The only way out of writer’s block is to write. Nick Grandy will tell you all about this in his article “How To Conquer Writer’s Block.” Putting out content with writer’s block feels like squeezing juice out of a spent rind. How do you go back to the well when you’ve creatively ran dry?
I put my nose to the grindstone and I do the damn thing. My writing is my work, and I keep a schedule. It’s been two days in a row now with writer’s block. Writer’s block to me is the condition of pecking a hesitant string of words together on the screen and being amazed at the sheer incoherence or pointlessness of the phrases as they slither onto the word document. The backspace button gets plenty of love. No mistake about it, it’s better to write dry than to not write at all. Writing dry in the desert of no inspiration, we need to sink our tools into the ground to hit the well. The well offers the water that brings lividity back to our parched skin.
How I Go To The Well
- Nature. It’s easy for me to feel machine-like and alone sitting in the box that is the modern home. My favorite place to sit is by the small lake right next to our building. A few minutes under the big tree by the water and my mind stops its monkey-chatter. I get taken in by the multitude of green hues all around me, expressed in the different textures and shapes of the leaves on my plant friends. Nothing sits still in nature, and it will reveal itself to anyone who sits quietly for long enough. A splashing sound from two feet away startles me as a mink dives under the surface for the small catfish that hang out underneath the rocks. I haven’t seen the mink in a couple of days.
Sitting in nature smooths over my harsh sense of individuality as I become incorporated into my environment. My worries and to-do list loses their tunnel vision violence. A solitary duck floating along the mirror-like surface reminds me that human beings are only one expression along the near-infinite spectrum of living organisms all around us. Hurry has been ameliorated and I know how mental breathing space.
- New and Exciting Experiences with Other People. I can work all day. I begin to dislike life. Writing becomes the chore and I become the disgruntled worker. Writers and artists spend much of their time alone, and it is important to taste life. It is important to experience release and fun, comradery and joy. There was a day at the arcade with my girlfriend and her nephew. We ran around, stimulated by loud noise and neon lights, playing laser tag and blowing small amounts of money on the noisy machines all around us. I had remembered what life was all about on the drive home that night. It’s about being in the moment and enjoying it. It’s about being with the people that we are lucky enough to love.
We spent some time the other day at a local bookstore and the flea market right outside. Tolerating the humidity, I walked from table to table looking at painted rocks, craft-made oil candles, bead necklaces, and the other eccentric items you would expect at a flea market. A man stood at a table with an elaborate display of paper landscapes, trees, buildings, and animals that were cut into ornate fineness. I asked the man how the three dimensional models were cut.
“My wife does them by laser. They made these in Vietnam.” he answered.
I have the pieces now on my desk. Here they are. You can find more of their work here on their Facebook page.
They remind me that art is unending in its manifestations. These experiences remind me that we have to have new experiences in order to write about them.
- Reading. The last two aspects of my well have been along the lines of self-care, space, and enjoyment. The actual hardware of new ideas and inspiration come to me through reading the literature of others. Taking in another person’s use of language and word play jostles up my claustrophobic vocabulary and vision. I mentioned reading James Joyce in a similar post of mine.
“I didn’t know you could do that.” I found myself thinking while observing how he would use the architecture and local economy of an Irish neighborhood to describe how a main character was feeling. I was impressed by how he never took a professorially tone with his reader, using 19th century Irish slang unabashedly, fluidly, and without explanation. There is something without condescension about that, a certain respect afforded to the reader. It says, “I’ll paint you a picture and I won’t sully it with over-description. If you can keep up, do so.”
Drink and Get Back to Work
Space. New experiences. New ideas. These make up the water in my well. I’d challenge you the next time you are coming up dry with writers block. I’d challenge you to try these, or share some of your own well-drawing techniques in the comments section. Tell us what your results have been. If nothing else, do these things to enjoy life.
I think it would also be helpful to include Marilyn Davis’ excellent article Overcoming The Big, Blank Page for her perspective on writer’s block, writer’s glut, and a few other matters.
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Also published on Medium.