Writing Exercise: A Story Within A Story
I don't usually experience writer's block, but there was a time when I was struggling to come up with fresh ideas for stories. While I was in student in the Creative Writing Program, I had to produce a draft for a short story every other week. The pressure to produce quickly and then show my work in front of my classmates, made it very hard for me to tap into my creative juices. My thoughts were scrambled. So many incomplete ideas were swirling around in my brain. Just the thought of sitting at the computer to start writing was giving me anxiety.
What helped me most during this phase was utilizing writing exercises. Sometimes limiting the parameters actually makes it easier to create because the restrictions force you to focus on one thing at a time. Plus, writing exercises can get you to think outside your usual patterns and create something that's completely new and refreshing.
One of these exercises was called A Story Within a Story. The idea is that the plot of your story is driven from another story. The story can come from a rumor, a secret, a legend, or maybe just overhearing a conversation. Here's an example: Your main character hear's a rumor. The story is so intriguing that your character goes to great lengths to determine whether this rumor is true. This is just one example. There are many ways you can implement this writing challenge.
I had so much fun writing this exercise that "Rumors and Secrets" was published in my latest collection The Stories of Our Lives.
I highly recommend trying out some writing exercises because they're great for overcoming writer's block and opening your mind to new subject matters.