Let’s face it. Somedays you’re on point with your creativity. You could create a whole fictional world in an afternoon, write the character bios, and still have time to write a quick ten chapters before sunset. Other days it feels like you’ve never had a creative thought in your life. Call it writer’s block, a creative slump, whatever you want. The only thing that all writers can agree on is that it sucks.
As a full-time copywriter and part-time author, I’m constantly looking for new ways to keep the creative juices flowing. That’s why I tried The Writer’s Toolbox by Jamie Cat Callen. Here’s how it went!
What is The Writer’s Toolkit?
As described on the box, The Writer’s Toolkit is “creative games and exercises for inspiring the ‘write’ side your brain.” The toolkit includes three different writing games that, as the description implies, are meant to get your gears turning. One of the games is meant to help you conquer that first line. Another game helps set the scene of your story, and the third is great for creating your protagonist.
Before diving into my review, let’s take a closer look at each of these three games!
Game Number One: The Popsicle Stick Game
Let’s say you have a story or character in your head. You’re ready to put your thoughts on paper, but suddenly you don’t know where to start. I like to call this Blank Page Syndrome. Basically, this means the intimidating blank page bullies you so much that your creativity cowers.
Thanks to the popsicle stick game, you can defeat Blank Page Syndrome one and for all. With this, you pick a First Sentence stick to help put words on paper. No matter what your sentence is, that’s your sentence. Some example first sentences are:
- “Dad gave me a wink, like we were pals or something.”
- “My brother did this weird thing with turtles.”
Once you have your first sentence, use that as a starting point. Set a time for three to six minutes, then stop and move onto the Non Sequitur sticks.
These help move your story through time a bit with sticks like:
- “On Tuesday she asked me the most peculiar question.”
- “On the following Friday, we packed our bags and planned our escape.”
No matter where you are in your story—unless your mid-sentence—add your random non sequitur line, then write for another three minutes. Feel free to continue this process as many times as you want until you feel satisfied with your story progression. When you’re ready, choose one of The Last Straw sticks at random. This stick is meant to add drama to your story with options like:
- “the day Sheila brought Hillary to my office”
- “the thing she did to the brakes on the Honda”
These sticks, unlike the other ones, aren’t meant to be added as is. They’re supposed to help get you thinking of potential sources of drama.
Game Number Two: The Sixth Sense
Using senses in your stories is so important. It helps put the reader in the scene, so don’t skip when it comes to talking about how the cellar had stale, stagnant air that tasted dusty, or how the refreshing strawberry ice cream was equally fruity and sweet.
The Sixth Sense cards are meant to help you incorporate all the senses into a story.
For this game, shuffle the deck of cards, then choose three at random and keep them face-down in front of you. To start the exercise, flip over the first card. For three minutes, write about whatever that card says using a variety of these six senses:
After three minutes is up, flip over your second card and write for another three minutes. Then, flip over the last card and write for a final three minutes. In less than ten minutes, you’ll have experimented with senses that you can take with you into your own pieces.
Some of the sense cards you could experience include:
- “The smell of the T-shirt from the B-52’s concert”
- “The toenails of the yoga girl”
- “Berlin last summer”
Game Number Three: The Protagonist Game
Having trouble creating characters? Then The Protagonist Game is just what you’ve been looking for. This game includes four different wheels that help you with:
- Protagonist name and quick bio
- Character goal
- Obstacle standing in the character’s way
- Action taken by protagonist
This helps you experiment with different characters and see how one slight change in their bio and character arc drastically alters the plot of the story.
An example of a character creation possible with The Protagonist Game could look something like:
- Protagonist: Angelo, with the lover in Long Island
- Goal: To be the strongest
- Obstacle: The bartender from Seattle
- Action: Buys a new wardrobe
Play around with these different wheels to write your next character.
The Pros of The Writer’s Toolkit
Hands down, the biggest pro of The Writer’s Toolkit is the versatility of this toolkit. You’re not given a one-size-fits-all type of solution to writer’s block. Instead, you can work on one of three different areas in which you could be struggling.
Another pro is that you can use this toolkit over and over and have the slimmest chances of ever getting the same prompt twice. That means endless hours of help conquering writer’s block.
Finally, another pro of The Writer’s Toolkit is that it’s not meant to give you the story. Instead, it’s meant to help you get on track to start your own story. Sorta like a warmup before working out. It’s there to make the toughest part—in this case writing a story—easier…and with less muscle strain!
The Cons of The Writer’s Toolkit
Honestly, thinking of the cons of The Writer’s Toolkit wasn’t easy. I’ve used this countless times, each time feeling like it helped me get back on track.
The one con I have about this toolkit, and keep in mind it’s extremely nitpicky, is that it can be a bit of a pain to clean up. Everything’s sent in a not-too-bit, not-too-small box for safe and easy keeping. When it arrives, everything is packaged perfectly.
When you use the popsicle sticks, though, it can be a headache putting them back neatly in their packaging. And, if not done just right, the box lid won’t fit snugly.
Again, this is extremely nitpicky, but that’s really all I could come up with.
The Final Verdict: Is The Writer’s Toolkit Worth It?
YES! The Writer’s Toolkit is absolutely worth it. As you can see, the pros heavily outweigh the cons, leaving me with nearly nothing bad or constructive to say about the toolkit. Plus, with a relatively low price—currently listed at just over $15 on Amazon—you can’t go wrong!
Looking for more ways to conquer writer’s block? Make sure to check out my other blog on overcoming writer’s block in five minutes.
Have you tried The Writer’s Toolkit? If so, what did you think? Want me to try something else? Let me know in the comments!