I don’t really suffer from “Writer’s Block”–that ailment wherein you can’t think of anything to say/write, kinda like the cat’s got your tongue.
I do, however, have bouts of “I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-that-itis” wherein I will ice my ideas–ignore them, refuse to be their friend because I don’t wanna deal with their ish. It was in the Year of Yuck that I discovered I didn’t have to–shouldn’t–ice them. It doesn’t make them go away anyway. So I learned, like you must in any relationship you wanna keep, to deal with them in more productive ways.
1. Express yourself in some way other than writing.
It’s like the way my mom described poop when I was a kid (she’s so poetic!)–better out than in. When you have ideas, even uncomfortable ones, you still have to get them out or else they fester and pester which means you’re still, in fact, dealing with them. I painted, cut and glued lots of pictures and random words; danced; braided and twisted; and baked (among other things) to express my uncomfortable ideas. It kept me in shape kind of like conditioning the body during the off season. And using a new set of resources forced me to stop relying on the same trite techniques that had worked for my writing before. Probably the experience has made me a stronger, if not better, writer.
When I was teaching, taking classes helped me be a better teacher. Sitting where my students sat made me more conscious of their needs and more adept at meeting them. Writing is the same way.
Be a reader for awhile; putting the shoe on the other foot is a cliche well worth practicing (though I’d suggest writing it in your next poem will probably not earn you many accolades on your “fresh use of language”–which is publishing code for “this will not be on the Barnes and Noble bargain table”).
Your writing will benefit in ways that every Language Arts teacher recites: increased vocabulary, ability to effectively comprehend and respond to ideas, and an open-mindedness developed from exposure to new ideas. And the Language Arts geeks that writers are, reading will likely work in these ways for them. For others? Jury’s still out.
3. Some people seem to live in “the meantime,” always waiting for their lives to begin “when…”
“When…” becomes this dangling carrot they’re always chasing, hardly able to see much less experience and enjoy what’s going on outside of that carrot. Focused? Maybe. But with blinders on, that’s no feat; it’s easy and frankly, kinda lazy.
Writers have a job to constantly record the world and interpret their experience in it. It probably makes sense to more people than me that being trapped in front of a keyboard trying to find stuff to say is a surefire way to get nothing to say.
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