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Ekphrasis to overcome writer's block

by John C. Mannone

That's a fancy word for art informing art. Usually it's taken to mean using a visual prompt to inspire a written work, but it really can involve any two art forms. But I'm going to concentrate on writing being the end product, not painting or sculpting or other art forms which would benefit, too.

Writer's block, whether real or perceived, can be thwarted by any kind of sensory stimulation.

For example, I recently used a piece of music, Pachelbel's Canon in D as a writing prompt. It's amazing what that piece of music will inspire! See the youtube with a great slide show to the music of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. (The images might collaborate with the music to inspire more words):


I facilitate a Prompt Group for the Knoxville Writers' Guild and I like to bring in objects as well as images to stimulate an 8-minute writing frenzy. We all share what we've written afterwards. I use things like a little figurine, a sea shell (nature's art), a net bag of marbles... Tactile senses will stimulate writing, too. I remember simply describing an object I could touch, as well as see, triggered some powerful images. I own a tattered blue cloth wallet. In a few minutes back in August 2010, while at a restaurant, I had immersed myself in the poignancy of loss by simply starting to describe the wallet with no agenda for creating a poem. My character in this narrative poem had lost his Vietnamese wife when Katrina hit. The worked is called "Tattered" and has been published in [i]Poetry Review (Songs of Eretz)[/i].

I said all of that to say this, [i]Visual Verse[/i] is an interesting venue that encourages writes of 50-500 words to a visual prompt, presumably in an hour. These are not masterpieces, but they will likely publish most submissions. I think this can be very encouraging to new (and not so new) writers. I think they are fun, so I occasionally play. Here's my June work to an abstract art: See The New Mathematics.

They just posted the July image, a color photograph, and you can submit your work to it. (And by the way, I sent them a lyrical poem today, too called "Song of the Sun.")

Just check the website in a few days to see if they took it. This is a German based publication, so you can get an international publishing credit to your name :-)

Anyway, just have fun with this! Poetry or Prose.


Last modified on Friday, 01 January 2016 16:32


  • John Davern

    posted by John Davern

    Sunday, 26 March 2017 22:58

    I entered a creative writing workshop last year. That is where and when I learned to free write. Although I was a technical writer with years of experience, having someone tell me to 'pick something in the room and write about it' petrified me.

    I chose a candle flame; it turned out to be very easy. Within a few minutes I learned that the flame was a tiny little dancer, dancing on a lake, with her body swaying and beautiful hair flowing with the silent music of a gentle breeze passing through the house. She was dancing in memory of my mother.

    If I get writer's block while working on my main project (a novel), I work on a second novel that I am outlining. I also write poems and songs just for the fun of it. If those fail, I'm obviously not in the mood to write and I find something else to do. It's nice not having deadlines.

  • Ted Garvin

    posted by Ted Garvin

    Sunday, 27 December 2015 21:22

    The war of art against the blank page.

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