it to a Word document, then change the author’s name to your own. Now YOU wrote it!
8. Bad writers borrow; good writers steal. Adequate writers perform blackmail; poor writers dabble in payola. Passable writers commit manslaughter; excellent writers lay with the beasts of the field. What was I talking about?
9. Revisit William Safire’s list of “Never Say Neverisms.” Man, those are hilarious. Especially the sentence fragments one. “No sentence fragments.” Ha! Classic fucking Safire.
10. Use one of these random first lines to spark your creativity:
“The writer was trying to spark his/her creativity with a first line he/she came across online, not knowing the Tripe Giant stood behind him/her, ready to carve his/her guts into bowel masks.”
“‘Call me Ishmael. I am captain of spaceship Radon, on a 12-year mission to have space sex with green alien women resembling Emma Watson. Except green. Stately, plump Commander Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of space lather on which a mirror and a laser gun lay crossed. ’I bet I have more green alien sex than YOU,’ said Buck Milligan, ‘You totally cannot,’ said I. Then we flew to Planet Hermione where I won and have cyborg arms.”
“‘I might as well pack it in,’ sighed the failed writer, ‘The shame and disappointment will kill me unless I do it first.’ He/she happily eyed the nearby letter-opener as if it were a gift from God.”
“The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ1234567890. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. HAHAHAHAHAHA Fuck this. Google Skeletor genderswap beef dripping.”
11. Combat writer’s block by creating a Rube Goldberg device that drops a large concrete block on your head if you stop typing. Har! Get it? Irony! That’s irony, right? Or is it metaphor? You should know. You’re the writer.
12. Here’s a simple exercise. Spend at least an hour each day typing a story, preferably one with characters and scenes described in sentences, arranged in paragraph form. Continue to do so until you have 80,000 to 100,000 words. Experiment by developing a solid plot and satisfying ending while taking a few moments or months to shape the prose into a readable and compelling text. As an exercise, figure out what readers would pay money to read. For fun, pitch the story in its final form to various publishers, being sure to note that most will not publish it. Here’s a tip: find a publisher. Use this exercise as a sort of jumping-off point for other stories or “books” if you will. Easy peasy!